Social, mobile, trust: CIO secrets to creating satisfied users
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Social, mobile, trust: CIO secrets to creating satisfied users

Jessica Twentyman — January 2014

The CIO’s relationship with the rest of the business has never been better. According to preliminary findings from Gartner’s 2014 CIO Agenda research, more than seven out of ten CIOs say their businesses are satisfied with their IT’s performance. Moreover, this will be the year when they shift their budgets, staff and infrastructures from “reactive effectiveness to proactive innovation,” says Gartner analyst Dave Aron.

But this will be no bed of roses, he says. CIOs will need all the positivity and goodwill they can muster in 2014 as their top priority becomes “taming the digital dragon,” says Aron — especially when caught by the dilemma of having to liberate information so it is available in social and mobile contexts while still carrying the burden of keeping corporate information safe.

Nonetheless, say the CIOs polled, there’s never been a better or more interesting time to be a technology leader, charged with identifying new ways of delivering value and enhancing business performance.

Below, three top CIOs discuss ways to satisfy often-conflicting demands for digital innovation at their very different organizations.

Conrad Harvey
IT general manager, Coles Group
Australian supermarket and convenience store chain

coles group

The retail industry has always been led by customer choice and preferences. Today, it’s being so disrupted by the evolution of digital technologies that IT, by necessity, gets dragged into every conversation about how to respond in new, flexible ways to how customers want to do business with a retailer.

With our social strategy, for example, it’s thinking creatively about what problems we can solve using social tools.

On the customer side, social is both a positive and a negative. It gives us the ability to respond and create value for customers, by sharing ideas, recipes etc, but we also need to react to negative commentary or events. We need to get the right tools into the hands of the right people to listen and react to customers and that's something that we’re grappling with.

I’m very excited about using social internally. We’ve recently launched an internal social platform that already has 60% take-up. That will enable us to create connections between colleagues that don’t exist today, so we can get deli counter managers across a country as big as Australia sharing best practice from each other as well as experiences and frustrations.

All of our 200 regional managers, who are on the road a lot, have iPads and iPhones. We’re also trialing BYOD for store managers, because we have a view in mind of the future where store managers are able to get out of back offices and onto the shop floor, with the reports and product availability information that they need on their own mobile devices.

We need to get the balance right between having the desire to get new capabilities in employees’ or customers’ hands and working twice as hard to make them safe. If you come to IT security with a mindset of simply, ‘How do we keep information safe?,’ then IT is at risk of being pigeonholed as a barrier to productivity.

If you don’t want to limit the opportunities for your company from new technologies, your only option is to deliver value. For me, being a CIO is about embracing the positive: you can’t let the responsibility of the job get you down. You may not get the headlines and the glory that other senior roles do, but what an exciting, fascinating opportunity to deliver value and work with colleagues, right from the shop floor to the boardroom.

Jane Moran
CIO, Thomson Reuters
Media and information services group


New technologies have totally transformed the media industry: news is constantly breaking on Twitter, for example, and that has changed the way we need to organize our editorial teams and collaborate internally. There used to be a very strict hierarchy of approvals for news stories. Now, our internal collaboration tools mean that even the most junior journalists can come up with stories that can get seen by senior management almost instantaneously.

Many of the best ideas for how to use new tools and technologies now come from the business community itself. Our end-users increasingly tell us how they want to work and it’s IT’s job to respond. Once you provide them with flexible technologies, they see the power of them and the potential for coming up with entirely new ways of working. We’re a lot more user-driven than in the past.

When it comes to mobile, for example — and I can hardly believe it now — only a couple of years ago we were a BlackBerry-only workplace with ‘no-iOS’ policy. Now, over 60% of devices are iOS, although we still have a big BlackBerry contingent and an Android population. People increasingly want all their apps on mobile, and while it’s tough to keep pace with demand, we know we have to do it.

We need to consider employees’ and customers’ needs for flexibility: there’s that human element of trying to get work done and not having to jump through hoops. Our security strategy is based on looking at all of our applications and classifying them according to which need the highest levels of protection and which need less. But we’re not the Police Department and we know that people don’t want to work in an environment like that.

New technologies mean that my conversations these days are all about business transformation, driving revenues, reducing costs and managing risks for the organization. Big data and analytics are the next big opportunity for IT to prove its value. I really believe that this is a great time to be in IT and I do feel popular in my company right now. I talk to all of our Executive Committee members on a regular basis and I’m a regular up on the 30th floor of our New York headquarters, where all the senior executives are based. That wasn’t the case a few years ago.

Ranga Jayaraman
Associate Dean and CIO, Stanford Graduate School of Business
California's top business school


When I joined Stanford GSB someone told me, “You’re going to be working for 100 CIOs now,” and, effectively, that’s been true! But one thing we all know is that, in order to be the best at what we do, we need to embrace change. That’s not always easy but, as CIO, it’s my job to make sure that change is an enabler and that people get the support they need to adopt new tools.

At Stanford GSB, what we really pride ourselves in is the highly transformative experience that our students get. It’s not just about absorbing the knowledge and content that the school has to offer, it’s also about forming a network of relationships — colleagues, advisors, business partners — that lasts a lifetime.

We’re ‘flipping’ the classroom, meaning that a fair amount of learning content is issued to students online, so they’re expected to view it before they come to class. Faculty members can see who has viewed that content and which concepts were hardest for students to absorb, so that they are able to prepare their classroom sessions accordingly. The result is richer classroom discussions and a better learning experience.

With social technologies we focus on enhancing something that already works really well and giving it extra dimensions. When we admit a new cohort of students, for example, they already know each other from our Facebook group. And in terms of mobile technologies, I feel like I’ve been dealing with BYOD for a very long time. Students and faculty are a difficult group when it comes to telling them what they can and can’t use. We have to be very flexible in how we support them.

That’s not to say that an ‘anything goes’ attitude to security applies across our IT operations. IT security is just as serious for us as it is for any commercial organization: we’re well aware that there are plenty of people who would like to get their hands on the intellectual property generated in our labs. I firmly believe that cloud services will help increase our security posture. It’s much better than the situation of every lab having its own server that connects to the main network.

To my mind, the more an organization starts to see the CIO and IT function as enablers of new technologies that make people more efficient and productive, rather than controllers, then the more opportunities the CIO is given to reflect back how much they understand and how much value they create.

I tell people that if they want to be an IT leader, they should keep in mind a picture of a tree. The roots of the tree are information technologies, the fruits are innovation and transformation. The CIO’s role is to get the roots to grow and product fruits. It’s as simple — and as complicated — as that. Even at a time when consumerization means that anyone can enter credit card details and fire up an enterprise server in the cloud, to be able to see how technologies can make a real difference in an organization requires a tremendous amount of expertise and experience.

Conrad Harvey, Jane Moran and Ranga Jayaraman were speaking at’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.
First published January 2014
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