Marta Zarraga is a seasoned chief information officer, having held the post at Aviva, Vodafone, and British Telecom. In February 2021, Zarraga joined Capital Group, a 90 year old financial services company that manages more than $2.3 trillion in equity and fixed income assets for millions of individual and institutional investors around the world. As others who have taken on new posts in the past year during the global pandemic, this has been an unusual experience for Zarraga, as she is operating in quarantine, unable to meet in person with her new colleagues. The situation is even more unusual in that she is, for the time being, based in London, whereas Capital Group’s headquarters is in Los Angeles.
When asked how her priorities changed during the pandemic, Cathy Bessant, the Chief Operations and Technology Officer of Bank of America said, “It’s hard to remember where we were prior to the pandemic!” Much has changed for everyone, but for a technologist who leads a team that numbers nearly 100,000, there are silver linings to the crisis. “We were used to trite sayings, like, ‘We are living in a digital world,’ but it has played out,” she noted. “Now we are.”
Technology has been a savior of sorts. Companies have leaned on their digital revenue streams as physical revenue streams have dried up and leveraged technology to collaborate and remain productive. But it has not been a panacea. “Technology is the path forward, but we have a keener understanding of its limitations, as well,” Bessant said.
In a recent poll of multiple hundred CIOs to understand how many of them anticipated spending levels on “digital transformation” on a par with, higher, or lower than 2019, nearly 80% of responses indicated that they would have a higher spending level in 2020 on digital transformation initiatives. This is remarkable given the need for cost containment in light of the pandemic and the economic crisis that it has created, but it is driven by the fact that those companies that transformed their operations and their ability to derive digital revenue streams earlier are the companies that have done best during this time of crisis. Executive teams of most companies now realize that this needs to be a priority. Cut costs elsewhere but use some portion of that savings to invest back into further digital transformation.
Michael Smith, the Chief Information Officer of Estee Lauder, brought together a group of technology executives for a conference the day following George Floyd’s death. Given the terrible circumstances of his demise and the subsequent protests in the wake of the tragedy, the technology topics that the group planned to discuss did not seem so meaningful. Ralph Lauren’s CIO Janet Sherlock decided this was a good time to talk about how the gathered executives could be agents for change. Inspired by Sherlock’s comments, Smith decided to activate the ideas, reaching out to his network, fleshing out the ideas further. Earl Newsome, the CIO for the Americas at Linde Inc. was a member of the original group and a primary architect defining the approach.
While there is no textbook for leading through a crisis like the current pandemic, one of the things one can do is learn from the wisdom and insight of leaders who have been around longer than us and have a perspective that is broader than ours. While no leader has faced circumstances quite like these, Charlie Feld’s experience leading technology organizations—for some of the most recognizable names in business—over the last 55 years, is a voice worth listening to.
Feld is one of America’s most recognized and successful Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and information-technology consultants. His leadership insights, operational experience, and strategic framework for enterprise success have been developed over the course of his career. Feld is the author of two books on Leadership, including The Blind Spot: A Leader’s Guide to IT-Enabled Business Transformation. To continue his commitment to helping organizations and executives achieve technology-enabled business transformation, Feld founded The Feld Group Institute in 2009.
Last week, IDC presented its top 10 predictions for IT industry for 2021. The report highlights how enterprise IT teams are navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic and seeking to gain competitive advantage in the new normal.
The pandemic has not just spared but has accelerated digital growth. Despite the disruptions caused globally, enterprise IT teams are marching towards what the report refers to as “digital destiny” as most of the products and services today are either based on digital delivery models or require digital capabilities to stay in the competitive playground. The IDC report states, “65% of global GDP is digitalized by 2022, driving $6.8 trillion of IT spending from 2020 to 2023.”
We are within days of Halloween, but the Covid-19 pandemic has dimmed the prospects for many children regarding the holiday. Enter Mars. Halloween is one of the biggest days of the year for the candy behemoth. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, the company’s chief digital officer Sandeep Dadlani and his team have developed a method to save Halloween called Treat Town. This is part of his broader strategy to make the company 100 times faster with its digital engine.
Last week, Gartner, Inc. announced its top nine strategic technology trends for 2021. Analysts presented their findings during Gartner IT Symposium, which was virtual this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Just as the pandemic reshaped the conference, it has also reshaped the trends, as many of them are brought about or will be emphasized to a greater extent due to the health crisis that the world continues to face.
Very few chief information security officers have risen to the ranks of chief information officers. On the one hand, it would seem like a logical progression. CISOs historically have reported to CIOs. The importance of their roles has grown tremendously as the threat landscape has done the same. Also, as security has risen to a board-level concern, CISOs are often asked to speak before the executive team and board, underscoring the importance of the discipline, while also raising the profile of the executive.
So why has this not been a greater pathway? First, as CIOs must focus increasingly on innovation, which is about risk taking, CISOs manage or mitigate risk. That is not to say that there is not profound innovation that CISOs can undertake on behalf of their companies, but this focus has been a limiting factor to these executives’ rise, nevertheless. Additionally, security roles can be siloed relative to other roles in information technology, and the lack of leadership roles across IT can be viewed as another limiting factor.