Tag Archives: Strategy


The Friday Update 5: How to win at innovation and develop an IT strategy fit for the digital age

Modern IT leaders are under siege. CIOs are expected to keep systems up and running, while also keeping track of fast-changing business demands and the technologies that can help improve organisational effectiveness. My latest feature for Computer Weekly analyses the ways in which CIOs can develop an IT strategy that delivers real change and lasting business benefits in the digital age:

Former CIO turned digital advisor Ian Cox says in the article that disruption usually happens in industries that have not seen any major change in business models, products and services for prolonged periods. One approach that some CIOs have taken is to develop a digital strategy that is separate to the firm’s overall approach to IT. But Cox is adamant than no separation should exist:

“What every organisation needs is a single business strategy, and the CIO should take part to provoke debate and extend capabilities. The modern CIO should be a person who knows what’s coming in terms of IT and the startup community.”

CIOs, then, need to be creative. But say that someone in your firm comes up with a great idea – is your first thought to keep the intellectual property confined within the enterprise firewall, or would you rather share those ideas with external partners, peers, and even competitors?

Some experts believe the closed nature of how most organisations deal with innovation means business and society at large are missing out on benefits that could inspire growth. My latest feature for ZDNet suggests that one way to encourage a more open approach to creativity is through horizontal innovation, which involves the systematic transfer of knowledge and technology from one sector to another.

Gordon Attenborough, head of sectors at the IET, says business leaders in all sectors must understand the importance of horizontal innovation. He says good examples of idea sharing can be seen in the healthcare and aerospace industries. Other technologists should use their awareness to solve some of the greatest conundrums in business:

“There are solutions to your challenges already out there, irrespective of the discipline. Those challenges cover the broad span of B2B and B2C issues – we just need to makes sure that cross-sector conversations take place. Horizontal innovation is a low cost way to create business solutions that can have a very big impact.”

Elsewhere, I’ve just put the finishing touch to an article on cloud computing for a Raconteur supplement in The Sunday Times, and I’m just completing an article for The Register on the evolving nature of the IT leadership role.

As ever, I’m always keen to hear from people who want to contribute to IT, business and leadership features, so just drop me a line if you’d like to get involved at mark.samuels@gmail.com or mark@samuelsmedia.co.uk. It’s always good to hear from independent experts who have a new take on strategy and innovation, particularly when it comes to leading-edge technology.


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.

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.

Five tips for CIOs: How to solve a problem like communication

IT enjoys an unwelcome reputation for working behind closed doors. Even when the tech team comes up with a great solution to a problem, IT people often fail to communicate potential benefits in terms the business can easily understand.

In a collaborative age, where engagement inside and outside the business is a given, IT leaders have to work harder to develop top communications skills. I recently spoke to some IT experts and produced five top tips for silicon.com on smarter engagement.

1. Employ a communications specialist in the IT department - Matt Peers, CIO of consultants Deloitte, is part of the new, younger generation of IT leaders. He has recently taken over technology stewardship at the company, bringing with him more than a decade of customer-facing experience from high-street retailer Carphone Warehouse.

Strong engagement with all interested parties is the absolute crux of the matter for Peers. “I base all my leadership on good communications,” he says. “Engagement is the key component for successful IT.”

Since joining Deloitte, Peers has helped work towards the recruitment of an internal communications specialist for the IT department. This specialist will analyse IT strategy and help define in simple terms how line-of-business executives can benefit from the good work of the technology team.

“It helps you concentrate on the type of message that you are really trying to get across to the rest of the organisation,” he says. “Having a head of internal communications for IT is not about technology but about demonstrating the capabilities we can provide to users across the business.”

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

Twitter and customers: Talk like friends, but without swearing

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed, who went to great lengths to explain to a select audience why business leaders must recognise how a continual focus on the customer help keeps executives honest.

Reed was speaking at the CIO Connect annual conference that took place in London last week. There was loads of insight from speakers about the best way to deal with the increasing influence of the consumer over business technology, most of which will appear in the autumn edition of CIO Connect magazine.

But Reed had a particularly strong take on engagement. His entire organisation is focused on simple, honest communication with the customer. And when it comes to creating a social media strategy through Twitter, Reed’s advice is simple: “Talk as you would talk to your friends, but without the swearing.”

Rather than confusing customers with acronyms and double-speak, Reed encourages executives to “keep it natural”. Which I think is a pretty concise summary for how businesses should approach all forms of communication.