The Four Pillars of Today’s Digital Leaders

November 6, 2017

Insights from the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey & Two Highly Accomplished Tech Leaders
Each year the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey gets bigger, and better in my opinion. It’s better because of the ever-richer tech leadership data we are gathering from around the globe. And it’s better because our partner and sponsor, KPMG, leverages their talented network of business and technology analysts to dive deep into the findings and bring out powerful insights into the opportunities and challenges shaping the digital landscape for today’s CIOs. While we have been conducting this survey, the largest of its kind, for 19 years, the 2017 survey is still full of firsts. One fitting example of these firsts is the focus of the webcast I co-hosted on November 1st with KPMG’s US CIO Advisory Practice Leader, Denis Berry. and I not only had the chance to share the survey results with the audience, but also unveil what this year’s survey data identified as four key pillars of digital leadership.

Are You a Digital Leader: Check the Four Pillars
Within the data, we found clear markers delineating leaders who are embracing a digital approach in their strategies, environments and future planning. How does a digital leader lead? According to the 2017 CIO Survey, a digital leader…
1. Builds a stable and secure infrastructure
2. Makes aggressive investments in agile and disruptive technologies
3. Aligns business and IT strategy, from the front to the back office
4. Is focused on innovation and growth
CIOs Explain Digital Leadership
Not all CIOs are digital leaders but it’s quickly becoming critical that CIOs embrace digital mindsets. Explaining what digital is or means is not always easy, but you know it when you see it. To give a clear picture of digital leadership in the webcast, Denis and I were joined by two pioneering CIOs who shared their digital approach to building and leading their organizations. Mark Maddox, Vice President & CIO of Apache Corporation, and Hagen Wenzek, co-Founder of tech startup CorporateHealth International, generously gave the audience real-world examples of how these four pillars shape their technology vision and work, and we are sharing their insights into strategic digital leadership here.
Pillar 1: The Stable, Secure Infrastructure
For Mark Maddox, leading the global IT operations of an international oil and gas company has been an exercise in uncertainty over the last several years. To create the stable infrastructure needed to support innovative digital strategies and tech advancement, Maddox has focused on simplifying the IT infrastructure at Apache Corporation in ways that will allow the company to be more digitally agile and also more efficient. “Our focus is on trying to create as predictable a cost structure as possible in order to continue to deliver innovation in a reliable and efficient way to our business partner. How does that look? We are moving from 11 data centers across the globe to 3 in order to consolidate our footprint, reduce security exposure, increase efficiency and reduce costs. We are creating a hybrid environment, moving workloads to public and private clouds, and looking for opportunities to make smart, aggressive investments in agile and disruptive technologies,” said Maddox.
Pillar 2: Invest in Agile, Disruptive Technologies
For Hagen Wenzek, who spent many years in tech innovation at IBM, his startup healthcare technology firm is all about disrupting norms. Wenzek spoke to the fact that years ago the automation and cloud movement he was leading at IBM was in response to the market demand to automate the simple, repetitive tasks people do. “Now we are looking at sophisticated, error prone human work and how we can automate it away to robots,” said Wenzek as he explained his company’s technology for transforming traditional colonoscopies through capsules, video, automation and AI technology. Wenzek explained how in healthcare, where mistakes put human life and health at risk, is a place where agile and disruptive AI technologies and neural networking are presenting opportunities to reduce costly mistakes and change patient outcomes in important ways.
Pillar 3: Aligns Front to Back Office Strategy
Maddox has created a set of guiding principles for his entire organization, designed to unite the tech vision and strategy from the frontlines down to the core foundation. “These principles (scale for the future, innovate, maintain security and reliability, minimize complexity and optimize costs) act as guardrails for the overall tech effort and strategy,” said Maddox. They are uniting his IT organization, from front to back office.
Pillar 4: Is Focused on Innovation and Growth
To stay focused on innovation and growth, Wenzek is an IT leader that walks the innovation walk as much as he talks the talk. “The CIO today needs to figure out what automation tech can really do and then go forward and implement it. That means you have to go back to school a bit. That’s what I did. I went back to learn how neural networks work. If you understand these technologies, you can use that knowledge to your advantage to drive the business agenda. This allows you to drive innovation and allows you to create certainty for you and your staff,” said Wenzek.
We at Harvey Nash and KPMG are thrilled to see how today’s CIOs and digital leaders are driving the business agenda of today and tomorrow. If you would like to learn more, you can download the 2017 Harvey Nash KPMG/CIO Survey here or download the webcast replay here.