Digital leader insights: HGC’s Jacqueline Teo talks tech futures

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Recently ranked as one of the Top 100 Women in Technology by Gigabit magazine, Jacqueline Teo has a wealth of experience shaping digital transformations at numerous multinational companies. Now global CDO at HGC Global Communications, she continues to look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and how to meet rapidly evolving employee and customer interactions. Her work includes making sure the business consistently and meaningfully engages such crucial stakeholders through all channels, as values change.

Digital culture demands shift post-pandemic

Teo sees the shifts in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) expectations of staff and customers as among the main themes to emerge from the coronavirus crisis. To keep disparate teams motivated, leaders are increasingly expected to demonstrate authenticity and awareness around issues from fairness and inclusion, to environmental responsibility and social justice, Teo says.

“These values are particularly relevant when defining parameters to counter bias in AI training sets, and around the incentive alignment potential of machine learning, ethical use of data and emerging market trends,” she explains.

Teo also notes that values are changing around serving younger generations who have long been immersed in virtual and digital environments. Businesses are wise to break with traditional ways of selling and equally of operating based around titles, roles, and hierarchies, she says, developing a deeper understanding of the “new ways of thinking and new motivations.”

...leaders are increasingly expected to demonstrate authenticity and awareness around issues from fairness and inclusion, to environmental responsibility and social justice...

Mixed reality and 5G for remote work

Having worked for several multinational companies, Teo is well accustomed to flexible work, video conferencing, and virtual meetings. The difference now is that the pandemic has prompted huge upticks in the volume of those activities, and Teo sees plenty of positives to take away from how those developments have played out in practice.

“What I am enjoying about this ‘new normal’ is the interruptions we get from dogs, kids, couriers knocking on the doors, the sounds of someone’s street, a spouse accidentally walking past you while you’re on camera,” she explains. “I find it a lot more humanizing. It’s made people more tolerant to disruptions and meeting atmospheres have become more relaxed.”

Nevertheless, Teo insists on the importance of seeing new innovations to better support remote employees working together. “I’m looking forward to mixed reality and 5G becoming mainstream within how we communicate and interact as virtual teams in the future,” she tells us.

Across industries, expectations are high for mixed reality. Microsoft describes the technology - which includes holographic and immersive headwear devices to assist with everything from spatial planning to human understanding - as the ‘next wave in computing’. Meanwhile, 5G is expected to dramatically improve the speed and reliability of mobile working and video conferencing no matter the context.

Skills for AI and security advancement

Beyond remote work, the advanced application of artificial intelligence into daily operations will soon underpin activities across business sectors, and this is creating new skills demands. HGC Global Communications itself has integrated AI into multiple parts of its organization, including to help assess and optimize business processes, and to provide some customer services via chatbots.

These advances in AI mean that HGC has needed to focus on "finding the right skills and attitudes” so it can constantly improve foundational data quality and tweak machine learning algorithms to ensure they are highly effective in all required scenarios, says Teo.

As the reliance on advanced technology architecture increases, so does the demand for reliable defenses against cyber attacks. Teo notes that HGC already made the move to the cloud prior to the pandemic and was well placed to protect against the increasing levels of cyber threat. However, with threats becoming more difficult to detect and counter, the organization has allocated additional resources to cyber security education and training.

"I’m looking forward to mixed reality and 5G becoming mainstream within how we communicate and interact as virtual teams in the future."

Ensuring authoritative tech and strategy selection

The proliferation of disparate requirements means a raft of new vendors is emerging. This will make technology selection even more difficult for leaders in the future. Teo predicts “it will get harder for CIOs to make sustainable and longer-term investment decisions.” She adds, “Decisions around architecture are becoming more complex when considering which platform is right for your roadmap, how to discern fads from the next trends and who best to partner with.”

Given this context, Teo expects that CIOs and CDOs will increasingly be involved in decision-making around routine operational processes, change management, and overarching business strategies. While boundaries between CIOs and other members of executive teams will become increasingly blurred in ways that may cause some “resentment and defensiveness,” she warns, digital leaders must be ready to play multiple roles with clarity because “they will have to cross boundaries where necessary and really own the paths they need to be involved in.”

Driving digital transformations of the future

For digital transformations to be most effective, Teo believes leaders must always focus on institutionalizing changes within technology, processes, work practices and enterprise cultures. This should be backed by directional alignment and authority across the C-suite, as well as open, honest team collaboration.

“Once you and your organization are in that frame of mind and mode of operating, digital transformation becomes second nature,” Teo concludes.

To hear more from digital leaders around forward-thinking approaches to the new technology coming over the horizon, check out Episode 7 of the Living Enterprise Podcast series.