Birmingham CIO Event – What did we Learn?

May 25, 2015

Senior IT leaders from across the West Midlands gathered at the splendid Austin Court in Central Birmingham earlier this week for the launch of the 2015 Harvey Nash CIO Survey, this year in association with KPMG.

Kicking the evening off, David Procter – Managing Consultant at Harvey Nash – provided a short introduction and overview of the event, highlighting key topics and encouraging guests to arm themselves with questions to fire at our panel later on.

Dr. Jonathan Mitchell – Non-Executive Chairman of Harvey Nash – then talked us through the main thrust of the findings which continue to focus on the challenges most CIOs face; the skills gap, security, the role of the CIO and the emerging CDO. The acceleration towards a ‘digital first’ business model is causing positive challenges and opportunities in businesses of all sectors and sizes.

Following this, Lisa Heneghan – Head of EMA CIO Advisory of KPMG UK – presented some of the findings together with interpretations of what this means for CIOs globally. She touched on this year’s theme of ‘Into An Age of Disruption’ and how this resulted in an overwhelming 66% of CIOs establishing new business models, products and services in order to adapt.

Lisa concluded by outlining the four fundamental elements that unite a successful strategy: –
1. A clearly articulated digital strategy
2. An impassioned and committed CEO driving from the top
3. An innovative and flexible culture, working in an agile manner to deliver quickly
4. A digitally proficient workforce, up-skilled for the demands of the market in 2015

Our formidable panel then took to the stage for a brief introduction of their careers and thoughts on the survey before Natalie Whittlesey – Director at Harvey Nash – hosted the bubbly debate which confronted some of the biggest challenges facing CIOs today.

Big Thanks to our 2015 CIO Panel:
Kevin Ord, CEO, Creare Group
Ian Johnson, CFO, IMI Critical Engineering
Andrew McManus, IT Director, Eversheds
Carolyn Bell, ICT Director, Bromford Group

Key themes that sparked debate and insights from our panel were:-

How is ‘Digital’ interpreted and what do we really mean by this? Carolyn began by offering her view of how Digital is differentiated by the new age of technology in comparison to traditional IT. Kevin followed this to add his opinion that any form of customer-facing technology is classed as Digital, whether it be mobile, web, tablet or via social media.

What can we do to overcome Demand Challenges such as ‘Black Friday’? Responses from Ian and Kevin emphasised how we must act both internally and externally. Not only do we need to engage top board members to put IT high on the agenda, but we must also look to our competitors to see how they are dealing with the problem – have they managed to solve it or are we facing the same issue? Either way there will be lessons to be learnt going forwards.

Analytics and Informatics: What does the Future hold? This is an ever growing subject with unimaginable possibilities. Digital Disruption could and does bring major benefits across many industries including healthcare and energy for everyday consumers. For Carolyn, this can provide vulnerable individuals with increasingly independent lifestyles, an example being wristbands that enable relatives to be alerted regarding their daily activities.

Digital Unity: the Ownership Debate! The hot debate continues on where Digital sits within an organisation and who should own the Digital strategy. The panel echoed collaboration and how different skill-sets should combine to produce the best results. Andrew gave an insight into Eversheds and how, once the digital strategy is formulated by the exec team collaboratively, he believes having a CDO to lead its delivery could be beneficial. That said, no single function should drive Digital on its own or for its own sake. Rather success from Digital will come from a united vision built on the foundations of mutual ownership and execution. Our survey indicates a surge in CDOs, with 17% of CIOs now working together with one, up from 7% in 2014.

Does our Digitally Proficient Workforce help or hinder Business Change? As technology keeps on infiltrating further into our lives, our panel agreed that this largely brings positive outcomes. It accelerates IT developments by heightening expectations and generating new ideas to push boundaries. However, Ian drew attention to the danger of technology being taken for granted where things are done for the sake of it. For example, there is no point collecting heaps of data without clear reason. Make sure it is the right kind of data, and high quality data, with individuals who understand how best to interpret it, and in turn have the ability use this data to benefit organisations and customers. Only by doing this will your data actually add value in the future!

Following the panel discussion, more lively networking took place amongst our guests. One of the most valuable parts of the evening was for contacts to re-connect; talking through some of the core issues before and after the panel debate to discuss the key lessons learned.

Blog by:
Michelle Cheung,
IT Leadership Consultant,