I had the pleasure of attending the Twin Cities Business magazine CIO Forum on July 17th at the Metropolitan Ballroom in Golden Valley, MN.  What a fantastic venue! This panel event was highly informative, with interesting perspectives from CIOs of diverse companies. I’d like to share what I found to be common themes during the panel discussion and share my thoughts on the information the panelists provided.

The panel was comprised of local CIOs: John Avenson, VP – Technology of the Minnesota Twins; Anthony Hoang, CIO of cliqstudios; and Tiffany Snyder, CIO of Cargill Animal Nutrition Enterprise.  Despite coming from very different industries, they all agreed on key trends and challenges in technology that they face in their roles.

Tiffany expressed the recent change in technology/digital transformation/digital disruption as a change in IT’s focus on operational excellence, only to the addition of focusing on new products and business models.  Anthony added that one could also view the shift as a focus on technology invested in for tasks after the sale to the addition of investments in technology which supports operations before the sale.  John added how the Twins have added to core baseball metrics to expand their use of data in both player and fan analysis.  To top it off, the rate of which these changes take place is much faster than before.

failfastIronically, the conversation with these accomplished VPs and CIOs turned into a discussion about people, not technology itself.  John quickly highlighted his organization’s willingness to experiment and fail fast with ideas yet emphasizing that many of the good ideas need to work, too!  The culture of the organization to execute a less than bullet-proof plan was expressed as critical to the organization’s’ success as a whole.

The availability and growth of talent within every level of the organization was unanimously agreed upon as important.  Training, awareness, recruiting, diversity of people and ideas, and the urgency to act now all play a major part of staying ahead and even breaking established ways of doing business.

As I contemplated the ideas expressed, I couldn’t help thinking of how Coherent Solutions fits into the scheme of things.  Sometimes there’s a shortcut to the issue of not having enough people to execute a technology initiative soon enough.  There can be a way to more quickly adapt to the increased velocity of change which pounds the front gates.

Albeit, there’s still a cultural (or people) requirement of accepting outside help that’s very important to the success of an outsourcing relationship.  It’s even more important when the work being outsourced involves differentiating a brand because it often ties into product development and creation of new business models, expensive and highly visible activities.

I encourage all those concerned about the speed of change and the need for talent to diversify their talent pool by contemplating where outsourcing could be leveraged, including those areas which may currently be considered core competencies or “sacred” tasks never to be opened up to “outsiders”.  Don’t confuse the task with the responsibility.

I’d like to thank Tiffany, Anthony, John and Twin Cities Business Magazine for putting on such a solid event.  The reviews from my colleagues were great and the discussions generated a lot of follow-up conversations around the office the next day.  I can say we’re all now keenly aware, or at least recently reminded, of the people factor involved with technology and the rate as to which we need to adapt.