Last week more than 1,000 CIOs gathered in Phoenix, AZ and dug into their collective need to lead distributed IT environments and rethink their business models around IT delivery. Peter Sondergaard SVP Research at Gartner opened the forum with a clear message and Lesson #1:

1. Its Time to Double Down on Investments in Innovation

In an age of shrinking budgets, IT leaders MUST use business optimization efforts to underwrite investments in digital business. According to Sondergaard, these leaders will “separate themselves from the competition and avoid the vulnerabilities that allow upstarts to come along and seize control of their markets.”

Lesson # 2 came in a keynote from, Salim Ismail,  author of Exponential Organizations and founding executive director of Singularity University.

2. Prepare for the Disruptive Change of Exponential Technology

Ismail collaborator, Peter Diamandis, in his book BOLD, addresses the disruptive power of exponential technologies, and forces such as dematerialization and demonetization which are driving a revolutionary rate of change that is projected to force as much as 40% of the Fortune 500 into extinction over the next 10 years. With enterprises operating increasingly interconnected and on-demand business models, the risk of extinction has never been greater for IT managers saddled with legacy IT delivery models. “We are not ready to absorb this pace of change,” Ismail said, and suggested that leadership established to manage the status quo will be caught unprepared. 

Lesson #3 came from a group of CIOs participating on a panel discussing lessons learned from the trenches of digital transformation.

3. Move to Platform-Centric Thinking

Following on another Sondergaard premise that “data is inherently dumb,” success in the digital age depends on high performance platforms enabling intelligent algorithms to make limitless critical business decisions and define customer interactions at the speed of light. Digital platforms must take cloud and XaaS integration to new heights, seamlessly interconnecting with legacy infrastructure and applications in on-premise environments, breaking down the silos of “dumb” data.

Cutting across these lessons were themes around developing people and culture. While the technology is no longer taken for granted as the easy part, tackling the cultural ramifications of digital transformation remains an even bigger challenge.

In summary Sondergaard noted, “CIOs who succeed in orchestrating the use of digital technology across their entire business will separate themselves from those who merely run the IT department.”