IT Execs Share Insights at 2014 CIO 100 Event

Hundreds of IT executives gathered for the 2014 CIO 100 Symposium to discuss topics including big data, mobility and innovation.

cio100 conference
Credit: CIO Magazine

If you were trying to contact your CIO the week of Aug. 18, you were probably unsuccessful because he or she was attending the annual CIO 100 Symposium. At the three-day event, keynote speaker Tom Davenport discussed his latest book, "Big Data @ Work"; Forrester Research’s Ted Schadler offered insights from his book, "The Mobile Mind Shift"; and Rick Roy, CIO of CUNA Mutual, talked about the strategic importance of innovation in transforming the IT organization and creating value for the company.

In addition, CIOs from a range of industries shared their successes in applying big data, mobility and innovation to achieve significant business outcomes. And of course during breaks we enjoyed the outdoor splendors of the Terranea Resort, overlooking the exquisite cliffs of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., on the Pacific Coast. I've attended the past three conferences, and I have to tell you, all the lessons I learned from strategic-minded CIOs made me wiser. Here are some of the key highlights of this year’s event:

Davenport talked about how companies need to use data selectively and proactively, and develop data strategies that drive innovation. He highlighted an example from his book where data scientists at Monsanto use data from field testing and research to recommend to customers what corn hybrids to plant and where to plant them. Another example: Procter & Gamble's use of decision cockpits and business sphere conference rooms to present data to business executives to help them make well-informed business decisions. And there were many more case studies. I urge you to pick up Davenport’s "Big Data @ Work." It's a great read.

Forrester’s Schadler talked about "mobile moments,” and how the use of mobility is changing our lives and being exploited by companies to innovative and drive new value. The most valuable insights I gained from Schadler’s presentation centered on two questions he said CIOs need to ask themselves regarding mobility. First, what can you inject in customers’ moments of need to make them more productive? Second, do you anticipate what they want, even before they need it, and deliver it when they want it? Schadler said we need to think about these two questions to determine how we can leverage mobility in our companies to innovative and drive new value.

CUNA Mutual Group’s Roy noted, “At CUNA, we have a 'customer first' strategy. We start with the customer experience and then work backward to figure out how to apply the right strategy." The advice Roy gave attendees: "Change impossible to possible and unable to able." If you think about these simple words and act upon them, you can change the culture of your entire organization, he said.

In addition, Dell hosted a breakout session I found very valuable. Jim Stikeleather, chief innovation officer at Dell, talked about the changing role of the CIO as well as key disruptors that are drastically impacting today’s business environment, including economics, capitalism, the enterprise value chain, management and IT. The interactive session explored the new skills CIOs need to lead the charge. One of the attendees, Matt Glover, senior director of global IT at AMX, talked about “the force multiplier,” a term he coined to reference a CIO’s influence as a thought leader. Stikeleather and his team are conducting research on the topic at Dell, interviewing key CIOs, authors and thought leaders across the United States to get their insights. S Stikeleather is one of the brightest thinkers on the subject of innovation I know, which is why I asked him to write the afterword of my book, "The Strategic CIO: Changing the Dynamics of the Business Enterprise."

Past conferences have helped me connect with many other respected CIOs and IT executives in the industry, including Rob Carter (FedEx), who wrote a foreword for my book, as well as Filippo Passerini (Procter & Gamble), who also wrote the second foreword for the book. In addition, I met many of the CIOs, IT and business executives, and academic thought leaders I interviewed as part of my book research. I have to say, the CIO 100 conference is a must for any IT executive.

I'd like to share with you a few books that can inspire you to greatness. I know each of these authors and highly recommend you put these reads on your A-plus list.

"The CIO Paradox. Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership," by Martha Heller, provides great lessons from top CIOs.

"Confessions of a Successful CIO: How the Best CIOs Tackle Their Toughest Business Challenges," by Dan Roberts, Brian Watson and Susan Cramm, details CIOs’ game-changing innovations and process improvements that make a real impact on the bottom line.

"The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communication Value," by Richard Hunter and George Westerman, provides an insightful methodology for how CIOs can transform IT into a value creator.

And then there's my book. I conducted 156 interviews with CIOs, executives and academic thought leaders on how they leverage information and technology for competitive advantage. Using that information, I developed a unique four-phase methodology for creating customer value, improving margins and enhancing shareholder wealth.

Now, let's get back to the CIO 100 Symposium. My congratulations to Adam Dennison, senior vice president and publisher of CIO magazine, and Maryfran Johnson, editor in chief, CIO magazine and events, for continuing to provide a yearly forum, as well as monthly regional events, for CIOs and C-suite executives to share knowledge and stimulate new thinking as their roles continue to change the dynamics of the business enterprise. If you want to find out more about CIO 100, I urge you to read Johnson's related CIO article.

Now that the conference is over, make sure to schedule a meeting with your CIO to find out about the insights he or she gleaned from conference speakers, the event’s networking opportunities, and especially the venue. After your CIO smiles and reminisces about the experience, you’ll likely want to make a reservation for the 2015 CIO 100 conference next August, which will take place at the beautiful Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. You’ll not only walk away with a smile, but you’ll be thinking about new ways to develop and implement strategies to help your company be more competitive. You better hurry up! I've already made my reservation.

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