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CIOs reflect on Gartner Symposium 2017

Gartner Symposium closes tomorrow in the Catalan capital Barcelona.  The annual event always attracts a wide range of European and British business technology leaders. Horizon Business Innovation spoke to some of the nation’s leading CIOs who headed to the recently troubled city to get the community view on the Symposium.

“The focus has very noticeably been on people and culture this year, everyone I speak to has commented on this and see it as a positive thing,” said Joanna Smith CIO at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust in London.  The CIO who joined fellow healthcare CIOs Will Smart and Richard Corbridge to discuss innovation in healthcare in season one of the Horizon CIO podcast said Peter Sondergaard, Global Head of Research at Gartner did a great “opening keynote”. Smith, who has been CIO at the specialist hospital since 2013 was critical of some speakers for “nothing new of any substance in terms of tech, that we know it all now so the focus for CIOs is about becoming business leaders.  To be honest whilst I agree and enjoyed the session it’s hardly a new message.”

20130829markdermody13Mark Dermody, recently interim IT Director with Whitbread coffee chain Costa Coffee and former CIO of cycling and sports online retailer Wiggle said there was a good focus on IT operating models and what to consider, something very specific to him. The CIO said the debate at Gartner Symposium has moved on from a focus on Digital and on to the Internet of Things and Blockchain, two technologies likely to disrupt retail where Dermody has spent the majority of his career.

“As always the content and themes at Symposium were exceptional,” said Richard Corbridge, who is completing his career as CIO for the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland. “Ed Gabrys session on the culture needed for a digital eco-system and how to create a new pace around this was inspirational, a real new view of how to take little nuggets that can change the team outlook and create a new pace for change in a safe and engaging way,” Corbridge says of Gartner’s Research Director for the CIO role.  

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“New thinking from the ever-philosophical Frank Buytendijk really lit up the audience, Buytendijk in his usual style told digital fireside stories about the nature of digital natives now and in the near future, Buytendijk finished by comparing the digital nature of the future to the way in which Prometheus in the Greek legend created the human being, giving us the tool of fire to make us different led to creativity and the very nature of human thinking. If you can get access to the recording of this presentation I would urge you to do so, it will blow your board’s mind next time you are asked to explain why digital is important,” the new Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust CIO said of Gartner’s Fellow.

“This year the ‘industry day’ had a revamp for my area in particular, the number of analysts was increased, the content improved and the ability to bring together brains from across the EU on one subject was a super way to share lessons and build relationships. In one session alone our journey to manage our legacy estates was discussed a new way of thinking from colleagues in the Netherlands put forward,” Corbridge said.

“The pace of change, the creation of a new agility to the way digital and change needs to be considered,” were major themes coming across in Barcelona, Corbridge said. “The keynote considered a hype cycle for digital as a whole and described what we are doing as being at the peak of the digital illusion, the team went on to create the clear understanding that urgency is here for what we do, and if we don’t adapt more quickly failure is around the corner. The keynote also portrayed a vision of the skilled workforce in a digital future, and made every member of the audience really consider re-training in AI as this was very clearly indicated as the most rare skill set of the future.”

Corbridge, who recently discussed the opportunities for public sector IT in Ireland on this title’s podcast said Gartner Symposium also investigated topics such as: “Digital Dexterity – Attributes and skills to allow for the continuously changing world. Frequent, complex decision making that ensures that digital gets moving at a new pace. Network Effect Technologies – Blockchain, AR/VR/MR. IoT, API & the growth in the sheer volume of applications. AI came up again as a key digital disruptor of now, not the near future. Industrialised Digital Platform – Last year’s keynote portrayed the digital platform, this year that has taken on a new and more expanded role in everything we should focus on.”

Gartner Symposium always probes the role of the CIO. “The role is ever stronger in its position, but needs to learn to move more quickly, needs to continue to evolve as a business leader and needs to be able to demonstrate more and more benefit,” is how CIO Corbridge interpreted the response.

“The closing statement was also a rallying call that we have an Exciting truth – The secret to digital is… analogue – The People! 60% growth in digital skills with people that were not IT professionals by current categorisation,” stood out for the healthcare CIO who took the concept of Clinical Chief Information Officer (CCIO) to Ireland in his last role.

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