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The effective CIO and the role of technology

In her previous post, O2’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Debra Bailey, considered three pillars that provide the foundation supporting every CIO role. This month she explores the role of technology at a time when every modern business is undergoing its own digital transformation.

It starts with connectivity

In my last blog post, I wrote about the rapid development of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, data lakes, quantum computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is leading every business to question what technology can deliver and how we will work differently in future. And it is clear that the one thing that underpins the IoT, and all these other emerging technologies, is connectivity.

José María Álvarez-Pallete, Chairman & CEO of O2’s parent company, Telefónica, recently wrote about the fourth industrial (technological) revolution, and about the explosion of connectivity and artificial intelligence and how it is changing the needs of businesses. He wrote about the need to find innovative, intelligent and sustainable technology solutions to help us to manage the digital transition.

Investment choices

Recently, I read an article recommending that technology should be discussed in the boardroom with the same level of seriousness as the share price. It’s a principle that I wholeheartedly agree with. Getting the board to discuss what technology can do for an organisation is vital, and yet is often so challenging to achieve. But as we see with disruptive businesses like Uber, Just Eat and others, if organisations don’t look at current day trends and the way customer experience and expectations are changing at accelerating rates, another organisation (most likely a digitally agile new entrant) certainly will. So keep these 3 things in mind:

  • Think ahead. Make wise investment choices. Revisit legacy systems, platforms and workflows and look at technology designed to be scalable and flexible. This will help ensure that you don’t have to re-invent your systems every time a new network technology emerges. You may find that replacing a system today costs less than maintaining your existing systems, or improves services to staff and customers.
  • It needn’t be complicated. By simplifying your estate you can reduce the cost associated with the changes you implement and will help you to speed up recovery after an incident.
  • Plan for retirement. In my experience, it’s really hard to make a business case for the retirement of legacy systems unless they form part of the project to implement and install the replacement systems.

Partnerships and business case effectiveness

You are probably tired of reading that 5G changes everything. But when it comes to making the business case for 5G, it really is different to previous platforms. Businesses understand that they need to stay relevant and that they can’t afford not to invest in 5G. But actually making the business case for 5G is difficult, not least because they don’t yet know what it can enable, not just with faster download speeds, but also lower latency and lower power consumption of connected devices.

At O2, our goal is to make 5G relevant. Collaboration and partnerships have helped us to focus on the challenges businesses face, and what they need the technology to be able to do, rather than simply on what 5G can do. We know that to deliver something useable and scalable, businesses need a bit more time, which is why we have been working with a number of partners on a broad range of unique proofs of concept and trials.

At the start of 2019, for example, we offered every company in the FTSE 100 the chance to take part in O2’s 5G testbed trials, and to discuss the technology challenges they face. We’ve also formed partnerships across a number of sectors, including autonomous vehicles, healthcare, transport and smart cities. I firmly believe that partnerships and collaboration are the key to establishing their business case for 5G investment by ensuring we understand how we need to build this network to support those needs.

Pulling it all together

Establishing an effective technology strategy for any business takes time and effort, and requires the modern-day CIO to follow three important steps:

  1. Be open. I see too many organisations begin with the technology and then look for a way to use it in their business. It really needs to be the other way around. Start by engaging with the operational areas within your organisation. Encourage honesty about a problem or a challenge that is being faced by the business. Then look for ways that technology can help to address those specific issues.
  2. Be bold. There’s a solid case for taking a step back before rushing to implement the latest technology across the organisation. Be prepared to trial a solution and, if it doesn’t work out, be brave enough to stop and go back to your starting point, taking those lessons learnt into the next proof of concept. Trends and markets are changing quicker than they ever have before, so continual improvement means change must be embraced.
  3. Establish trust. You needn’t be alone. Find partners and people you can work with, and look for technology that’s heading in the right direction, but which can turn into something really beneficial for all parties if you work together.

Have you found partnerships and collaboration helpful in developing technology solutions for your business? I’d love to hear from you. You can connect with me on LinkedIn.


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