Keeping Up with Technology: A Conversation with Today’s Enterprise Cloud Leaders
Recently, I sat down with seven leaders from both commercial enterprises and the public sector to hear how they approach developing a culture that enables innovation at scale. In a series of video interviews, we discussed the different roles that technology, people, and culture play as C-level executives navigate their organizations through the cloud journey.
This post is the third in a series focused on the four key themes that emerged from those conversations. In part one, I focused on the theme of cultivating next level leaders, and in part two, I shared insights from these leaders on dealing with failure. In this post, I explore the next ingredient for innovation at scale: keeping up with the ever-increasing pace of technology.
We’re going through a shift that is unlike any other in our lifetime, and it’s happening at an incredible pace. In fact, according to The World Economic Forum, there is no historical precedent for the pace of change that we’re seeing, and it’s disrupting almost every industry. I can relate. During my 26-year tenure as Corporate CIO at Coca-Cola, I have seen an unbelievable amount of change in technology.
When I joined The Coca-Cola Company we had a significant amount of home-grown technology that was highly customized to Coca-Cola requirements and very difficult to maintain. Like many large enterprises we needed to address our technical debt to enable the company to leverage the technology capabilities available in the market. We focused first on areas that gave Coca-Cola competitive advantage, like route to market, removing cash from our transactions, and a differentiated consumer experience. Over time we also addressed the back office, like our move from a highly customized SAP on-premises HR system to the SaaS HR solution from Workday.
Now at AWS, I face the same challenge. Our pace of innovation enables us to rapidly introduce and iterate new services, and staying on top of technological change is what enables us to anticipate and respond to our customer’s wants and needs as quickly as we do. So what dotoday’s cloud leaders do to handle the challenge of constant technological change?
In my interviews with cloud leaders some common themes arose, including the importance of strong partner relationships, making time to stay informed in a way that works for you, and understanding that, ultimately, technology is just a tool that enables us to deliver better customer outcomes.
Shaown Nandi, CIO of Dow Jones, spoke about the importance of leveraging the intelligence that exists across the company, and finding convenient, lightweight ways for teams at all levels of the organization to share information. As a leader, he prioritizes adding context and commentary around technological change for his peers in the leadership team. This helps achieve a common understanding and facilitates conversation around any potential impacts or opportunities for the business.
Ann Carver, CIO of Coca-Cola North America, told me she looks to key strategic partners to help them stay up to date. They’re prioritizing modernization and simplification of the technological landscape as much as possible. This in turn enables them to take advantage of new digital business opportunities enabled by technology, such as digital marketing, e-commerce, and analytics.
Morgan Reed, Chief Information Officer for the State of Arizona, stressed the importance of staying centered around the customer. Morgan is working to instill a customer-focused mindset in his organization, where teams start with what their customers need, what they’re struggling with, what’s changing, and how his team can help. His organization tasks vendors to prove what’s possible while demonstrating that they have a solid understanding of the needs of their end users. Viewing technology as a potential solution to a customer problem has shifted how his organization is structured and how it operates, and as Morgan puts it, “There are no IT projects; there are business projects with an IT component.”
What is really inspiring to me is that all of these leaders view the pace of technological change as an opportunity, not a challenge. Technology creates opportunities for us to create new value for the business, and to deliver better customer experiences in new and better ways. That’s critical, because this pace of change has affected our customers as well—they now have the power of more information and more choice. Ultimately, our ability to differentiate relies on our ability to leverage technology to continuously deliver better and more impactful customer experiences.
I hope you’ll enjoy our video on Keeping Up with Technology, as well as the rest of the video series talking with insightful leaders on their perspectives on innovation at scale. And I invite you to explore my other posts in the Conversations with Today’s Enterprise Cloud Leaders series: