20 top CIO predictions and insights for 2016

18 Dec 2015

The top CIOs give us their insights on the key strategies and projects of 2016

As digital transformation disrupts the world, we spoke to some of the top CIOs about their areas of focus for 2016 and the technologies they believe will make a difference in the years ahead.

1. John Kost, group vice president at Gartner Research and former CIO for the State of Michigan


I think ultimately we will get to the point where infrastructure becomes less consequential, less of a focus of CIOs, in part because they won’t have the skillsets, which frees them up to have more of the customer-facing things, the predictive analytics that no longer require the STEM skills that they relied on.

We see an Uber-like model coming to bear here where governments will eventually get talent as needed on demand using different intermediaries than they use now. Rather than large body shops, or consultancies, unique skills will be rented on demand through a public marketplace. Talent is more mobile than ever and millennials seem to be less inclined to be tied permanently to large institutions. So, the needs on the demand side will converge with a different labour model on the supply side.

2.  Simon Moorhead, IFDS


The financial services industry is constantly changing. Current challenges include cost pressures, regulatory changes, the impact of digitisation and new business models. The way in which we deploy information and technology across our organisation will drive our response to each of these issues.

3. Michael Devitt, IT director, William Fry


The legal sector in Ireland is very competitive, and we always look to see what new technologies would give us the competitive edge. The difficulty is that most of the larger firms tend to mostly use the same technologies, so it can be difficult to take a leap of faith into unchartered territory with certain applications or solutions. I believe that the time has come for driving big data initiatives in a law firm. Using the information provided by a good BI tool will allow firms to make strategic decisions based on actual real-time data.

Given the confidential nature of our data, we must ensure, above all, that our client information is safe and secure. Persuading any law firm to embrace the cloud is very challenging as a result.

4. Madalina Suceveanu, technology director at Vodafone Ireland


Developing technological trends, such as the use of smartphones and social media, and increasing data demand, have forced businesses to become more flexible, more adaptable and, most importantly, more connected across multiple levels. This has given many companies the scope to serve the needs of both their employees and their customers better.

Research, recently commissioned by Vodafone, showed 70pc of Irish businesses are freely embracing new technology where it can add value.

In order to facilitate mobility strategies effectively, businesses must ensure that they have the appropriate management systems in place to ensure that information is shared between employees and the office securely.

Mobile devices are becoming pivotal to the way we run our personal and social lives and BYOD, and now CYOD (Choose Your Own Device), blurs the lines between our working and personal worlds.

5. Fin Goulding, Paddy Power


I see software-defined data centres where there is a challenge in infrastructure – that is taking routers and switches and turning that into software, so that the data centre itself could be on a hard disk essentially and replicated into the cloud.

The other area is more around agility and you hear a lot of conversations out there about DevOps, lean, kanban stuff like that, and all of these things no one has put them all together until now, which is what we are doing.

It’s just so exciting. We can build a feature on some platforms and you can have the idea now and be in production today. You could never do that before and we have some systems that are pretty agile in how they operate, but they are delivering in two or three weeks, which is not good enough.

6. Paul Daugherty, CTO, Accenture


We have a different perspective on artificial intelligence than some have.

It is the concept of making humans super, rather than making super humans. We believe that the real power of artificial intelligence is to augment what humans are great at and make them better at what they do.

It’s all about making humans more effective; for workers with augmented technology in the form of virtual reality technologies, augmented vision combined with machine learning to help lower-skilled workers do more advanced jobs very productively, creates additional opportunities for people and that’s why we are excited by artificial intelligence.

We have a people-first approach that is a little different from the perspective many people take and that will be the work of the folks here in our Dublin lab.

7. Sarah McDonald, country IT lead, MSD Ireland


Information has become the new currency of healthcare and it is growing exponentially every second. We need to leverage the power of data to unlock life-saving science and business-critical insights — and we need to do it better and more quickly than anyone else in our industry.

A couple of years ago, the question of IT’s value to the business would have resulted in a fairly homogeneous set of responses like: “productivity,” “to keep the systems running,” or “to support business clients”. And all of these answers still hold true.  But now, something new and more valuable is rising in MSD IT.  It’s an awakening to fresh possibilities driven by the ubiquitous digitisation of healthcare and our company-wide transformation at MSD.

8. Hugh Gallagher, BDO


Put simply, ambition and growth are the big trends and challenges.  At BDO, we are advisers to some of Ireland’s most ambitious companies and many of these have both global and local business growth plans. Our IT offering needs to support them in achieving this. For the sector, we see a big drive towards data transformation services.  This means providing more portal-based services and workflows to clients so that they can manage their business growth from wherever they are.  It also means focusing on assessing client systems to ensure they are fit for purpose.

9. Rick Parkinson, CIO, Shoretel


While we’re not currently building mobile applications within the IT team for use within the company, we do continue to work to improve our business applications and systems to be more mobile-friendly. Security is another growing focus of ours and we continue to expand our capabilities, both in terms of what we can do to prevent issues, but also to prepare for what will inevitably occur. We also continue to leverage technology and increased system integration to improve the timeliness, accuracy and completeness of business reporting, with increased actionable information for our business leaders.

 10. Joe Baguley, CTO for EMEA, VMware


It is very interesting because as we look at some of the current buzzwords like internet of things, connected cars, etc, we are getting involved in those conversations on a daily basis with customers, but not for the reasons people think. It is much more around how IoT affects me from a legal perspective, how will it affect relationships with customers, relationships with employees etc.

So it is a lot more around how a business is going to change and evolve because of technology and from our perspective what technology will that, in turn, require, and it is all about looking at that and figuring out what happens next.

11. Michael Crean, CIO, Micksgarage.com


E-commerce businesses have the ability to scale very rapidly and systems need to be able to adapt very rapidly. They need to incorporate international regulations and those regulations change on a regular basis. Systems must be flexible and reflect the business environment we live in.

12. Jonathan Boylan, CTO, Fineos


Customer service and overall experience is always high on the agenda and insurers are constantly trying to improve their customer experience adopting the new mobile, wearable and web technologies. Customers are at the core for every insurance business and customer satisfaction and retention is a huge bonus to them.

One of the other trends we are focused on is analytics and big data. Insurers have a lot of data and are naturally disposed to analytics. The business of actuarial and risk prediction has been part of the business since insurance was founded.

 13. Tim Hynes, CIO, AIB


If I was to tell someone what they should study, I’d say study robotics. One of the things around disruptive stuff, look at the stuff that everyone is laughing at at the moment. Not long ago, people were laughing at the idea of self-driving cars. That is starting to shape up and it’s a form of robotics. They are sneering at it from inside their comfort zone, and it doesn’t fit their mental model and so they laugh at it.

When Facebook first arrived, people wondered why anyone would want to put their information up on social networks and now they are on it all day.

I think wearables have a fascinating future. We might be skeptical about wearables today, but they are going to become more common.

14. John Spencer, CTO, Northern Europe, Citrix


Evidence is pointing towards mobility as the biggest trend changing the role of IT in business. Networks, desktops, data, and even in-person meetings have all been decoupled from physical locations and transformed into fully digital mobile workspaces that provide complete business mobility.

Mobility can mean different things to different people and organisations. I think it’s important that organisations implement bespoke mobility solutions that address their needs.

Another trend we’re seeing more and more is the growth of ‘shadow’ or ‘atealth’ IT, where systems are deployed by employees without organisational approval or by departments other than IT. This is one to watch for organisations, primarily as it puts security at risk.

15. Roland Tritsch, CIO, Nitro


Mobile computing is essential to make our vision of smart document management anytime and everywhere a reality. Data-driven decision-making is at the core of what we do. Not only internally, but also, and especially, for our customers. We know a lot about how users use the product and what they do with the documents and we also know a lot about the documents we process. We are working very hard to turn that knowledge into insight and expose it to our customers so that they can make better decisions faster. Internally, we are obsessed with using

leading-edge industry trends like Agile Software Engineering and DevOps to build an engineering organisation that can be fast, right and cost-effective in the presence of uncertainty.

16. Paul Walsh, head of operations (MVNO), Dixons Carphone/iD


Data is really where it’s at in the mobile sector. As smartphones get smarter and data speeds get faster, more and more data is being consumed and people are generally using less texts and making less calls.

Another big challenge is how to allow customers to service their account in a way that suits them best. We have a clear focus on customer service and we offer a strong multichannel service approach with our own Irish contact centre in Waterford, through Facebook, Twitter and My iD online. We have big plans in self-service solutions, details of which we will announce very soon.

17. Randy Shoup,  former engineering director of DevOps at Google and chief architect at eBay


There are fewer and fewer places where the objections ‘I can’t do DevOps’ will fly.

We are seeing large enterprises doing these continuous deliveries in organisational and cultural practices.

We are seeing hardware companies do this stuff and several auto companies like Tesla and GM are great at this.

There are an amazing amount of companies where you wouldn’t have thought it was possible to do these practices that are moving seriously into DevOps.

 18. Ian O’Flynn, head of IT, Gas Networks Ireland


We are undertaking a review of our digital strategy to identify how we can best leverage digital technologies (mobile, web, social media, etc) to enhance how we engage with customers, external stakeholders and the general public.

IT security is always a critical area of focus for us in Gas Networks Ireland, as we are responsible for safeguarding critical national infrastructure and assets.

Smart metering (which provides customers with more insight into their energy consumption, thereby enabling them to optimise their use of energy) is also an emerging trend in our industry. We are currently actively involved in the design of solutions for smart metering in conjunction with the Commission for Energy Regulation and ESB Networks, with a target of introducing this capability circa 2020.

19. Klaus Michel, manager of technical support and IT, Damovo


We are looking at two areas in detail at the moment. One is the use of analytics for optimisation of our (and our customer) resources, both human and technical.

Secondly, we’re excited by the benefits that can be delivered through Software Defined Networks (SDN), and are investing in technologies that will help us to optimise our customers’ voice and data networks by delivering intelligence from the network, and giving ourselves and our customers flexible agile networks which are aligned to the business.

20. John Coleman, managing director, ProStrategy


Cloud is something that provides us with challenges and opportunities. We don’t see many of our customers currently putting critical business applications on a public cloud, with the exception of CRM. But we have little doubt that this will change over time.

Volume of data is growing rapidly, particularly as new data sources such as social media and machine sensors are being adapted. The challenge will be to empower people to get valuable insights from this data that will allow them to improve performance and grow their business.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years