Kyndryl Ireland MD: ‘Sustainability must be at the heart of company strategies’

27 May 2022

Karen Forbes, Kyndryl. Image: Andres Poveda Photography

Karen Forbes of IBM spin-out company Kyndryl discusses tangible applications of digital transformation, such as enabling homeowners to sell energy back to the grid.

Karen Forbes is the managing director of Kyndryl Ireland, an IT infrastructure services provider that designs, builds, manages and develops large-scale information systems.

The company was created as IBM spun off its infrastructure services business in November 2021. Kyndryl has since established major partnerships with Microsoft, AWS, Google Cloud and Nokia to help grow its offerings.

Forbes has worked for more than three decades within the IT industry and told about some of Kyndryl’s recent advancements with Irish companies, including with Permanent TSB and Bord Gáis Energy.

“We are collaborating to transform Permanent TSB’s infrastructure and deliver a seamless, integrated multi-cloud management solution,” she said.

“Kyndryl and Red Hat announced a global strategic partnership to advance IT automation for multi-cloud infrastructure. I am particularity delighted that Bord Gáis Energy showcased in the announcement how we have jointly helped them to reap the benefits of their service quality improvements with automation.”

‘The digital skills gap will cost businesses trillions of dollars by the end of the decade’

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

As we emerge from the pandemic, business leaders in every industry realise that the purely digital, platform-based companies are easy for end users to deal with. Subsequently, customer expectations are creating tremendous pressure to change, as everyone’s looking to emulate that simplicity.

The term may be overused, but digital transformation really is the biggest challenge on our customers’ agendas, and experience shows us that every customer is unique in this process. Digital transformation is not just about technology, it includes strategy, culture and innovation to create simplicity for their customers.

Addressing our own transformation, Kyndryl is proud to have a flat, focused structure and be technology agnostic to enable great ideas to surface, and that all of us to respond to challenges with intent, while remaining flexible. And that matters. If we’ve learned nothing else from the last two years of the pandemic, we know that the world really can change overnight.

What do leaders need to think about when it comes to digital transformation?

We meet our customers wherever they may be on their digital transformation journey. The most important thing for business leaders to understand about transformation is that it’s an ongoing journey, not a destination.

It’s equally important to have the right service and advisory partner for the long journey ahead, especially when leaders will encounter a gap between what they want to achieve and can currently achieve.

For example, how to integrate new, open technologies like AI and automation into your current IT mix. Or how to scale amid rapid technological advances. These encounters can often bring about complexities in a digital transformation.

As new technologies come onto the market, we are also seeing an increase in the attack surface and customers are looking for support on their cyber resiliency and recoverability and working on how they ensure they understand the minimum viable business to need to continue to provide services in the event of any cyberattack.

Commonly we find that companies with a cohesive strategy for integrating both digital and physical elements are the ones successfully transforming their business model, while setting new directions for their industry.

Subsequently, companies need someone who understands their business strategy and can simplify the business integration and IT complexities without compromising their operations.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation’s relationship with sustainability?

I see digital transformation as a gateway for businesses to improve sustainability. As, fundamentally, sustainability is about looking forward. It’s about looking to the future and how the business will operate in years to come and having a plan to get there.

For this reason, businesses today need to actively consider sustainability opportunities in their operating models and strategy.

In addition, there is a shift in attitudes by consumers and by regulators with a greater overall emphasis on sustainable products and services that is making it an imperative for companies to place sustainability at the heart of their strategies.

One example of looking ahead to identify opportunities comes from the energy industry, particularly when it comes to data and smart devices.

Linking smart devices in consumers’ homes to energy suppliers and other organisations can encourage consumers to change behaviour and optimise energy consumption. The devices can also incorporate for consumers the option of generating electricity at their own premises and selling it back to the grid.

It’s thanks to digital transformation and technology like this that advances are being created to help our planet and communities.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape?

The current market for skills, both IT and business, is competitive and companies of every size and industry are struggling to find employees with the skills to drive their businesses forward.

While this challenge is not new, it will be the biggest challenge facing all organisations especially as the digital skills gap will cost businesses trillions of dollars by the end of the decade. The question is, what is the best way to tackle this issue?

In the face of these professional shortages, we’ve realigned our operating model to better integrate our skills with our services. Consequently, our culture – the Kyndryl Way – underpins everything we do.

We have three values of being restless to continuously learn and innovate, being empathetic, and being devoted to shared success of our colleagues.

Our employee base is diverse in every way. We value the many different skills and perspectives our people contribute. I know we’ve got the right teams and the right mindset to accomplish anything.

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