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CIOs must step into the Domain of Business Transformational Leadership

By Thaddeus Arroyo, CIO, AT&T

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Thaddeus Arroyo, CIO, AT&T

New Trends Empowering the Workforce

The industry is being reshaped by a number of disruptive technological advancements and trends today. The continued rise of a mobilized society where everything is connected is the first. The rise of services in a universally accessible cloud, allowing emergence of smart objects, contextual engagement and personal based interactions is another. We can also see changes in software, driving a proliferation of new applications, empowered by a common language of APIs that enable increasingly faster and more open integration. And finally, new big data, collaboration and social capabilities that accelerate and dynamically connect knowledge sharing and content creation between individuals and provide companies unprecedented customer insights.

These trends are driving changes across the broad technology ecosystem that is fueling the acceleration of innovation.  The resulting advancements are powering a tectonic shift that is changing the way business does business.  Ultimately, technology is allowing us to do things hard to imagine a few years ago.

Roadblocks to Overcome

CIOs must step into the domain of business transformational leadership.  As Information technology leaders we are in a unique position, operating at the center of each company with tremendous visibility into every line of business and every operating unit.  This positions us to be leaders in recognizing cross-organization capabilities as well as information integration opportunities that can improve the customer experience and enhance or disrupt market offerings.  We must not just be integrators or enablers; we must become transformation leaders. Also, key is continuously transforming the organization to allocate more capacity toward innovation and improving the velocity of business strategy enablement. 

Opportunities Galore for CIOs

The white space of opportunity is not binary. Our potential to accelerate innovation is through emerging capabilities across the connected landscape, a potential which is only limited by the imagination of solutions providers. CIOs have great opportunities to drive an IT Strategy that encapsulates the emergent technological advancements into today’s technology ecosystem.

While the IT organization of yesterday focused on the automation of business processes, technological advancements driven by powerful mobile computing, connected to ubiquitous networks accessing services in the cloud, allow us to do things today that were not possible just a few years ago.  These capabilities are leading to a shift to innovation around information enablement versus simply process automation.  At the heart of this priority shift is the capture, integration and interpretation of data in ways that are designed to improve the customer experience. 

At the same time, the rise of technology delivered as-a-service is driving a shift to what the capabilities can deliver rather than how to build a service that is ready to be consumed.  The net effect being that IT organizations today can shift consumption of resources away from low-value tasks and focus on maximizing their capacity for innovation!

And with the rise of collaboration capabilities, technology innovation and content will be co-created.  CIOs have an opportunity to build a dynamic corporate culture that will support and cultivate innovative co-creation in the workplace. 

The upshot is that there is a tremendous opportunity for CIOs to help their business partners realize unprecedented returns on their technology investment, delivering shorter innovation cycles, and a deepening of their end-customer relationships. 

Innovation Paramount for Business Growth

Innovation and technology go hand in hand, and innovation is essential to business growth. So to me, driving high-value innovation starts with a business-aligned technology focus.  Within my team this consists of dedicated application development and delivery teams that utilize an underlying foundation of shared services functions that span all aspects of IT’s operational services needs.  This structure enables us to advance a business-aligned innovation agenda while maneuvering massive scale. 

But to drive innovation across such scale, you also need to nurture a culture of innovation that supports employees in exploring and developing their ideas.  At AT&T, this includes a crowd-sourced innovation engine that allows employees to vote up the best ideas for funding.  Additionally, we utilize experiential-based methodologies that analyze key interactions between users, systems and the environment, leading to proofs-of-concept that allow employees to try, fail and improve.  We strive to build these practices of innovation within the AT&T IT organization in order to make innovation part of our DNA. The result is an IT organization that aspires to serve as a progressive innovator, transforming business processes and market offerings in ways that create value and have positive impact for AT&T’s business, customers and collaborators while materially contributing to AT&T’s intellectual capital growth and total patent portfolio.

Gadget: a Life Line

My favorite gadget remains my smart phone, as this has become the portal to both my work and personal life. Whether it’s enhancing and virtually extending a richer direct or indirect interaction, or making my life easier by bringing contextual intelligence that helps me manage my world on the go, it’s clearly the gadget I simply cannot live without.

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