Will CIOs survive the digital onslaught in 2015?

Everyone wants to become a technology leader, at-least a few years ago when we all saw these cool SVP IT, CIO and other roles emerge as power aggregated towards to the center or to the top [which ever your favorite direction to power might that be].

Banking industry was the first to have these celebrated roles, outsourcing made it even more cool as CIOs started to learn to manage vendors – well, they thought they did at-least, and this made it even more fun and exciting to be around. You have conferences where you could meet your peers and double-check with them if you are strategic enough.

Despite the move towards getting accepted in the board and being part of the executive team where some CIOs even got to report to the CEO, a CIO’s life is getting harder and harder. That is a plain fact and I know it since I talk to many of them on a regular basis. Sad reality is that this job is quite shaky and the lifespan of a typical CIO is shrinking dramatically – some companies are replacing CIOs almost every 1.5 years! Reasons?

CIOs are being let go because they are not strategic enough, many are choosing to move out themselves because the role is not exciting enough – yes, that happens as well and a lot are getting lost in the CMO, CDO wars. A handful of CIOs seem to chug along longer but none knows if they are glorified survivors or really strategic guys doing awesome stuff. Basically what I’m trying to say is that there is a lot going on out there!

I’ve seen them all: Water cooler discussions; projects codenamed like “UnitedIT” which CIOs are “part of” while CMO enjoying lively conversations with business leaders, or some other coup which you had not even imagined it could be against you! Actually, this is really quite sad: sad because I strongly believe that in this age of extreme competition, massive digital push and big data gold rush which his driving data driven science code rush, businesses ought to have a much stronger IT than they have ever had!

I am not saying that every CIO will be able to survive this, as it certainly demands CIOs to act and think differently, all I am saying is that these guys have seen shifts like these in waves and they deserve to be heard. Sure enough, there is need for radical and exceptional CIOs and not all existing CIOs may fit the bill, but I still think many still can.

The challenge lies not just with the individual but also within the organization. Lets take a look at this one by one.

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Disruptive Digital Ideas in Retail – What’s in store for 2015?

Retail industry is in disruption and being disrupted as well. They are continuously churning up multiplier ideas that combine a set of concepts together in both brick and mortar as well as digital channels.

Here is a collection of some ideas this winter for Christmas and probably will be used next year as well.

Digital Disruptive Ideas in Retail for 2015

Digital Disruptive Ideas in Retail for 2015

Drive Your Digital Business with Social Strategy or else…

I’ve written a lot about why a socially successful brand is key to your digital success. Your digital transformation journey is a failed journey if you are not part of the conversation on social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Vine (please add more to this list as you continue to see the social landscape explode in the coming years).

Brian Solis, of the Altimeter group defines 6 staged approach to become a fully integrate social business. Take a look at their approach here which is quite interesting. The six stages – according to them, are planning , presence, engagement, formalised, strategic and converged. Converged and immersive engagement is where I would like you to pay attention.

For instance, take a look at how we are feeling about Nestle, Coca Cola and Proctor & Gamble this season.

How are we feeling about Nestle, Coca Cola and P&G this season?

So what is it telling you? Is it aligned with the digital programs you are running to woo them? Are all those campaigns and promotions where you are pouring billions of dollars and euros going to keep your consumers satisfied?

I speak to CIOs, CFOs and CEOs and I am beginning to talk to the CCO (Chief Commercial Officer), and of course the Digital and Marketing Officers. They continue to ask about the following.

Program Director for a large scale digital transformation project.

How do we create an organization that is capable of embracing digital? We are running several key initiatives within digital but cannot gauge the digital capability of our people?

A digital global head complained…

Yeah. We have a lot of digitally savvy folks but our IT people and IT systems are not at all ready for this huge customer centric revolution!

One CIO told me.

I want to reduce cost but at the same time transform my people so they can not only speak but also walk the business talk. I want to become the business driver and no longer the IT order taker. Everything in IT that means something for the business stays, the rest either should shutdown or get outsourced!

It is really hard to see these organisations struggling to shed their old skin and move towards becoming the digitally savvy businesses that are capable of defining each day as a battlefield to go out there and engage with in the marketplace with customers, suppliers, partners and even their own colleagues.

So how can they do that?

  • Digital coherence: Getting your organization in the flow is key. Take a look at this article I wrote a few months ago.
  • Proactive Social listening should become a way of life for your whole organization: See how leaders such as Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs have continued to stay in touch with their consumers. I’m sure you’ve heard go the “question mark email forwarding” that Jeff Bezos does. Read more here.
  • Build Social Business Friendships! We have to be friends with each otherThere is a popular FOAF model that Facebook uses extremely efficiently to understand the behaviour between / within groups of people. I’ve written more about this in detail.
  • How fully networked is your organization? - Is your organization self learning? Read more here.
  • CIO, CMO or C-whatever-O must all take a social leadership role: Digital transformation can and will be a wasteful exercise if the heads are not aligned. You may have had booked initial succes with the oh-so-cool digital hubs within your organization but remember one thing, your goal is to digitally transform your organization not just run some digital project. Capisce? See this infographic.

and finally but probably the most important of all…

  • What does digital mean to you as an individual? Your individual transformation is key. How you use social technologies to connect with one another, how you put trust at the hands of others when you cannot see their faces, how you manage your time and schedule as you move from an analog to a digital life. All this I’ve explained in this article which I am sure will be of interest to you.


Digital business without the effective use of social as individuals, within peers/groups, with colleagues and partners and most importantly with your customers will truly be a wasteful exercise. Please don’t hire CDOs and allocate budgets that might give you some short term return but leave your organization is complete disarray.

But if your intention is to prepare your workforce for a socially savvy, mobile-hungry consumer and you do consider your people as the primary assets that can bring the change and you plan to empower them to go social, then I can promise you that your digital business will thrive!

Digital Transformation in Retail with Mobile Beacons

Digital Transformation in Retail

Digital Transformation in Retail

Beacon technology is practically revolutionising the customer retail experience by bringing a whole new dimension of digital interaction between you and your customers. #Retail industry is going through a massive churn and CIOs and CMOs must pay attention in order to provide superior customer service by providing relevant shopping experience. (Read my previous article : Top 10 priorities for Retail CIOs for 2014 – 2015)

What is iBeacon and why is it better than NFC?

iBeacon is, for those who may not know, a version of BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) software which was introduced by Apple starting version iOS 7. What we have seen in the past couple of months is that a whole new breed of developers and firms are coming with their own version of software to not only collect details of their customers but also proactively guide them in order to develop stronger and lasting relationships with their customers.

Technologically, Beacon tags have a reach of 70 meters or so and really beat the NFC (Near Field Communication – which I mentioned in my Fog Computing article sometime back), thereby giving it an edge to maximise its reach. Also its less intrusive since there is no scanning necessary.

Who are the big players?

While Apple, Estimoto, Paypal seem to dominate the market, a ton of new developers and firms are developing beacon technology driven apps for their specific customer needs (see Infographic plug below).

How will it transform the retail industry?

  1. Big Data Analytical Insights: Beacon technology can give retailers tremendous insights into the vast amount for data that they can slice and dice to really understand individual customer needs, how they navigate and what they buy etc. This is a great means to continuously improve in-store experience for their customers and eventually encourage them to shop more.
  2. Improved customer service: By gaining insights into your individual customers you can engage with them on a personal level and seek feedback from them. This will help retailers tremendously improve shopping experience and complementing it with superior customer service.
  3. Convert customers in loyal friends: This highly individualised service to customer will not only create loyal clients but through active engagement you could pick brand ambassadors who could become friends and actively engage with their network to promote your brand!

There are a lot of digital trends (see another article called 8 digital trends that will change the future of advertising) that will transform the advertising and beaconing is one of them. Happy beaconing!

Click further to download the Infographic.

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Big Data is the future of Digital Marketing

Couple of days ago I completed an introductory course from Wharton School on Marketing. It was good for me to understand what marketing traditionally did before the era of digital disruption dawned upon us. Traditionally marketing has been into the typical 4Ps, 5Cs and a lot of stuff is about connecting and building one on one marketing. It’s all about customer acquisition,retention and development. But how to do it in the age of Big Data and Internet of Things which connect our consumers in variety of ways?

I passed the final exam by almost scoring a perfect 10 but I realised that I missed the link between big data and marketing. I hope to provide marketers with this missing link here.

I will talk about the digital disruption , the big data challenge and opportunity and finally about extracting value through data driven relevant marketing.

CMO, CIO and Big Data Disruption

Big Data Marketing

Big Data Marketing

Data management is the new holy grail for a handful people who really know what it means to mine into the huge sea of data but most of us are oblivious of the real value of data. Even in marketing divisions! But this calls for a disciplined approach towards a a process that continuously focuses on data integration and visualisation from multitude of sources.

Gartner has predicted that by 2017, CMOs will own largest technology budget, even surpassing that of the CIO. Now it still needs to be seen how that will happen. We do however see it happening as many CIOs are either getting data and business savvy or they are quietly leaving their jobs. So this is a huge change for the traditional CIO role.

Still CMOs and marketeers also realise that they need technology expertise and know-how towards data hygiene. Securing data, backing up data, versioning, cleaning, scraping, etc is what data hygiene is all about. Marketers have traditionally shunned or even avoided IT completely and for valid reasons. I have seen it happen as well in my own organisation when my marketing colleagues openly complained about how slow and complex we were within IT departments!

Yet there is a change coming where big data is driving marketers and CMOs to professionalize the creative and hard-core data driven marketing talent under one roof. His roof! Many marketers are focusing on either professionally train themselves in data management and thus become faster in IT and extremely conversant in IT. This is obviously the huge challenge if you are a traditional CIO.

We have formally entered an age of data-driven marketing and it is changing at a dramatic pace. New channels to the customer, new application categories, new types of data to exploit, and new vendors and offerings emerge all the time. Rest assured, you know you will have to continue to become a lifelong student in order to continue to master this game!Wouldn’t you prefer to be a leader of this transformation than to be led by someone else? This is an exciting time for marketers who want to take on the big data leadership.

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Fog Computing Happens when Big Data Analytics marries Internet Of Things

Couple of years ago when virtualisation broke into mainstream and customers started deploying those technologies to reduce physical footprint, encapsulate legacy applications and Operating system – we saw this as the first overhaul of the IT industry in a long time since PCs made into the mainstream.

Then came Cloud computing in 2010 – more of a paradigm but still as an effective means to continue to effectively tap on the utility computing model using economies of scale. Cost and flexibility of use were the main drivers. Many traditional vendors are still struggling with this change as it dramatically affects their revenue and operating model and not all are as transparent and flexible. This was the second overhaul.

Still this is not solving the critical challenge that CIO, CMO and even CEO face today! I stated these aspects in my previous trending post on LinkedIn about Big Data. While above-mentioned overhauls address the cost and (hopefully) agility/flexibility part, it still does not help the business leaders to engage actively with their customers who are at the EDGE of all these disruptive changes and are also dramatically changing. This is where the concept of Edge Computing of Fog Computing was introduced by Cisco. And for what I have read and understood so far, I like it !

Hello Fog Computing, Goodbye Cloud Computing?

As Cloud Computing increasingly gets commoditized and as HyperCloud becomes mainstream, it might be time to reflect back on what the Cloud fixed for us. It gave us the following:

  • Adaptive subscription based model. You pay for what you use.
  • Homogeneous workloads could seamlessly and cost-efficiently be used on commodity hardware. (If you’re not on Amazon or Google Cloud, then you might want to check out why you’re paying so much)
  • Impacting performance with higher VM densities, awesome synergies in compute fabric
  • …and as a result of the above, a significantly reduced OPEX!

So it really is a blessing, right? Everything online and functioning at top speed. But wait! What about sensors and nodes that are increasingly penetrating into our homes, cars, grids via internet, the stuff we’re calling Internet Of Things? This is where Cisco introduced a foggy detail with its researchers calling for a different kind of platform called Fog Computing.

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Why Data Scientists are key to a successful Big Data Project

Until a few years ago the work of data scientist was isolated and mattered primarily for research and/or R&D purposes. The industry has been extremely thankful to the contributions of these clever individuals but we need them now in the mainstream! And as I wrote previously here on LinkedIn, it is creating a huge demand in the industry andradically transforming the hunt for big data talent.

Fast forward 2014 and today every CEO, CIO, CDO, CMO, Sales VP, Customer Case VP is seeking answers to questions that don’t exist and solutions to problems that are yet to come.

Typical questions in the minds of the leaders could be…

  1. How do I drive innovation within my company, industry or community in a dramatic fashion?
  2. How do we disrupt the industry with our products and services?
  3. How do we change and challenge our workforce’s mindset by providing insightful “out-of-the-box” data analytics?
  4. How do we launch a new LOB, product and/or service using these thin/thick/lazy/idle datafied analytics?
  5. For Governmental or CSR-driven businesses – How do we dramatically drive social change, reduce crime using data? For instance see how Memphis reduced its crime rate by 30% using data.

Think about it from your own industry perspective for a while.

An Example: For instance if you are in Oil & Gas sector. How do we enhance and optimise exploration and production (E&P)? With conventional technologies becoming commoditised and depleting traditional resources one has to competitively use the unconventional methods such as deepwater, tight oil or shale gas. I won’t get deeper into aspects such as seismic plotting, WAZ and NATS etc that is only generating more data waiting to be exploited!

Think what it can mean for your industry if you had the “right eyes” to spot the gold!

No industry today can say that it is not data driven. With vast volume, speed and variety of data coming from external and internal sources, the need to scientifically approach data is paramount for competitive intelligence of organisations. That is what is keeping CxOs awake at odd hours.

Say Hello to Data Science & Data Scientists

Wikipedia definition of data science…

Data science is the study of the generalizable extraction ofknowledge from data,[1] yet the key word is science.[2] It incorporates varying elements and builds on techniques and theories from many fields, including signal processingmathematics,probability modelsmachine learningstatistical learning,computer programmingdata engineeringpattern recognition and learning,visualizationuncertainty modelingdata warehousing, and high performance computing with the goal of extracting meaning from data and creating data products. Data Science is not restricted to only big data, although the fact that data is scaling up makes big data an important aspect of data science.

And who is a Data Scientist?

A practitioner of data science is called a data scientist. Data scientists solve complex data problems through employing deep expertise in some scientific discipline. It is generally expected that data scientists are able to work with various elements of mathematics, statistics and computer science, although expertise in these subjects are not required.[3] However, a data scientist is most likely to be an expert in only one or two of these disciplines and proficient in another two or three. This means that data science must be practiced as a team, where across the membership of the team there is expertise and proficiency across all the disciplines.

Why and why now?

Ok, so having addressed the boring what part, lets get on to the why of it. What is really happening in the industry?

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