One of the reason I love my job is because it offers me the opportunity to speak and engage with the world’s smartest and most capable IT executives. In dozens of conversations over the past several months, two common themes have emerged:
Those are the “big themes” of modern IT. It’s rare to hear anyone talking about gigabytes and servers these days. Most of the conversations involve business strategy.
That’s a big shift in perspective, but the best IT executives have already made the leap. They’re not fixating on technology – they’re making substantive, meaningful contributions to the business. Often, they’re partnering – or exploring partnerships – with innovative companies such as salesforce.com, Workday, IBM, VMware and Box.
I spoke recently about this with Doug Schneider, Chief Technology Officer for Manulife Life Financial, Canadian Division. Here’s a brief summary of what Doug told me in our conversation:
“Innovation isn’t about moving from one class of server to another class of server. It’s not about upgrading your disc drive so it runs faster. It’s not about lowering per gigabyte costs by 5 percent…
Maybe ten years ago those were acceptable definitions of innovation. Today, you need to help the business achieve its goals. You need to help the business manage change.
I’m hard pressed to think of a situation in which IT isn’t fundamental to the success of the business. The CIO or CTO should be a leader of change. You have to help the business use technology to get products and services to market quicker, to stay ahead of the competition. That’s the role of IT in a modern organization. We’re helping the business get to market faster.
I see the need for much tighter links between IT and marketing than ever before. I think that today’s IT leaders need much deeper knowledge of markets.
IT leaders need to understand what markets want so they can help the business adopt new technologies and new capabilities that customers expect to see when they interact with you via the web or their mobile devices.
That’s the future of IT – understanding what the customer wants and helping the business adapt to the changing needs of its customers.”
I genuinely believe that Doug has described the new face of IT executive leadership. In today’s fast-changing global economy, the need for innovation and the need for leadership seem inseparable. If that’s the case, it makes sense for IT to provide both.
I’m delighted that Doug took the time to share his insight and his experiences.