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The Technology Strategy Dilemma
Yann L'Huillier, Group CIO, Compagnie Financiere Tradition
As I was writing this article for Capital Markets CIO Outlook, reflecting on 25 years evolving in the technology space from development to executive management, I realised I could have written it for any other industry specialised newspaper. It will not be a breaking news to state that the job of the CIO has become exponentially complex in the last 10 years. The loneliness when making strategic decision or recommendation to our boards, coupled with the shadow IT, the increasing complexity of new technology paradigm and the lack of time to allow to do an in-depth research by way of conferences, meeting experts and reading articles and scientific publication leads to a need in changing the office of the CIO structure.
Taking a look at most of the companies’ Board of Directors fields of expertise, you will not only notice that the CIO—in most cases—isn’t a Board Member, but you will not find a Non Executive Director who is a technologist or a subcommittee of such boards that are entrusted to plan the future technology for the company.. It has been a recurring discussion and concern and was recently brought to my attention by an Executive Head Hunting Company that was unsuccessful at trying to promote it to multiple Chairmen. The CIO can be a lonely job where finding the necessary support to recommend the proper strategy is nonexistent.
In the Capital Market industry, you will find a comprehensive shadow IT environment where some individuals at all level will have something to say about everything related to technology, be it cloud, digitalisation, cyber security, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain (almost never distributed ledger) and I can carry on listing to them.
Now, there is nothing wrong about it as it’s always great to have people taking interests in other subjects in which they aren’t experts. But where it becomes an issue is when there isn’t the proper governance surrounding it, and these concepts without substances start to design an improbable strategy.
The CIO can be a lonely job where finding the necessary support to recommend the proper strategy is nonexistent
When discussing a particular subject and when time comes to make a decision about what to recommend or what to use for a specific initiative between multiple available solutions, we increasingly hear the statement ‘Let’s just pick up one solution, they can pretty much all do the same thing.’ Well, that’s not what most of us would consider a sound decision process to be, but it became inherent to the plethora of available offerings.
One could say, “yes,” but you will find enough online material to form your own opinion, and do your own research. Or, that’s ok because I go to conferences, meet people over lunch or, dinner, organised by companies on a certain theme. Furthermore, you could subscribe to specialised news papers to educate yourself with hundreds of different subjects.
Hmmm.... of course that’s a possibility as long as you can allow the time for it, in addition to your daily routine that doesn’t seem to decrease as we are all under pressure to do more with less.
Why is this particularly relevant to the Capital Market Industry, because unlike a lot of other industries, we aren’t supporting a single siloed line of business but numerous, diversified and fragmented businesses with individual needs.
In conclusion, I envision a future where Boards of Directors will understand the need to have technology representation at their level, where similar to remuneration committees, audit committees, you will be able to chair or sit in a technology sub-committee where ideas can be debated before forming a strategy recommendation, presenting it to the decision makers.
I have a dream where, despite the need for a proper cost management to deliver short term cash benefits to shareholders, we are able to reorganise the office of the CIO where a number of full time or part time advisers, on staff and not periodic consultants because you can’t advise unless you are fully embedded in the ecosystem of your company, are supporting the CIOs and their management team on a daily basis. It helps the company take the proper long term strategic technology decisions which will result in less resource wastage and better alignment to the business strategy.
Maybe one day...