Tag Archives: Leadership


The Friday Update 8: Developing a great customer experience in a digital age

Online shopping has changed our expectations around customer service and bricks-and-mortar retailers are changing in response. On behalf of ZDNet, I recently attended the Rethinking Retail Technology event, organised by Rackspace in London, and discovered how individual high street stores are adopting distinct strategies.

Take Oliver White, ecommerce director at Heal’s, who says the furniture specialist likes to offer customers a large amount of personalisation. The firm recently completed a proof of concept trial for in-store tablet technology. Customers were able to use mobile devices to engage with furniture via near-field communication. White says each access point provided additional information on products, such as dimensions and materials:

“It allowed customers to build a digital wish list, to discover product information and to check availability. What we’ve learnt through the trial is that customers want access to the detailed information they can get online, but they also want to come in store to touch and feel the products.”

Nick Hopkinson, CIO at Devon Partnership NHS Trust, faces a different kind of challenge in regards to customer service. I recently interviewed the experienced IT leader for Computer Weekly and discovered how he is directing his attention to transformation at the trust, which was established in 2001 and supports 18,000 people across Devon and Torbay.

The required focus on great technology can be a challenge in the current cash-constrained environment. Hopkinson recognises that every pound that is attributed to IT – and, therefore, not spent on direct healthcare – must lead to big increases in the quality of patient care:

“As technology professionals, we need to work beyond the walls of the traditional IT department and become part of wider business planning decisions, so that the importance of digital transformation is articulated and understood.”

The challenge around customer service, then, is unlikely to diminish any time soon. In coming weeks, I’ll be analysing other key concerns for modern CIOs, including the rise of other roles – such as the CDO – and the importance of new cross-European initiatives. If you’d like to get involved in some of the articles I’m putting together, just drop me a line at mark.samuels@gmail.com or mark@samuelsmedia.co.uk. It would be great to hear from you.


The Friday Update 6: Creating new opportunities through great leadership skills

Analysts expect virtual reality (VR) to be one of the key trends of 2016, with big vendors set to launch an array of related technologies. The consumer market for VR is evolving quickly, but how will such devices be used in the business?

My latest piece for ZDNet explores the trend. Late last year, mapping specialist Ordnance Survey (OS) created a 10km by 10km recreation of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. OS has now released a VR tour of the mountain scape for Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.

David Haynes, software developer and VR expert at OS, says the firm’s experimental work shows how other businesses could use the technology. He says potential beneficiaries are organisations with transferable information:

“I’m fairly confident that VR has lots of potential applications. We’ve already talked to some of our partners about use cases, such as helping businesses to view a location virtually before a physical site visit. We’re still at the start of the journey but the possibilities are endless.”

My first article for The Register, also published this week, analyses the impact of new technology on the role of the CIO. It suggests that technology leadership, which is normally a demanding role, has become something else in today’s world. Modern CIOs must not only maintain day-to-day IT operations but also manage the heightened expectations of a tech-savvy user base.

There is good news. It’s the fact that most businesses, despite the ability to source technology on-demand through access to things like CRM delivered as a service, still recognise the importance of strong IT leadership:

Research from the Tech Partnership and Experian suggests there will be more, not fewer, specialist technology roles with growth likely the greatest amongst IT directors – 37.5 per cent growth between 2015 and 2025. 

Great CIOs, then, will always be in demand all over the globe. One such IT leader is Johan Kestens, managing director and CIO at ING Belgium. I spoke to the experienced IT director for Computer Weekly this week, who is approaching the end of his second year at the bank and is keen to help the business make the most of innovation.

To help deliver on his transformative aim of a new style of banking, Kestens is keen to modernise the firm’s application and infrastructure portfolio. Innovation is crucial, said Kestens, pointing to his bank’s continued efforts in wearable technology. The aim, he says, is to be as digital as possible – and that requires access to great talent:

“The power of imagination is crucial. Increasingly, the world is beginning to understand that engineers are like artists – there are engineers that make a difference and we all want access to those people.”

I’ll be writing more skills-based articles for The Register in coming weeks. If you have an angle or an idea, drop me a line. As in the case of Johan Kestens at ING, I’m always keen to hear from CIOs and independent experts who have an opinion or responsibility for areas of Europe beyond the UK. Just drop me a line if you’d like to get involved at mark.samuels@gmail.com or mark@samuelsmedia.co.uk.


The Friday Update 1: News and views for business leaders who care about technology

I’ve had a few things published by ZDNet recently. I put together a weekly article on the views of IT and business leaders – some profile a single individual, others poll a series of CIOs, others are more opinion-focused. One of the recent articles covered CIO priorities for 2016. The article seemed to gain quite a lot of traction on social media, probably as it provides some sort of short hand for the kinds of things IT leaders should be focusing on through this year:

CIOs have many competing demands on their time, so it’s important that they focus on the big issues that really matter. ZDNet explores the research, speaks to the experts and discovers the five priority areas for CIOs through 2016. Here’s what CIOs will have on their to-do list this year, from finding the right talent to taking time out to focus on the next big thing.

The above article features comments from a series of IT leaders, including esure CIO Mark Foulsham. Mark knows his specialist field inside and out. I spoke to him a few times during the past 12-or-so months, including a profile feature for Computer Weekly about his plans for IT at the insurance firm. He provides an interesting take on transformation, particularly around new areas of innovation, such as mobility and the use of hackathons:

Mark Foulsham, group CIO at insurance firm esure, is overseeing an IT transformation plan that he hopes will help future-proof the business for the fast-evolving nature of modern business technology. The programme – which involves operating platforms, computing appliances, virtualisation and the cloud – is just the latest project for experienced IT leader Foulsham.

I’m currently working on a piece for The Register about the movement of business people into the IT profession. There’s a view that more outsiders from a non-techie background are coming in. The article will look at whether this is true overall, or whether it’s only true for certain fields or vertical sectors. I’m happy to hear your views – contact me at mark.samuels@gmail.com or mark@samuelsmedia.co.ukAs ever, I’m always looking for CIO and business leader comment for a range of features. Again, just drop me a line if you’d like to get involved.

Flexible working: Five top tips for bringing it home

For the IT department, successful flexible working is not just about getting the tech right. Toby Clarke, who has over a decade of developing flexible-working policies, offered me five key pieces of advice for other CIOs in an article for TechRepublic:

The 2012 Olympics have not just been about sporting excellence. They have also provided a useful test case for CIOs looking to establish an effective flexible-working strategy.

Businesses across the UK capital were warned of severe travel congestion in the run-up to the event. Many London-based companies saw the Games as an opportunity to create a flexible-working strategy, and to implement the technologies and policies that allow employees to complete tasks at home.

Some CIOs already have a long-standing interest in new employment practices. Toby Clarke, IT director at insurance specialist Abbey Protection Group, is a passionate advocate of flexible working. In line with legislative demands, the firm has spent the past decade honing its strategy.

“Flexible working is not simply about getting the technology right,” says Clarke, who draws attention to a series of performance, support and leadership concerns. Here, Clarke provides his top five tips for CIOs looking to establish increased flexibility.

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.

Curtains for CIOs? Five tips to put them back in the spotlight

Some say the rise of the cloud and BYOD will spell the downfall of the CIO. But could these developments in fact strengthen the CIO’s hand? My latest feature for Tech Republic investigates:

Technology is increasingly being purchased and consumed by the business rather than by the IT department. It’s a trend that has led a number of experts to believe that the CIO will struggle to survive. They see the only answer for IT leaders is to take an operational view and to become more involved in line-of-business activities.

But isn’t it inherently naive to suggest that the CIO role is on the way out? Who will manage remaining enterprise IT assets and who will provide a strategic take on the technology and applications of the digital era? We ask five IT experts for their views on the future role of the CIO.

With more than a decade of IT and finance leadership experience at Carphone Warehouse, Matt Peers is now CIO of consultant Deloitte. And he is adamant that the suggestion that the CIO’s career could soon be over is flawed.

“Never has the role of CIO been more pervasive,” says Peers. “There’s nothing in business now that does not involve IT. But that central role is not about bits and bytes. People have talked for ages about being customer-friendly – and IT is now finally about enabling people to serve customers.”

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.

Does CIO mean career is over?

Has the role of the CIO had its day? Or, is such a leadership vision needed now more than ever? In a recent column for IT Pro, I examined the future of the IT leadership role:

Regular proclamations throughout the media from so-called experts make the same assertion about IT leadership: CIO stands for ‘career is over’ and the technology chief is an endangered species that will soon be executively extinct.

Such a standpoint is, in short, ridiculous. The rise of the digital business means technology, and its management, has never been more important to a successful organisation. So, why is there a belief that the CIO role is on the way out?

One possible explanation is that, while technology underpins modern business, it has also become increasingly consumable. Long gone are the days when you looked forward to getting to the office so you could use a quick computer to surf the web.

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.

The five essential ingredients for being a great CIO

It’s tough to take a place at the executive top table, so knowing which features will make you stand out from your peers as an IT leader is essential. Here’s a presentation of such features by me for silicon.com:

What makes a great CIO? And how can such leaders encourage the best perception of IT across the business, as well as foster the right type of behaviour among the technology team? silicon.com spoke to five IT leaders with five different perspectives.

Put commercial issues first and IT second - Success is not defined by how you interact with the business but how you become part of it, according to Steve Jeffree, operations director and group CIO at the Law Society.

“The future for the CIO who acts in a standalone manner is very limited,” he says, referring to his own additional annexation of the operations director role at the Law Society in March 2009.

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.

Information, not technology – the CIO as a top table executive

Read the media, or speak to any number of so-called industry experts, and you will still hear the same line: the CIO needs to be more aligned with the needs of the business.

Now is the time for the use of such clichés to stop. If a CIO really isn’t engaged with the business, what on earth is the executive responsible for technology doing on a daily basis?

The answer is quite a lot, actually. What becomes clear is that CIOs do not spend hours talking of the need to spend more time with other functions because such connectedness is a given.

The context to this new level of interaction is change. Perceptions of technology within the business have altered rapidly over the past decade or so, shifting from being seen as a dark art that is best left to the geeks in the basement, to an essential backbone of business success that must be widely understood in order to create competitive advantage.

Such perceptions continue to alter on an almost daily basis, with the business forced to confront challenges across multiple technology fronts. These battlegrounds include cloud computing, social media and consumer technology.

But across all fronts, the CIO has to be in charge of one crucial component: information. Now, more than ever before, the executive responsible for business IT truly is the chief information officer.

For far too long, CIOs have been forced to justify the relevance of technology to the business. Brought into board level debates on an ad-hoc basis, IT leaders have then been asked to explain why spending on hardware and software is important.

More fool the business that still takes that closed approach. In comparison to other c-level executives, the CIO is the individual with the broadest view across all business functions. That great view across the enterprise should, in itself, be enough to guarantee the CIO’s regular seat at the top table.

But there is more. CIOs have long recognised what the rest of the business has only just started to comprehend; your success or failure as a modern organisation relies on your ability to understand data.

From structured data stored in stove pipes to unstructured data floating round on social media, successful businesses will be able to take data and create useful information that can help improve decision making and boost customer engagement.

The CIO, as the guardian of this information, is the person who will ensure data becomes useful knowledge that provides a business advantage. Now, then, really is your time.

The above editorial introduced the recently released summer edition of CIO Connect magazine

Are CIOs up to scratch as communicators?

The CIO’s job is, by definition, all about information. But on a personal level, just how good are IT leaders at communicating? My latest feature for silicon.com investigates:

The clue is in the job title - the CIO’s role is all about information. A great IT leader manages data to create useful intelligence for the business.

Such knowledge is the lifeblood of the organisation. Executives across different lines of business can use up-to-date information to make crucial decisions about internal projects and external customer-facing services.

Malcolm Simpkin, CIO of Aviva, agrees with the sentiment that the IT leader plays a crucial role in helping to create intelligence for the business. The information-aware CIO, he says, is more than simply a necessary executive evil.

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.

Should CIOs be worried about their next career move?

Does the central role of information in every organisation make the CIO utterly indispensable or merely a spectator in the democratisation of data? Here’s my latest analysis for silicon.com:

It is one of the oldest gags in IT leadership. Rather than chief information officer, CIO actually stands for career is over. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The role of the CIO is actually very much alive. Successful IT leaders are eschewing the traditional management of IT operations and instead concentrating on the strategic use of information for the benefit of the business.

Such a strategic role is crucial because of the continued rise of collaborative systems, unstructured data and on-demand technology. Now, more than ever before, the CIO truly is the executive responsible for information – and information is the lifeblood of the successful business in this collaborative and on-demand world.

To read the rest of the feature, please click here.