These technology leaders discussed their experiences transforming infrastructure and how they communicate their ideas to and across the C-Suite.
Transforming infrastructure within businesses is no easy feat. Technology leaders have to take into account multiple factors hindering that journey to success. How can C-Level technology executives ensure that they prioritise the tools, systems and people they need to activate their plans, whilst managing the expectations of the CEO and Board?
The panellists of this Transforming Infrastructure discussion answered these questions and compared the lessons they have learnt over the years.
With Juliette Foster moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate include:
- Linda Rogers, CIO (International), Life Healthcare Group
- Georgina Owens, CTO, Liberis
- Detlef Nauk, Head of AI & Data Science Research, BT
Key principles of transformation in the infrastructure
“From an infrastructure perspective you need to actually design for flexibility”, said CIO at Life Healthcare Group, Linda Rogers. Juliette Foster dug deep early on by asking the speakers what they see as the key principles for a successful transformation. Linda continued to emphasise that due to the “ever changing requirements in businesses”, agility is key.
One method of transformation that has been used regularly is the “waterfall” method, according to CTO at Liberis, Georgina Owens. She believes that this approach to infrastructure transformation is what’s “causing issues” as it requires a huge program of work that lasts years and puts a strain on costs. In agreement with Linda, she believes that taking small steps and switching to an agile mindset is a key principle.
The panellists considered the key lessons they’ve learnt when trying to inspire transformation within the infrastructure. What have they learnt as technology leaders over the years?
Georgina started off by pointing out that any change in the business is going to require stakeholder’s support. “Get them involved right early on in the beginning and keep them involved all the way through”, she said.
“Start with a few low-hanging fruits instead of transforming the whole business at once”, argued Detlef Nauk, Head of AI & Data Science Research at BT. His view was that rather than looking at it from a technology perspective, leaders have to take on business perspectives. In order to bring people on board, Detlef stated that you need to share success cases or proof with the rest of the business.
Pilot programs and lessons gained
“We have a massive program of moving all of our data into the cloud”, said Detlef. He recalled an example of a pilot program that stood out to him. In order to move BT’s data assets to the cloud, Detlef and his team had to build a security RAP around this.
When asked what proof of concept and pilot projects she had worked on, Georgina talked about her company’s migration project.
“One of the tips I’d give to other technology leaders is don’t make any assumptions”, she said. She explained that people might not understand what technology leaders are talking about. The lesson here, she pointed out, is to get these people involved through the testing, sign off and results of a project. “You cannot over prepare”, she warned.
Managing C-Suite expectations
The speakers were all in agreement: communication with the C-Suite is fundamental.
Every technology project will hit difficulties on the way and leaders will run into some form of technical issues, Detlef argued. “Everybody needs to be on the same page”, he stated. Informing the C-Suite of any possible complications and taking the time to make these expectations clear is important.
Juliette wondered if everyone is aiming to be on the same page that means not everybody is doing so yet.
Linda agreed. One common scenario she has seen in the C-Suite is executives setting unrealistic deadlines. Taking that IT voice and converting that into a language that those from the business side can understand is something Linda believes technology leaders should be doing. “It’s not technology programs infrastructure, it's a business program with technology being the lead for it”, she said.
“We’re amongst friends here… all of you, can you honestly say that you changed your vocabulary?”Juliette asked the speakers.
Echoing her previous point, Linda stated: “I have to speak the business language or it’s going over everyone’s head”. Also in agreement, Detlef explained that is part of the experience of being a technology leader. “You can’t speak the technical lingo to business people, you need to explain it in their terms and bring them on board”, he said.
Technical leaders, he argued, cannot “waltz” into a meeting and start using technical language.
This roundtable was recorded at The Studio and made in partnership with Cisco. To find out more about The Studio, click here.
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