Digital leader insights: Jacky Wright on diversity and digital leadership

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Heralded as a transformational technology executive, Jacky Wright knows more than most when it comes to IT leadership.

Now working as US CDO and Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, Wright – formerly CDIO at HMRC and CIO at BP – discusses the changing role of the CIO, building trust, collaboration and resilience into post-pandemic planning, and embedding diversity and inclusion into teams of the future.

The changing role of the CIO

Over the last year, the role of the CIO has evolved. Technology has become integral to the modern digital business, and there’s greater recognition of the value of IT in supporting the organization’s core objectives. For the CIO, this has meant growing influence and engagement across the business, and a renewed alignment with strategic objectives. For Wright, the upside is that the CIO is now a multi-discipline digital leader.

“The role has become a business leader. A risk and governance leader. A digital and data leader. And then an overall leader responsible for bringing together different aspects of an organization to help them become more digitally enabled,” says Wright.

Digital transformation, while an opportunity, does still represent a challenge. CIOs need to discover how to harness emerging digital platforms and emerging technologies, as well as tackle data governance and growing security threats. Improving data literacy and open communication in business can alleviate some of those risks.

Embracing trust and collaboration

As the global pandemic disrupted the way we work, communication, trust and collaboration have become essential in order to meet ever-changing business outcomes.

As part of the Chief Digital Officer Community at the World Economic Forum, Wright has seen a growing trend of leaders eager to collaborate. Collectively, business leaders are recognizing that sharing best practices, and working together, is what’s needed to solve macro-level problems.

“As leaders, I think you can see that we've built more collaborative, consortia-type engagements across the board, to see how can we trust each other as companies to solve some of the problems that are affecting all of us. And the Covid crisis has accelerated that collaboration,” Wright says.

...communication, trust and collaboration have become essential in order to meet ever-changing business outcomes.

When it comes to looking at how data can best be used to support this, Wright explains there are two sides to be considered – ensuring the technology in place is optimized to best capture the relevant data needed and ensuring the right team of people are there to analyze the data and determine how and where collaboration is needed.

Corporate social responsibility is the new norm

While the value of trust in business has become the center of post-pandemic conversation, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is another principle that has grown in significance. From social justice to climate change, Wright understands that finding solutions to these issues must be a collaborative effort, and her role as a leader is to create that opportunity.

“I will use one word to describe the challenge and the opportunity – it's equity.” Wright continues, “You can't have a diverse team unless everyone has equal access to the opportunity to become part of that diversity.” Wright explains to us how good business is about recognizing that talent is everywhere and creating diverse communities such as this, results in the strongest teams of people.

Knowing that it’s absolutely essential for an organization to put their money where their mouth is, and hold themselves accountable, Microsoft has implemented a Racial Equity Initiative to fight racial injustice and work towards long-term systemic change.

...good business is about recognizing that talent is everywhere...

“As a socially responsible company, you have to recognize that it's good for you, it's good for business and it's good for the communities in which you sit,” says Wright. By increasing inclusive representation in the company, Microsoft is on a mission to empower its employees and foster and strengthen partnerships in the community.

Resilience for the future

The pandemic has forced organizations to re-examine their operations, processes, and purpose. As Wright says, “what the pandemic has done is forced most companies to become digitally adept, especially in the ways of working on recognizing resilience, or lack thereof, as well as recognizing disparities and inequities in their communities.”

Organizations that were previously resistant to digital adoption, now realize it’s something that must be embraced as a necessity rather than a ‘nice to have’. Not only digital adoption, but also the adoption of meaningful collaboration and socially responsible practices are keys for the success, resilience, and continuity of the business.

To hear from other CIOs, CDOs and digital leaders, listen to Episode 1 of The Living Enterprise podcast series now.