From utilizing frameworks to driving cloud modernization to linking demand and supply chains to customer-centric digital transformation, Day 2 of Acceleration Economy’s Digital CIO Summit delivered a wealth of insights from a powerful lineup of practitioners and expert speakers.
Below, I’ll summarize key takeaways from each of the sessions. But keep in mind there’s another day’s worth of content today, after which three days’ worth of content will be available on demand. Check out all the details and sign up for today’s live sessions.
To hear more data modernization, AI/hyperautomation, cybersecurity, and growth strategies from CIO practitioners, tune into Acceleration Economy’s Digital CIO Summit, which takes place April 4-6. Register for the free event here.
AI and Automation Supporting Modernization
The day kicked off with a practitioner analyst roundtable on the topic of AI and Automation for Data Center Modernization and Cloud Optimization. The panel featured experts from IBM: Richard Trickey, worldwide Turbonomic and integration practice leader, Technology Expert Labs, and Kevin Lamb, product manager, Turbonomic – Cloud.
IBM approaches modernization and optimization projects using a proven framework, namely the “Sponsored Value Journey,” Trickey said. The framework emphasizes executive-level sponsorship and the need to express the impact of tech projects in terms of business value. The stronger the value proposition, the more robust the sponsorship, Trickey said. The framework calls for taking a customer on a journey to successful outcomes; while the tech modernization journey is often described in a “crawl, walk, run” fashion, Trickey noted the value in adding “fly” into that mix as well, as faster outcomes are key in today’s challenging business climate.
IBM’s Lamb detailed the basic of FinOps — finance plus DevOps — because FinOps practices underpin so many modernization initiatives. He explained how to apply FinOps using three principles: Inform, Optimize, and Operate. Inform entails knowing and communicating the costs of different clouds and related services; optimize is about finding ways to spend less on these services; and “operate” involves applying process automation in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to manage cloud platforms and application on an ongoing basis.
Wayne Sadin, Acceleration Economy analyst and host of our Data Modernization channel, echoed the value of a strong FinOps platform and strategy. If there’s a seasonal spike in web traffic that a CIO must manage, “I don’t want to be turning knobs in 14 clouds, I want to let the computer do it for me,” Sadin said. “A FinOps platform, especially one driven by AI, lets me respond to the business because I have the tools to do that.”
Acceleration Economy analyst Tony Uphoff, host of our Leadership channel, shared his key criteria in evaluating technology partners for any type of modernization project, including the need for those vendors to approach a partnership from a co-creation perspective, which includes strong knowledge of the buyer’s industry, corporate culture, and tech infrastructure.
How Goya Ties Together Supply and Demand Chains
The business disruptions wrought by Covid-19 have been felt most acutely in supply and demand chains, with businesses across industries struggling, or oftentimes unable, to meet customer demand or deliver products in a timely way.
So it was great to get the perspective of Suvajit Basu, CIO of Goya Foods, which battled through the pandemic to fulfill its mission of feeding America. Basu (pictured above) discussed Goya’s work to unify supply and demand chains to carry out its core business goals.
Basu said his company has a single demand planning system that generates a single forecast for all products at its dispersed locations every week. The demand planning system taps into the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to create the forecast. The manufacturing, master planning, and sequencing systems all utilize the forecast data to manage their respective functions.
“The beautiful thing at Goya is that our supply chain is connected. It was connected 10-plus years ago, and it’s fantastic to see how everything is coordinated through this single forecast,” he says. That point was proven during Covid-19, when Goya was able to meet the requirements of giant grocers including Walmart and Kroger. “They wanted us to keep their shelves full and we could do that because our supply and demand chains were connected very well,” he says.
Goya has a multi-cloud architecture today but is selective in terms of what applications it runs in the cloud vs. on-premises; it has to consider the criticality of applications and data in those decisions. “With ERP, if you have an outage for even a couple hours during our busiest times — the week before Thanksgiving or Christmas — it would seriously affect our business,” he says.
Synoptek’s Digital Transformation Framework
Officials from Synoptek delivered fresh insights into customers’ current priorities when it comes to digital transformation initiatives and how the tech consulting and managed services provider delivers on those requirements.
Salil Godika, CEO of Synoptek India, said customers have three core goals related to digital transformation:
- Reimagine customer experience, so it’s consistent across channels, with the help of big data and AI platforms
- Reengineer their business for fluidity or agility, so they can react more quickly to their customers’ needs. Modern cloud infrastructure is critical to helping them operate in this fashion
- Reduce enterprise risk through cybersecurity tools and practices that protect their data and systems
These objectives are even more relevant since every company today, regardless of its size or maturity, is fundamentally an enterprise technology company, said Jerry McGlynn, practice director, consulting. SynOptek works extensively with customers to define their business strategy as the first priority, then build customer experiences around those objectives, he added.
The company is confident enough in its methodology that it offers a “5X” program under which it will return five times its strategic assessment fee to customers in the form of savings or business value, officials said. Customers are looking for “quantifiable results in the same calendar year,” Godika said, and 5X helps address that objective.
Customer-Centric Transformation at Cirque du Soleil
The powerhouse live entertainment brand Cirque du Soleil went through a well-documented and painful downturn when Covid effectively shut down its business. Information technology (IT) vice president Philippe Lalumiere spoke publicly almost a year ago about the company’s ambitious efforts to not just survive but to reinvent itself to meet the radically changed habits and preferences of customers.
On Day 2 of the Digital CIO Summit, he delivered an upbeat progress report that included:
- Pending deployment of a customer data platform to support marketing and sales on the road to customer-centric digital transformation
- Evaluating expansion of the company’s offerings beyond the live show experience, including the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality to let customers spend more time on site before and after shows, interacting with artists, and more.
- Evaluating the use of AI, initially in the form of chatbots to automate routine in-house IT interactions. If that work is successful, the company could use chatbots to interact with customers in the ticket-buying process.
- The company has gone live with an ERP upgrade to SAP’s S/4 Hana; Lalumiere detailed the scale of the effort with a couple of data points: The company spent 1,500 hours loading its master and transactional data into the new system and had over 180 team members trained to use it. “The good news is, it’s going well and the organization is really behind it,” he said. “Our CFO was a great sponsor.”
With VR and AI, “those two are big technologies we’re looking at to increase our knowledge of our customers and improve the customer experience and generate new revenue streams using tech,” Lalumiere said.
Collectively, the various initiatives he detailed play to the company’s focus on building a culture and mindset of business growth and keeping the customer at the center of those efforts.
Automation Expert Weighs in on Generative AI
Ian Barkin, author of the bestselling book “Intelligent Automation,” shared wide-ranging perspectives on AI, the explosion in AI interest driven by generative AI and ChatGPT, and how he thinks AI will impact careers, education, and more. He spoke in a session with Acceleration Economy co-founder John Siefert.
As a long-time observer and expert on the topic of automation, Barkin noted that AI has always been at the center of the excitement surrounding automation technology, although hype and misunderstanding have at times obscured its value or created unrealistic expectations. But that’s all changing as ChatGPT has entered the mainstream with capabilities that are immediately obvious to the average consumer.
Barkin said he’s using the technology to design a family vacation, but the technology could also be used to craft software code such as an iPhone app. “Its capabilities are really thrilling,” he said. “The sky’s the limit.”
Barkin and Siefert discussed the technology’s potential to reshape work skills and expectations. Barkin noted that imagination will quickly become the critical factor to success in the future of work, since so much information discovery, generation, and presentation will be made possible by AI. “It’s a little jarring but get used to it. This will transform the way we assign and execute work and the skills we rely on for the execution of that work.”
In fact, when it comes to educating young people, the model of assigning essays in school, for example, is quickly becoming antiquated. Instead of writing essays, they could create presentations in which they interact with historical figures like Ben Franklin. In this model, “the act of finding facts and compiling them is no longer relevant because it’s being done for you.”
The Evolution of Co-Creation
Executives from Equinix and Microsoft discussed how the need for co-creation is resulting in new types of partnerships.
For instance, Matthew Sekol, industry advocate, worldwide sustainability at Microsoft, pointed out how the software and cloud giant has partnered with the Linux Foundation in the Green Software Foundation, which aims to educate software developers on how to develop “sustainable code,” which is code that does not consume maximum energy, factors in the hardware on which it’s running and more. “It’s a team sport,” Sekol said. “We’re trying to solve these big thorny problems across value chains,” which includes partnering with organizations that previously would have been considered rivals.
Lisa Miller, senior vice president, global platform alliances at Equinix, said the partners ecosystem is quickly evolving to reflect customers’ needs for co-creation. “When we see a niche or solution that needs to be solved, many times co-creation or building a joint solution will allow people to buy something together that solves a problem.”
Miller added that online marketplaces are a strong embodiment of co-creation, with co-created products aimed at making the buying experience easier.
SAXX Transformation Leverages Cloud ERP
Executives of the men’s underwear brand SAXX detailed their transformation work in upgrading from ERP software that they described as being held together by duct tape to Microsoft cloud-based ERP.
CEO Wendy Bennison and Christine Livingstone, senior director of information systems, explained how the Vancouver-based company migrated to the cloud, as well as a datalake, to fuel the company’s transformation to being “insight-driven” with real-time data. That data and insight, in turn, is considered core to the company’s growth strategy.
The SAXX leaders emphasized the importance of IT leadership having a seat at the executive table to ensure a clear line of sight into business objectives, so they could be used to build a tech strategy to drive growth. That organizational consideration also included strong CEO-level backing of the technology strategy.
They also detailed their use of a diverse set of partners — to support functions including business process optimization, price benchmarking, contract review, chart of accounts design, and more — to ensure the success of this critical business initiative.