CIO Elaine Cheng's goal is to create digital experiences for CFA's members and exam candidates by building platforms that connect people and deliver information.
High: The digital transformation that you've led has had some profound impacts on CFA Institute's customers. How do you and your team elicit feedback from customers on their needs and expectations to develop your plans?
Cheng: As a member-based organization, everything we do absolutely has to have [customers] in mind. I've implemented a design thinking team and strategy, which first looks at the experience and process that supports the customer, and then determines how technology can enhance it. We gather that information primarily through interviews and formal member surveys for feedback.
Above all else, CFA charter holders told us they wanted content and community— and that's what we're going to deliver … but in steps. Over the next two years, we'll update our app and launch a redesigned website, while also unifying each of our societies onto the same IT infrastructure and systems. Each step of the journey, we leverage our members to help us co-create the features we deliver by including them in user feedback and design sessions.
Our members are already benefiting: Our redesigned digital experience reduced customer registration from 45 minutes to 10 minutes.
High: You are part of a growing sorority of female CIOs. What methods have you used to identify and groom the next generation of IT leaders?
Cheng: I'm passionate about encouraging women and girls to succeed in technology careers, both within my own team and in my community. I'm actively recruiting great female talent and happy to report that 40 percent of my leadership team is female. Diversity of all kinds is critical to innovation, so we need female talent and [women's] unique perspectives.
My passion for uplifting women extends far beyond CFA Institute. I am a founding board member of Charlottesville Women in Tech and current board member for Tech-Girls. Both organizations aim to help improve the number of women in technology by providing connections and resources to women and girls interested in technology.
High: What technology trends particularly excite you as you look to the future?
Cheng: What doesn't excite me? So many interesting, emerging fields exist today. IoT and AI are among the top areas for me, not only for the technology itself and what it means to changing processes, but also for how it will make life easier. I'm interested in how those technologies will change our work—from how we make decisions to how we can then automate the decisions that need to be made.
Although it isn't my specific field, I'm also very interested in biotechnology because of the profound impacts it will have on our health and longevity, assisting those with disabilities and curing debilitating diseases.
Lastly, technology's ability to make the world even smaller always piques my interest. Technology is the tool that connects us and shows us how humans are more similar than we are different. It makes us co-dependent and helps us, often literally, understand each other better. It's those impacts, via technology, that I believe will ultimately make the world a more peaceful place.