First international CIO conference tackles ‘digital flip’

Wednesday, 22 July 2015 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



By Kiyoshi J. Berman

The inaugural international CIO conference ‘The CIO Agenda 2015’, themed ‘The Digital Flip’ successfully concluded yesterday, sharing key insights from several global and regional experts. 

Organised by the Alliance Intellect in association with the Banks’ CIO Forum (BCIOF) of Sri Lanka, ‘The CIO Agenda 2015’ was conceptualised as a highly exclusive and influential signature series and business leadership conference, featuring a world class panel of internationally acclaimed industry experts. Over 200+ C-Suite executives including CEOs, CIOs, CMOs and CFOs participated at this conference.



Smart cities

The Chief Guest of the event, Investment Promotion and Highways Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne, highlighted the necessity for ‘Smart Cities’ both in Sri Lanka and globally, and went on to explain how this goal could be reached.

“In layman’s terms, a smart city is one that uses technology to enhance the sense of living of its people via reduced costs, resource consumption and transparent effective management of its citizens. It’s a new phenomena but the smart city community idea could arguably be traced back a long way to 1938, when we think about Milton Keynes in the UK. A report from IHS Technology predicts that there would at least 88 smart cities all over the world by 2025,” he said.  

He explained that the rapid increase in people who live in urban areas is one of the underlying reasons to have smart cities. “28% of our 20+ million population is concentrated just in the Western province. Just think how easily Sri Lanka could urbanise when you think about the Western province alone. The rapid growth in the urban population globally poses new challenges for the city services and the infrastructure, but at the same time it creates new economic opportunities and social benefits for people. Smart cities promise to capitalise on economic opportunities and social benefits, alleviating the pains of organisation,” he added. 

“My vision is a digitally enabled Sri Lanka through smart cities, which typically in my view, would be in Moratuwa. CIOs around the world have been applying smart computing technologies to a range of critical infrastructural components. Six such components and services are city administration, education, healthcare, public safety, transport and utilities.” He further explained each of these components in relation to Moratuwa.

Wickramaratne also spoke about an initiative to bring about a Wi-Fi enabled Sri Lanka. “As our new government took office, I really had no responsibility at all in terms of information and communication technology. A colleague and friend of mine discovered that in the original Zuckerberg Facebook team, there was a Sri Lankan. We got in touch with him and discussed the possibility of making Sri Lanka totally Wi-Fi enabled. After the meetings, a team from Yahoo was here recently looking at the possibility.”


Banking and digitisation

The conference featured three distinguished keynote speakers who shared their valuable insights. The first keynote speaker was David Brearley, Former Global CIO of Standard Chartered Bank Worldwide, who emphasised the fact that digitisation is not something that adds on to the existing format but is a massive confrontational change. 

“Despite the hype, the 21st century is not the first era of disruptive technology. The banking industry has changed throughout time. Things that start as a narrow professional marketplace are democratised by technology.” 

He went on to explain how organisations have been largely digitising their businesses – whether it’s banking, manufacturing or sales – by drawing upon examples of 3D printed bridges and machine assisted sales, and bank branches that are completely machine operated. “Today, we are seeing the fastest development period to date, of disruptive technology innovation,” he noted.

He showed that the application of ‘man and machine’ thinking is becoming possible in the banking industry. This largely involves self-service and self and assisted sales, and is wholly mobile and configurable. 

Moreover, Brearley observed that historical banking models are failing, as indicated in a recent KPMG report. “Banking as we know it – or have known for the past 50 years – will change dramatically.” 

Brearley also pointed out that innovative providers such as low cost carriers and traditional airlines have become a threat to banks. Digital economy competitors require banks to radically rethink their costs and customer offerings. He further observed that there is a little sign of banking transformation as cost-income ratios remain high in Europe and America. There are other industries that have re-invented their operating models and processes to enter new technology; these include supermarkets such as Waitrose stores and automotive manufacturers. 

He also asserted that banking needs omni-channel distribution capability to compete in the digital economy. According to Brearley, banks need to completely readdress the process, a fully automated high-end digital fulfilment process for each product offering and services. Banks also need to develop a broader perspective. He concluded by saying that banks need to radically rethink their approach to the world of digital economy; no longer adopting an incremental approach but a fundamental change. 


Disruptive model

The second keynote speaker was LinkedIn Asia Pacific Director – Marketing Virginia Sharma. She kicked off her presentation with the differences between expressing ideas in the real world and the digital world. In the digital world, on social media you speak ‘social’ – it’s a different body language a different way of communicating, she explained. 

Sharma spoke about the differences she experienced in Sri Lanka when she first visited in 2010 for an IT audit and the current scenario, in terms of how much social media has grown and changed the way the next generation interacts. 

“If you look at CEOs across the world from 2010 to 2015, there is a 100% increase of the use of ‘Social’ by CEOs (36% in 2010 and 80% in 2015). We’re not even talking about CIOs or CMOs who are naturally more attuned to the use of social media, but CEOs. There is a transformation of how businesses are now interacting with the external world, which applies not only to CEOs but organisations as well,” she said. 

Giving a few examples of companies that have used disruptive technology, Sharma pointed out that Airbnb is the world’s largest inventory for real estate and accommodation but they don’t own a single room. Likewise, Alibaba is the largest online retailer yet they don’t have their own inventory. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking and publishing platform that doesn’t generate any of its content but has content generated by the members themselves. 

“This is all about the disruptive model. People ask this question, how does LinkedIn make money and what’s the value proposition it offers. Give value to the member and the rest will come. It focuses on two things, first the professional profile, which is usually viewed by prospective employees. The second is about networking; it really is about connecting people and being able to represent themselves and businesses. So it’s about who you are, who you know and also about what you know, the skills and knowledge you share and gain from the network,” she explained.

She then highlighted some of the figures related to Sri Lankan LinkedIn members, which showed that LinkedIn has grown through word of mouth without any promotion.

On LinkedIn, Sri Lanka has 592,000 members, 23,000 companies, 13,000 standardised skills and 3,000 higher education institutes. 12% of Sri Lankan members are engineers and the skill sets that members are hired or sought for are Perl/Ruby/Python (26%), mobile development (25%) and data presentation (23%). The inflow of talent to Sri Lanka is mostly from the UK and India for architecture and design, and the talent outflow, which is much greater, to Australia and the UAE. 

Sharma concluded her presentation by saying: “You need a business strategy for digital age, not a digital strategy.”


Be a disruptor!

Oracle Corporation Vice President – Application Product Management Hirak Kayal delivered a presentation on ‘Digital disruption: How successful organisations will transform and thrive’. Kayal explained how technology has changed the way we interact with data and applications, presenting a timeline of how the digital world has changed. “The period from 1998 to 2007 we can attribute to that one thing – the Internet. The difference in 2007-2013 is that there are multiple things which are internet enabled – you call it social, mobile, big data or cloud. Now we talk about disruptions, and it can happen anywhere but most importantly, disruptions are not overseen.”

Taking the example of wearable technology, he showed that these are not really accessories but a combination of accessories, social media and some business processes into business application. These are changing the way we run our business applications and processes, he noted. 

According to a survey conducted among business operators who were asked how they perceive disruption, 44% said it comes with customer experience, 30% said it is based on operational movement and 26% said due to new business models. “So what disruption is really depends on your take on it,” Kayal added.

Furthermore, he mentioned that although 73% of organisations think they have a business strategy, sadly only 19% think they have the right technology for it and 13% think they have the right processes. “So you need a platform. You need the five forces that drive the change and that is big data, Internet of Things, social, mobile and cloud. There should be a good combination of these forces.” 

“What you really need is to be a disruptor!” he concluded.


The new EU

The third keynote speaker was IDC Financials Asia Pacific Managing Director Cyrus Daruwala, who focused on digital transformation and customer experience. “If you were a part of the European Union, would that have an impact on Sri Lanka? The answer is 100% yes. If the EU was just next door, a one-hour flight or one-hour ferry ride away, that would affect your economy, banking and everything that you do.” 

“Well the new EU is here – it’s called the Asia Economic Community (AEC), which will integrate 10 countries with a collective $ 10 trillion economy. These 10 countries will collaborate. There will be no restriction on who can go where, no restriction on which bank can set up how many branches.” 

He stated that right now, there are restrictions in place. “Now you’re competing with China, with India and you’re competing with a $ 3 trillion economy which is called the AEC,” he said. 

Daruwala drew attention to a couple of innovative services which has caused great changes in business processes and services. One is the Progressive Car Insurance, which captures data such as mileage, hard brakes and driving hours from customers, and creates a personalised insurance policy for each customer. Next on his list was the ‘Wello’ health tracker which turns an iPhone to a personal health monitor, rendering certain medical services unnecessary. 

He underscored the fact that customers generate so much of data everyday while they use their credit cards, phones, mobile apps etc. and that this data could be utilised in many useful ways than merely being used to print monthly bills and customer forms. He explained the importance of using omni-channels, big data, which has to be customer specific, and gamification.  

The presentation concluded with a reminder from Daruwala to forget about ROI and to focus on what could happen if you don’t take on the risk of change. 

There were several other high profile technology and business professionals from Oracle, IBM, VmWare, Microsoft, Polaris, Intel, SAP and MillenniumIT who presented at this conference. The program also included three highly interactive customised track sessions dedicated to CIOs, CMOs and CFOs in order to provide exposure to real thought leadership and innovation in specific areas of digital business transformation. 

Pix by Upul Abayasekara