19th CIO&Leader Conference: The age of the Practical CIO

The 19th annual CIO&Leader Conference was an ideas powerhouse with key learnings and takeaways for all participants

19th CIO&Leader Conference: The age of the Practical CIO - CIO&Leader

Just when CIOs were beginning to become a little too comfortable in their ‘business’ roles, strategizing, talking the language of business, aligning business with IT, measuring business outcomes and talking of business value—the world changed again.

Emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, IoT and Blockchain started making disruptive changes in some areas—changing fundamental industry dynamics. So much was the impact that other industries started exploring how they could leverage these technologies to make similar impacts to their business.

As a CIO, you had to start scanning new technologies and find ‘use cases’ for those technologies in your business. CEOs and boards were scrambling to leverage tech and ‘transform’ their businesses. From applying tech to a defined business problem, the expectations from CIO changed to how he/she could bring in emerging technology and make disruptive changes to business, at least in specific areas.

What it meant for the CIOs was a back-to-tech journey. To be effective, the CIO had to choose the right technology, the right use case, and finally the right way of applying tech.

The CIO in the ‘use case’ (proactive tech) regime has to be incisive and hands-on at the same time; a practical CIO.

So, what are the characteristics of a good practical CIO? What would make the CIO smoothly balance between his strategic roles and tech evangelist role? With technology touching almost all aspects of business like never before—what should be the positioning of the CIO when it comes to technology identification, purchase, implementation and maintenance?

These are some of the questions that can be decided by no consultant, no academicians—in fact, no one other than the CIOs themselves.

That is the thought that helped us choose the theme of 19th annual CIO&Leader Conference in Goa. It was a special occasion for us—as it was the conference’s last year as a teen. Next year, it will be 20.

The Conference

The 19th annual CIO&Leader Conference was held at The Holiday Inn, Candolim, Goa between 10th-12th August 2018, themed Practical CIO. More than 100 CIOs from some of the largest enterprises in India participated in the three-day event.

The special proposition of this year’s CIO&Leader annual was a new intensive session called Deep Dive. This was a direct take from the conference theme Practical CIO and was aimed at imparting practical knowledge on some of the emerging technology areas through expert talk, technology presentation, a CIO journey presentation and an immersive case study workshop.

There were three different Deep Dives—with two conducted twice each, making it a total of five sessions.

The first Deep Dive—conducted twice with about 35-40 CIOs participating in each session—was on that big buzzword, Artificial Intelligence. Themed Transforming Business with Artificial Intelligence, the Deep Drive was supported by Microsoft as the technology partner. The sessions had keynotes by Dr Harri Ketamo, Founder & Chairman, Head AI and an internationally renowned expert on AI. While Deepak Sharma, Chief Digital Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank, shared learnings from his organization’s journey of applying AI to customer service. Microsoft India’s Aparna Gupta illustrated the possibilities of transforming business with AI. This was followed by an intensive case study solving workshop where teams of CIOs worked on use cases for AI in a hypothetical business with typical business challenges. This was conducted by Kanak Ghosh, Director of 9.9 Group on Day One and Group Editor, 9.9 R Giridhar on Day Two.

The second Deep Dive, also conducted twice with 35-40 CIOs in each session was on cloud. Themed Cloud@Core business, it focused on bringing cloud from fringe usage to running the core of business on cloud. With Sify as technology partner, this Deep Dive saw an illuminating talk, Navigating the Cloud by Sricharan Saripalli, Director at KPMG. While Sify’s Gaurav Agrawal, and Surajit Chaudhuri illustrated the concept of Cloud@Core, Rahul Chopra, Vice President - IT, Max HealthCare shared his experience of implementing cloud based services. His talk, Smart Ambulance, was captivating, to say the least. The participants then solved a case study applying the approach. The DeepDive was conducted by Group Editor, 9.9 R Giridhar on Day One and Kanak Ghosh, Director of 9.9 Group on Day Two.

The third Deep Dive, supported by Schneider Electric, was on Reimagining the Datacenter. While Nandeshwar Kumar Singh, Senior Director, Uptime Institute who joined as an expert speaker spoke drawing from his vast experience on studying and benchmarking data center design, set up and performance, the user talk was delivered by Vasudev Prabhu, Director – IT Resilience Operations, Cognizant, who spoke on Datacenter Consolidation & Cloud Transformation. Mayank Srivastav from Schneider talked about the possibilities of creating value with right approach to datacenter design in his talk on Reimagining the Datacenter. Teams of CIOs worked on a cast study of a hypothetical greenfield smart electricity distributing company using approach. The entire session was conducted by Vikas Gupta, Director, 9.9 Group.

The participants loved the Deep Dive sessions, especially the excitement of solving the case study and presenting them to the audience.

Some of the keynote sessions kept the audience spellbound. Navigating Disruption, Transformation and Digital Maturity was the opening keynote on Day One by Sean Moffit, Partner & Managing Director, Wikibrands. He was followed by Andy Stevenson, VP & Head of ME, Turkey & India, Managing Director India, Fujitsu who spoke on Digital Co-creation, the new mantra of Fujitsu.

Sean Moffit, Partner & Managing Director, Wikibrands speaking at the conference

The second day keynote was delivered by Dr Harri Ketamo, Founder & Chairman, Head AI on AI & the Practical CIO. He was followed by Arindam Mukherjee, Regional CEO, Sify Technologies on The CIO’s Evolution to a Digital Innovator: A Practical Way.

Dr Harri Ketamo, Founder & Chairman, Head AI at the conference

The last day too saw some incisive presentations. While Anand Raman, General Manager & Chief of Staff for Microsoft AI at Microsoft’s Redmond HO, spoke onAI Innovations: The new Enterprise Paradigm—his presentation full with demonstrations, Mayank Srivastav, Country Head - Data Center Practice, Schneider Electric, spoke on Re-Imagining Data Centers where he stressed on the needs for the power, facilities and IT working together to optimize data center design, set up and operations.

The three days conference also saw a mix of technology idea challenge presentations where technology partners spoke on their technology solutions while the delegates suggested ideas emanating from the topic and the presentations. Such sessions over three days were delivered by our partners on topics of CIOs’ choice.

Guru Vaidya, Creative Evangelist, Adobe spoke on Driving Digital Experiences - Take Business Agility and Efficiency to the Last Mile!

Better Insights with Less Efforts - Winning in the Analytics Economy was the topic on which Navneet Srivastava, Senior Solution Architect, Qlik, shared his insights.

Anil Bhasin, Regional Vice President, Palo Alto Networks, India & SAARC spoke on Protecting Our Digital Way of Life — An Evolution of the Security Land- scape.

Open. Redefined was the topic on which Rahul Krishna, Senior Specialist, Global SI Alliance, SUSE, deliberated.

Vijendra Katiyar, National Sales Manager - India & SAARC, Trend Micro, spoke on a topical subject, Dealing with a Changing Threat Landscape.

Audience listening attentively to the speakers

Some of the partner presentations were so engaging that delegates were asking us to share the presentations with them, a rarity these days!

CIOs had their turns too. While the technology partners responded to CIOs’ issues or showed them some dreams, it was the turn of the practitioners to share their experience—pains, joys, learnings and wisdom.

Among the CIOs who took to the stage as speakers were R Radhakrishnan, Executive Director - IS (Functional), Hindustan Petroleum Corp who shared the company’s BI and analytics journey; Nirita Bose, Senior Vice President & Head - IT, Axis Mutual Fund, who gave a very down to earth presentation on the fund houses digital journey. RUM! Slip Between the Cup & the Lip was the topic of Parmeshwar Menon, Senior VP & Head - Core Policy Transaction & Channel Systems, SBI Life Insurance Co while Rajeev Seoni, Chief information Officer, Ernst & Young Services spoke on Leading Digital Transformation: The CIO View.

R Radhakrishnan, Executive Director - IS (Functional), Hindustan Petroleum Corp spoke on his company’s BI and analytics journey

Meenakshi Vajpai, CIO, Vodafone spoke on The Automation Myopia while Piyush Kumar Chowhan, Vice President & CIO, Arvind Lifestyle Brands spoke on Gaining Business Visibility with a Collaborative Platform. Lalit Popli, Head - IT, ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund rounded off with his experience sharing on The Intelligent Bots.

The CIOs’ contribution was not limited to talks, though. There was an extremely interesting panel discussion too—on What makes a practical CIO?  Moderated by R Giridhar of 9.9 Group, the discussion saw participation of Sukanta Nayak from Aditya Birla Group, Dilip Pandya from IndusInd Bank, Sanjay Narkar from IDFC Bank who were joined by Mehul Doshi from Fujitsu.

Beyond the Deep Dives and the plenary sessions, there were breakfast roundtables on Day Two and Day Three, organized in association with partners—Microsoft, Fujitsu, Palo Alto Networks, Tata Communications, and Druva Software.

All these were in addition to the trademark components of annual CIO&Leader conference – Ideas Café where partners sit across a table to have close discussions with CIOs to understand their challenges, pain points, even as groups of 7-8 CIOs take turns to move from table to table, spending about 10 minutes with four to five partners.

Ideas Café

It was not all heavy stuff!

If AI, cloud, Big Data, Machine Learning dominated the day time, the CIO&Leader Conference is not just about hard work. At the end of the day—and quite literally so—there was party time, at exotic locations. 

While on one day, the venue was Goa’s famed Fishermans’ Wharf, the other day CIOs—who never get a chance to take a chance—got together at Casino Strike to try their luck. Some of them got lucky too. Don’t worry guys, we won’t tell who you were. 

Fishermans’ Wharf

Some of the CIOs came with their spouses too. For last few years, CIO&Leader annual conference has a spouse program too. While the CIOs were busy seriously in a session on AI or toiling hard to solve the case study, the spouses got a good round trip of Goa, guided by an expert guide—all part of the spouse program specially created by CIO&Leader.

There was plenty of fun, thought sharing, prizes, gifts and informal chats—right from demonetization to user license agreements.

Beyond the conference—and the so-called unconference—the takeaways from a conference like this has always been the new ideas, learnings, insights, which come from informal discussions.

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