The Best of Times (and Worst of Times) for CIOs

As a young boy, I was intrigued by science fiction novels and short stories by the likes of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. These books represented a very cool and intriguing future filled with amazing technologies.

Today, we’ve arrived at that future. Over the last few years, we have witnessed radical advances in mobility, clouds, data management and, perhaps most importantly, artificial intelligence. Advances in cognitive computing and deep learning have moved off the drawing board and into reality.

We have smart watches, ubiquitous LCD panels and automated systems in homes and businesses. Connected devices and the Internet of things are rocketing into daily life and self-driving cars are just around the corner.

For CIOs, it’s the best of times and the worst of times. Never has there been so much opportunity to transform a business and boldly go where no man (or women) has gone before. However, at the same time, the route to success has been filled with many obstacles and obstructions. One wrong move and the starship enterprise could crash and burn. Tracking all the technologies that impact today’s enterprise is tough enough. Connecting all the digital dots and putting them to work is nothing short of daunting.

Amid this environment, and as we glide into 2016, it’s wise to remember one thing: although technologies constantly change, advance and evolve, increasingly at warp speed, the underlying practices that make a business successful never change. Among these: the need for excellent communication, collaboration and cooperation; a focus on the end user experience and making tasks as simple and straightforward as possible; and an acknowledgement that customers are the reason for the business.

Innovation and progress aren’t the direct result of technology. They are the outcome of technology used smartly. Today, everyone has access to leading-edge tools and solutions. It’s how an organization and a CIO assemble and arrange them. Think of it this way: Wolfgang Puck publishes his pizza recipes online. But most people, even with the same ingredients, can’t make a pizza that compares with Mr. Puck’s.

Ultimately, there is no secret sauce. It’s all about hard work, a focus on constant improvement, piloting and testing things, a willingness to embrace failure and learn from it, and an ability to move quickly and with a great deal of agility.

Remember: Today’s blockbuster is tomorrow’s classic and often forgotten tale. But the underlying values that make a great story never change.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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