Why CIOs need a techno graph for Digital Transformation

Patricia Florissi, Global CTO Sales at Dell Technologies emphasizes on how modern CIO role will be impacted by nine technology forces and why it’s high time for them to design a techno graph for accelerated growth and continued success on digital transformation (Dx) path.

patricia florissi
Dell Technologies

Organizations are seeking the perfect recipe to become digitally transformed and steer ahead of the competition (especially ‘born in the cloud’ companies) in the App economy. Amidst the emerging trends of AI, IoT, DevOps, Multi Cloud; Patricia Florissi - VP & Global CTO, Sales, Dell Technologies in an interview with ComputerWorld saysDigital transformation needs a techno graph (my analogy to photo graph) to script the future in innovative ways to a new standard of living to interact socially.”

Edited Excerpts.

As global CTO for sales of a tech giant, how do you create that equilibrium of technology in your labs to sell that value prop to your customers?  

The first way to interpret the question is what are we transforming as well as our customers transform. I believe we are in Formula 1 race that requires a change of tyres. ‘Dell Digital Way’ is a cultural shift program at Dell Technologies that we need to transform ourselves and run IT to succeed in this digital world. It is business transformation, sales transformation, and manufacturing transformation for Dell. We are a manufacturing retailer with over 30 million transactions last year that speaks both – volume and size. We are an application company managing over 2500 applications across 19 data centers.

Secondly, technology changes super-fast for Dell to develop technology ASAP as per the market needs. With Pivotal a part of Dell Technologies, we utilize Pivotal labs to re-educate our software developers with agile DevOps kind of discipline. We have more tools now to collect customer feedback, use AI to analyze their outcome and influence the products that we develop.

Do you see the lines blurring between techno sales versus business outcome sales? What is the expectation from companies’ CFOs from a vendor technologist?

I don’t think it is technical sales versus business sales. We use measurements like for every 5% increase on employee engagement, there is a 3% return on revenue at customer end as per a study. When Dell sells workforce transformation solutions to CFO, we point to millennial employee who expect great experience with laptops/desktops. How do we deliver the desired experience to each worker resulting in more employee engagement– maybe some need more battery life on lighter device or a workstation enabled with AI.

A study indicates as an example a 1000 dollars investment in automation will translate into a 100000 dollars in savings over a period of time for an organization. Dell storage devices has built-in automated decision making on AI to move data to VMWare stack and to other security tools.

Data expected to grow 8 times by 2025 with at least 45% of it being processed and analyzed at edge powered by AI. Artificial Intelligence is the business of threes with CFO desiring operational efficiency, CMO seeks customer experience and requisite of revenue expansion by company’s CEO. Organizations must have a strategic partner like Dell Technologies to deploy technology far from their data centers but backed by support at a global level.

patricia florissi Dell Technologies

Many low value added activities for humans’ intellectual creative (and cognitive) capacity, is taken away which will drive out cost and excess noise from our minds to relearn and work for higher value activities.

Patricia Florissi

With smart cities and smarter grids, machines taking center stage with automation, AI, RPA; have machines (read CIOs and CTOs) become cleverer than humans?

I really don’t know but the machines are getting smarter (most of the times) faster than humans. The market apprehension of robots taking away human jobs is seen by me in a more positive way. Like people were ploughing the land until tractors came, there was washing clothes for washing machines and so on. Many low value added activities for humans’ intellectual creative (and cognitive) capacity, is taken away with AI which will drive out cost and excess noise from our minds to relearn and work for higher value activities.

The engagement between humans and machines, and how we experience technology is fundamentally changing as we learn to deal with natives, robots and tools. To be honest it will be a hard time in many cases to differentiate if we are dealing with humans or machines.

That’s an excellent viewpoint Patricia. But there aren’t many full-fledged AI use cases globally. Would you bracket AI into hype more or over hype mode?

It’s definitely not a hype as chat bots, voice recognition, image recognition are used more than ever before. The key considerations to leverage AI points to - how to find operational efficiency, how to engage better with the customer and how to pursue a good GTM? Companies should use narrow AI for better customer engagement that’s tailored to their product portfolio, taxonomy, names of the products, speak the customer language. Other most important differentiator is finding the right business case for AI which can only be done with that company’s data.

A popular shoe maker using AI tools with chatbots is further trying to identify and improve their supply chain. And they are now focused to create a new business opportunity for shoes to become wearables that measures everything about the runner’s health.

How can we develop products for customers to run their AI applications? How hyper converged and converged infrastructures will accelerate the way customers develop AI? For example Dell storage and VMWare in cloud continuum with moving workloads are helping decision making by AI on data location and which data needs storage based on the business demands.

What does digital transformation really mean to Dell Technologies as every organization on the planet is on that bandwagon?

In the biological documentary ‘The Salt of the Earth’ portrays the works of the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, who tells his son ‘I don’t take pictures to capture moments or document history but I photograph them.’ Photo means light and graph to design in Greek which translates into drawing a design of light. I introduced a new word ‘techno graph’ which lends to draw or design with technology. Digital transformation is techno graphing our future in innovative ways by taking technology and drawing a new standard of living to interact socially.

We will create an automated process for people or machine who do the same thing today and for future. It’s not changing the way things were done but resources carrying out those transactions are changed more or less. And in digital transformation, everything is up for grabs. 

Patricia Florissi, Dell Technologies

Techno graph is quite a novel jargon. But that term has to strategic and long drawn strategy with absolute buy-in from all stakeholders.

That’s true. Digital transformation is an infinite journey and it will never ever be done. The future today will be past tomorrow. And one cannot plan for five or ten years ahead because it doesn’t make sense. Firstly, CIOs should redefine the timeline of a strategy ideally a two to three year period. That agenda needs to be reviewed constantly as the company adapts and adjusts in line.

From techno graph perspective, AI is both practical and strategic. And within undifferentiated and differentiated AI, companies should ask -  How can I use AI to be an equalizer with others in my industry, how can we use AI to develop better products. And we at Dell are ensuring how to embed AI in our products to help customers build long term and sustainable techno graph.

What would be your ‘digital transformation’ bucket list for CIOs and CXOs to simplify the ever-complex technology juggernaut?

First and foremost, Chief Digital Officer, CMO or everybody in the business – not just the CIO – should have a broader view of nine major technology forces. These include AI/ ML/ DL, internet of Things, AR/VR/ Robotics, capacity of the new emerging accelerators and their processors. In cloud continuum, technology will be across public, private, edge cloud, SaaS cloud. Blockchain transforming businesses, 5G with specific characteristics and quantum computing are some of other major tech forces.

My number one is that all the senior level should really understand the high level definition of the nine technology forces. I am not asking to be business experts but how those technologies can really influence their business. Secondly, do not take underestimate the potential of AI, IoT and Edge computing. Allocating person/s for each technology will lead to three siloes that don’t compound. The trick here being that one plus one plus one is greater than three. IT leaders shouldn’t view the whole DevOps movement in a light manner whatsoever and they need to understand DevOps movement depending on their role in the organization.

Lastly, leveraging the whole stack around cloud native applications to maximum benefit in modern world. Many put their monolithic application into a container and claim to be cloud native. It isn’t! I would say that cloud native applications are not for the faint hearted. To develop truly micro services architecture that can be 100% designed for cloud native application platform such as Kubernetes, CIOs must capitalize on all the elements of a cloud native app and develop a lot of muscle over which I call DevAIOps.

But it’s tough to recruit adequate skillsets resources like AI specialists or data scientists. And they are super expensive resources if traced.

I don’t believe in the negative dimension of the skillsets gap as portrayed. Big Data, Big Data analytics, AI are in existence since 2011 as the biggest occupation of the data scientist then was feature engineering with Big Data. Another challenge being so-called unstructured data and unstructured data not having a formula. Are these two problems, problems of today?

The deep learning algorithm has helped leapfrog the feature engineering to decide on better magnitude, features of interest. The manual data collections or collections in different repositories are obsolete data in some cases. Now the new data is collected with cameras, images that are best unstructured for Meta data as you get a matrix of pixels that’s formatted (if I can say unformatted formatted). IoT sensors aren’t the best structured unstructured data but they are self-labeled with automation, GPS location, time stamp, as many algorithms are actually taking the blurriness out of it.

What’s the real challenge with the data scientists today?

It is not how to actually run the algorithm, or how to drive the modern, but it is actually spend time to seek and research on the internet about algorithms that open source community is developing. You have to design the model, train and test it which is AI Dev. After deploying the model, there is inference, orchestrate and Dev AI Ops together moves very fast and at the same time they are cogged. There are not enough skilled people that understand DevOps, few that understand dev AI ops, and almost zilch that understand the brand new role of AI engineer.  

I am not saying that we don’t need data scientists. But am I bought in in the fact of the world fall apart because we don’t have enough data scientists? Not in my opinion.  

Data is the new oil, new oxygen, or new gold. How best would you fill in the blank for data is the new ___?

One must believe in the Universe Theory comprising of the physical universe and digital universe, at the same time. In the physical universe, the sun is the source of energy whereas data is the source of energy in the other universe. Data is dictating how planets (nine tech forces of AI/ ML/ DL, IoT, AR/VR, Robotics, processors, Cloud continuum, Blockchain, 5G, and Quantum Computing) move leading to monetization on research, growth of business, increase digital revenues.

The ‘top-of-line’ technologies I expect to be adopted faster in 2020 are AI, IoT and Edge Computing that are interrelated for companies’ success path. For that digital transformation journey, progressive CIOs should partner with a tech leader they trust in the long run. Only one company that fits the bill is Dell Technologies.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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