MIT CIO Symposium – Successful CIO panel – my thoughts

May 22, 2013

As I regularly do, I’m covering a conference. Today, it’s the MIT CIO Symposium in Cambridge, MA. While there are plenty of cool items on the agenda, I wanted to share my thoughts on the third session of the day. It’s “The Successful CIO – Driving Innovation and Managing Expectations.” Here are my thoughts on this particular panel. Later today I’ll post a few more times on other sessions. *You can see the entire event agenda and particulars here.

While this panel was supposed to talk about how IT spending and IT management drives innovation, it didn’t really do so. For the most part, there was a discussion of changing technology, standardizing, being agile and delivering the best-of-breed solutions to their external customers.

It was a bit buzzwordy – at least at the beginning. But, I think that’s to be expected based on the panel. On hand were the top technology minds at companies like Johnson & Johnson, SAS, SAP, EMC and Avaya. So, as the folks on-stage were talking about transforming their businesses, I was wondering if the CIOs and VPs are thinking about their clients and customers when they reach for new technologies.

For example, Georgia Papathomas of J&J said, “We’re moving from selling medications to selling outcomes.”

Can you sell an outcome? Can you sell a hope? I know you can sell a pill or a serum…but an outcome?

Maybe this is a higher-level view of how technology can make the company more efficient – though I was waiting to hear about how tech and innovation were coming together to make each organization a better business. Further, I wanted to hear how innovation was a mindset that goes hand-in-hand with business strategy and then results in success.

What this panel seemed to lack was a strong base of case studies. From a learning perspective, it was valuable to hear how the people at the top in these companies explain their technology philosophy. From an implementation standpoint, I wanted to hear how a CIO drives success and drives innovation in a company that is dependent on technology to succeed.

Of course, there’s always a need for technical accumen at all levels – and also at the leadership level – but are professionals at all levels too empowered when it comes to implementing technology solutions?

Some of the best questions asked during this session were focused on who’s collecting the data we need to make smart internal technology decisions. While there’s huge opportunity within organizations to leverage data to understand their business and drive success, there’s also a need to still run the company.

There are solutions available everywhere now and organizations don’t have to depend on their internal IT support to find these. That’s why BYOD, mobile and other device-driven technologies have taken such a strong hold within businesses at all levels.

Granted, I’m writing this during the heat of the MIT CIO Symposium and there are many more panels and sessions to come. We’ll see if upcoming panels provide a bit more real-world direction for the hundreds of executives in the audience.