The Power Of Talent

Scotland CIO Event - blog and photos

18th June 2015 - Edinburgh. The Scotland CIO event kicked off in a brilliant venue - The Royal College of Physicians. As usual we had a fantastic turnout of some of the most interesting technology minds in Scotland. 

Director for Scotland, Rhona Hutchon, handled introductions, before handing over to Dr Jonathan Mitchell, (Non-Exec Chairman CIO Practice, Harvey Nash) and Lisa Heneghan, (Head of EMEA CIO Advisory, KPMG UK), to take us through this year's results.

The panel was a great mix of small and really BIG business. But what were the hot topics?

1.Innovation. It's what our leaders want from us.
Overall, tech budgets are up. Ensuring you have a digitally proficient workforce: vital.

When asked what he, as a Chief Executive, wants from his team, Gavin Dutch (Kotikan) simply said, "A desire to play. Be prepared to fail. Fast. Then move on."

A succinct and clear message... Don't be afraid to be creative. Don't be afraid to say you tried it and it didn't work. But DO be afraid of having never given it a shot.

"YOU have to enable a different approach" comments Ian Norman, Deputy Director for Scottish Government in Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities. "Be agile."

2.Digital Strategy is moving back into IT.
One of the overwhelming themes last year was about The Rise of the CDO and will the CMO take over? The short answer is No.

IT and Marketing's relationship is still not a bed of roses though. It's true, the survey showed an increase in positive relations between the two, but it's still not where it should be. This triggered a lot of questions from the audience and some interesting tweets.

The audience asked "What are you doing to fix the relationship with marketing in your business?" "Is marketing fantasy and IT reality?" someone mused. "The best marketeers use the challenges to break down the barriers" someone hotly tweeted in response.

"Marketeers say a lot and IT responds with things Marketing don't want to hear," commented Stewart Dobbie, Head of Innovation and Change at Scotmid. "You have to challenge their business ideas but resolve the technology challenges behind closed doors... That's how you get on with Marketing."

3.Is Cloud just a buzz word?
The audience asked the panel how they viewed the relationship between Cloud and Digital.

Cally Russell, CEO & Founder of Mallzee, tipped to be one to watch in the Scottish Tech Start Up sector, feels that Cloud is essential. "Cloud reduces the cost for a start up."

Which poses the question, without innovation like the Cloud, could tech start-ups like Mallzee get off the ground in the first place? Gavin's opinion that "Cloud is like leasing..." amused the tweeters.

Stewart pitched in. "It makes sense for start ups and big corporates. But not yet for us in the middle ground. It doesn't feel mature enough."

4.Big Data. Are we doing it right yet?
And more importantly, does it give us the competitive edge? That's the question on everyone's lips and this year the audience was buzzing about it.

One of our panellists was Alasdair Anderson, Head of Group Big Data Services for HSBC, and someone everyone wanted to talk to. He used Google as an example of everyone's obsession with Big Data. "How does one box, with one button change the world?!" He asked.

The audience and the tweet wall responded enthusiastically. "More insight is available now." "The cost of acquiring meaningful data is lower."

"It's about being able to take the information and analyse it very quickly. At scale." Says Alasdair. "Bringing data to our business to improve customer experience."

Unanimously, everyone agreed that there is a skills shortage in this area. "It's not a technical challenge, it's a skills challenge," says Alasdair. "We all talk about these mythical Data Scientists... they're unicorns. They all work in California."

But with all the hiring going on this space in Scotland, the skills have to be out there, as the projects are getting off the ground. Someone tweeted: "Is there a skills shortage in this area? Or is it just difficult to get the right information from the data you have?" An interesting question.

Cally commented that businesses have to be clear about what consumer data is going to be used for. "Otherwise why does the customer want to give us the data?"

Which raised the question.... There's increased levels of information out there, but with that, comes increased responsibility... so what's being done about it?

5.Information Security. It's not an inhibitor to innovation.... But.....
"Is being careful with data just a generational thing?" asked Ian.

A fascinating point that drew a lot of attention. "We're more cautious now than ever.... And yet our kids are giving away our data to everyone!" someone complained. But do kids understand how much they are giving away? Because for all accounts, most agree that it's not clear when you are giving it away and when you aren't.

"I travel the world all the time, I'm a victim of fraud attempts from time to time," says Albert Ellis, CEO of Harvey Nash and the chair of our panel discussion.... "But the banks cover it so it doesn't really concern me as a consumer. Are we just being negative about information sharing?"

"The banks care!" retorted Alasdair humourously.

"Should government be looking to FS as a role model for Information Security?" wondered Ian.

"80% of my efforts are in security and compliance," explains Alasdair from HSBC. "That's what people are nervous about. BUT, cyber threat is not just external." Essentially, you've got to make sure your own people are only looking at what they are allowed to look at.

"As a father of a daughter, I'll be using Big Data (Facebook, fitbit etc) to keep an eye on things..." a pretty descriptive tweet on the general feel in the room about this topic. But who's the real disruptor?

So there's all this talk about disruption and it being digitally driven. "But I've been hearing about disruption for 7 or 8 years now," an audience member commented. "When will perceptions change?"

A great point. Albert asked the panel what they thought was the biggest disruptor.

The response was undivided.

"Customer expectation is the most disruptive," responds Alasdair.

"The consumer is the disruptor," agrees Gavin. "But they don't stand still."

And so, as Technology becomes more invisible in order to satisfy our demands as the customer.... It stands to reason that eventually we will just start taking it for granted and accept it as the way life is. Like Google.

by Trish Burgess
Managing Consultant, Edinburgh