Jim Fowler, the Chief Information Officer at GE, sees an expanding universe of transformational potential for IT executives willing to explore emerging technologies and assemble teams with powerful new skill sets.
"We'll still have systems of record, ERPs and various kinds of operational technologies; but those won't be what differentiates us from the competition," says Jim. "CIOs need to look at creating teams with the talent for building complex models and algorithms for machine learning, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Those are some of the areas where we'll be competing intensely over the next decade."
I really appreciate how Jim focuses on the need for building cross-functional teams of developers and designers. From Jim's perspective, IT is an integral part of the larger enterprise supply chain, which includes everything from product development to marketing to distribution.
"Today, a knowledge worker spends a huge amount of time gathering and cleaning data," says Jim. "We're working on automating those tasks so the knowledge worker can spend less time data wrangling and more time on scenario planning. The goal is spending more time building models and predicting outcomes of business decisions. Frankly, that's how we help the company grow and become more successful."
From Jim's perspective, knowledge workers should be equipped with the tools and skills necessary for making direct and meaningful contributions to the business itself. It's a far cry from the early days of IT, when a large part of everyone's day involved moving large reels of magnetic tape and fixing balky drives.
Instead of focusing on technology metrics, Jim's team focuses on business metrics. "When we deliver on our business metrics, we gain credibility across the company and we demonstrate the value of technology," says Jim. "When we talk about technology, we talk in business terms. Are we driving new revenue? Are we helping open new markets? Are we improving on-time delivery and reducing inventory? Those are the kinds of metrics that business leaders want to talk about. You really need to understand the top-line and how the business works."
That is excellent advice for CIOs and IT leaders everywhere. Understand the needs of the business. Focus intently on delivering business outcomes. Build teams that support better business decisions through advanced data analytics, machine learning, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
Great technology executives don't worry about technology - they worry about applying the right set of technologies effectively to solve business problems. What's your opinion?