Chief Information Officers must prepare their technology, business, and investment strategies for 2021. In this episode of CXOTalk, Bill Briggs, Global CTO of Deloitte, shares advice based on the firm's Tech Trends 2021 report.
CIO Strategy and IT Investment Planning in 2021
Global Chief Technology Officer
Chief Information Officers and information technology management must prepare their investment strategies for 2021. In this episode of CXOTalk, Bill Briggs, Global Chief Technology Officer of Deloitte, presents CIO challenges and opportunities.
The conversation is based on the Deloitte Tech Trends 2021 report, which discusses IT planning and governance from both business and technology perspectives.
Bill Briggs is the global Chief Technology Officer for Deloitte Consulting, former global lead of Deloitte Digital, and a Director in the US technology practice. As CTO, Bill is responsible for helping to define the vision for Deloitte Consulting's technology services, identifying and communicating technology trends affecting clients’ businesses, and shaping the strategy for Deloitte's emerging services and offerings.
- IT investment categories and Tech Trends 2021
- Planning for information technology investments
- CIO investment priorities
- Advice on the CIO agenda
- CIO goals and innovation
- CIO investment and future of the CIO 2021
- CIO planning in talent, people, culture, and diversity
- Customer experience and the CIO role
- CIO priorities and challenges in 2021
This transcript has been lightly edited.
Michael Krigsman: How should CIOs prioritize investment during 2021? To learn more, we speak with Bill Briggs, Global Chief Technology Officer of Deloitte. This is CXOTalk time number three or four?
Bill Briggs: Three. Three, I think. For sure three.
Michael Krigsman: Okay. For sure three.
Bill Briggs: Who knows, Michael.
Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]
Bill Briggs: I told you, if we get to five, I expect the five timers club, like Saturday Night Live, some kind of a special celebration. It's great to be here.
Michael Krigsman: Well, you know, if we get to five, then that will hopefully mean that we're out of this pandemic and maybe we can get together and have a cup of coffee, a beer, or something like that.
Bill Briggs: Amen. In fact, the last time we spoke was in March of last year, and it was right before my last flight. I went from a different city every day to within this ten feet off of my office since March. Anyway – [laughter]
IT investment categories and Tech Trends 2021
Michael Krigsman: Well, Bill, tell us about the Tech Trends report with an emphasis on the implications or the impact on chief information officers.
Bill Briggs: It's the 12th year we've done our Tech Trends research. We've always said, "Let's take an 18- to 24-month view, so it's pragmatic in its prognostication," so things you can look at. Real examples of real organizations around the globe harnessing the technologies.
The mission started with the CIO of the tech executive just to help navigate through the chaos – How much is happening? How much is changing? – and help short-list the things that really matter and you should take a look at. It doesn't mean you always should invest. Every organization is a different place.
At least have a deliberate response, right? Doing nothing can be strategic if it's intentionally undertaken.
That is a tool to help a CIO have a different kind of discussion and spawn new investments. It continues to be really useful.
In the last several years, especially this year, the elevation of technology in the C-suite, in the board, as made it so it's equally important to arm the "business" (the rest of the leadership team) to be savvier in technology, so use Tech Trends as a bit of a guidepost of, "Hey, what questions should we be asking?" Maybe more optimistically, "What ambitions should we be trying to spark?"
What's great is, in this year, even as the world turned upside down, it hasn't dampened the enthusiasm to say, "We need to invest for growth. We need to invest for innovation." It's also, in a way, ended the debate of whether or not technology really does belong in that top strategic frame. Absolutely emphasize, underline – there's no question now.
Planning for information technology investments
Michael Krigsman: When should we invest? How should we invest? What has your research taught you?
Bill Briggs: The agility a lot of organizations were able to show when they had to, including Deloitte's own. We went from 300,000 people working at client sites, working at delivery centers, working from offices, to 100% being remote/virtual over the course of 7 days.
Our CIO, as we tried to give him accolades for the heroics, what was great is partially him saying, "Listen. This was all the investments I've been making and fighting for over the years paying off." Right? It wasn't like, in the week, we miraculously were able to pull this off.
Also, the pace of our ability to go and stand up the small business loans and the Payroll Protection that went from policy to funding, and we had to have it within weeks for banks to help them process it. Now, Operation Warp Speed and the vaccine, the ability for us to drive change in a timeframe that would have seemed impossible, we've challenged a lot of those constraints. The flipside is, in this last year, the ability for most client CIOs (tech execs) to focus—to just shut down everything that wasn't critical and have that laser-like focus on things that were needed to respond, to recover, and now to thrive—that was empowering.
As you say, "When to invest now?" part of the question is, how do you not lose the new muscle, the new speed that, in this moment of necessity, we've proven we can do as we take on more? It varies sector-to-sector depending on where you are in the recovery stream, but we won't have that same luxury of shutting down so much as we take on more and more.
I think many of the trends are kind of in the heart of, how do we think about the foundational investments we need, because we know there's more to be done? We can dig into a few of those if you want, but I just love that.
There's a message of hope in what we've proven we can do now and how important it is. Now, let's go after it.
CIO investment priorities
Michael Krigsman: How can CIOs invest for innovation? We look, historically, at the amount of money that CIOs invest in innovation versus, can we say, maintaining the status quo.
Bill Briggs: Yeah, and one of the trends (we'll start last and first out on), core revival is its own trend. If you think a Tech Trends report has to be a parade of shiny objects, you might say, "Wow, that's an interesting place to start." But this idea of, we have to get out of the feeling of the sort of Damocles hanging over us with our core systems that we can't do the things we need to do to innovate and grow, and the ability to elevate that into a very business, very strategic conversation. Including, how do we think about funding it differently so the relationship of the CIO and the CFO on, "Hey, how do we make the necessary foundational investments and make sure we've got a portfolio lens in investing in the horizon, the things that are driving adjacent transformational growth, and not have the same expectations for ROI and timing? Truly handle it as a portfolio mix.
That core, the story of the core like: How do we advance the migration to the cloud? How do we simplify a lot of the legacy systems that are around us? How do we make them open, interoperable, able to be the backbone to drive more front-office, customer-facing, new products and service offerings? That is such an important conversation.
I was just at a collection of board members together with CIOs this week for CES. We were talking about how successfully has that been elevated to understand why and to get support for what. It was almost every hand went up saying, "Yep, that's something that's on our agenda. We're actively making investments in it."
What I love is, you can't talk about innovation and growth without having that. In a way, the back office is the new front office that you can't think about smart factories and how do we automate drug discovery and distribution without having some of the deep work done and the foundation.
Michael Krigsman: But there's now (as there always has been) the even stronger need to link the ideas and innovation, plan and aspiration, to what's actually going on in the business.
Bill Briggs: It's not science fair projects off in labs waiting for eureka moments. It's the idea of intentionally sensing, scouting, shaping strategy. We have a team that all they do is engage with ecosystems, startups, VCs, PEs, and academia to be able to bring ideas into the business.
More importantly, how do we incubate with the goal to scale, not the goal to do a prototype that is interesting but not useful? [Laughter] Right? It's this intentionality of the innovation process that has to be rooted in a business problem.
Lead with need, right? That's the missing link to a lot of innovation. It's not interesting technology and potential wizbangery. Let's identify an unmet need.
If we can imagine, then we can actually cobble together a solution to do it right. Again, not to pilot, but to production; how do we really ramp it up and scale it?
Advice on the CIO agenda
Michael Krigsman: What recommendations do you have for CIOs to do this? At the same time, what are the challenges or the headwinds that CIOs face when they attempt to take on this type of role and set of activities?
Bill Briggs: The tech executive has to be seen as a part of shaping that strategy. If the lines have been drawn and a CIO is nothing but the technology voice of record and the operational expert but the back office CIO, it's always going to be hard to show up and be heard differently.
Part of this is to help elevate, "Hey, as technology elevates the strategy, so does the role of the technology executive." That doesn't mean it's the dominant voice that owns strategy, but it's a very active voice.
Then the "how." One of the first trends in the report this year is around strategy engineer, which is about the chief strategy officer setting up technology to help with some of that sensing, scouting, and scenario planning. Also, understanding that the innovation function of understanding of what's coming next and how it applies to your organization, your business, your market, and then being able to craft the right investments to go and prove it.
We don't need PowerPoints and perspectives. We need assets and progress. [Laughter] Progress over process but, in that, there's an untapped need.
Last year, we had a trend that talked about the relationship of the CFO and the CIO and how that's changing. Think about funding, allocation, scheduling, and that portfolio return. I think, with the CSO is a really important way to formalize the new normal. The technology voice has to be an important part of shaping the strategy and future of your organization.
CIO goals and innovation
Michael Krigsman: Bill, in order to accomplish these types of goals, you need to have the right people in place, as well as the right organizational environment. You're really talking about, in a way, the cutting edge of innovation for the CIO role.
Bill Briggs: I would say to a person, it was some combination of team and culture. How do we continue to navigate through this time we're in and whatever the new normal looks like? There are actually three trends in the report that hit different dimensions of this that I think come together beautifully.
There's one around the digital workforce and rebooting the digital workforce, which is, how do we think about how people are engaging now, especially with deep technologists? How do we understand the flexibility that is suddenly unlocked? How do we tap into that? The ability to actually understand (at a very personal level) how you work, what motivates you, and spur some of the things that we were used to in a physical setting as far as connectivity.
There are a ton of interesting technology behind the scenes. But then it also is about, what's the culture of embedding technology from education, tech-savvy, tech fluency across the teams to the deep? How do we actually help our people learn new technology deeply like machine learning and neural nets, and up to quantum computing? That one is really interesting and it's really about the individual.
Then there's another that's Bespoke for Billions, which you kind of have to decode what that title means, but it's about the physical and the digital with a heavy emphasis on work and workplace and how the new configuration is going to still have face-to-face as a really important element. Instead of it being all of my workforce all of the time in headquarters, it's thinking about, well, what other types of space interaction do we want to be able to cultivate?
Then you put it out into retailers and banks. It has a client lens, too. How do we really think about it? It's likely going to have more of an emphasis on deep collaboration versus individual work zone. Those two come together and I think it could be interesting.
We say there's a war on talent, but what are the trenches that this war is being fought on? How much we embrace this dynamic and how much we create the infrastructure, which is the physical infrastructure, the technology tools, the incentive talent model structures, all those that come together. What used to be a stocked fridge full of craft beer and food suddenly might become the flexibility to work wherever you can with the places that you come together with being something completely unique and different.
Then the third one, which is near and dear to my heart, is the DEI tech. How do we actually create tools and programs to make progress on something that people respect as fantastic, as such a part of the dialog? But then how do you take that ambition and translate it into actionable plans and progress? That's the third flavor. I think those will come together to define the workforce of the future.
Michael Krigsman: Simone Jo Moore (on LinkedIn) makes the comment that even in an agile organization, she says there's effort and deep work required. Sometimes it seems that organizations don't understand this and their attempts at agility are really just on the surface.
Bill Briggs: Agility, as the goal, is a fantastic thing. That's the rallying cry without real change that happens, that is common, or an over-indexing onto a specific dogma: Capital A, Agile, the manifest, and what that needs to look like.
The way I measure it is, how do teams come together and how are they working beyond the boundaries, the walls, the silos? If I walk into a scrum team and I ask, "Who is from the business and is from IT?" and they look at me like, "You just spoke nonsense," that's a good sign.
The other thing is people get over-enamored with the tools themselves to drive collaboration. There are pluses and minuses of all the different collaboration productivity, engagement tools out there.
To me, this is literally about culture, about talent model and incentive paths. If our goal is agile—we want to do things faster, we want to get to value faster, we want to understand to potentially pivot or stop what we're doing—that's very different than some rigid ceremonies and tool-based processes.
Thanks for your question. I love it.
CIO investment and future of the CIO 2021
Michael Krigsman: Where should CIOs be investing during this coming year?
Bill Briggs: The trinity of cloud, AI, and cyber still hold true. There's a piece in the report (upfront) around macro forces. We try to just talk about the biggest thing that matters now, new, and next – so that combination of cloud, AI, and cyber.
Part of this, back to the cultural, are the investments that we need to do to be able to take full advantage of those macro forces. DevOps evolved into DevSecOps. We have a trend this year about MLOps—because it's really bringing together cloud, cyber, and AI—to say we expect the solutions that we're building, the things we're bringing to market, they have flavors of those, all three. How do we actually be intentional about the lifecycle, about the pipeline, about how people work, and make that something that can be a bit democratized, more people can participate, and we can actually industrialize, so we have automation, tooling, controls, and policies built into the end-to-end?
Take the full potential of cloud, AI, and cyber, and then make it real into this one-two punch. MLOps is the embodiment of DevOps, DevSecOps, and MLOps.
Then there's another trend around the machine data revolution, which is the data management. How do we get our arms around ingesting, classifying, managing, and governing data, and data that is coming from a lot of different sources we never really worried about before: sensors, video and audio, image, and third-party?
But then also, Michael, the dirty secret of data management over the years is, there's always a bias that there's a carbon-based lifeform who is the prime actor we were trying to make this data ready for. Make it consumable, understandable by humans. Increasingly, there is a lot of data where the primary actor is going to be a machine.
It turns out, the structure we need to make sense of it is different. It doesn't mean the human element isn't important. We have to be able to explain and make transparent the decisions we're making in AI.
It's been something that's been a challenge forever. It's no longer a choice. We've got to invest in that core data. If the first one is cloud, AI, and cyber (in this DevOps, MLOps) to be able to say, "We have the engine to go take advantage of those forces," this one of data management and that core needs to be top of the agenda.
Now, just humor me for one second. The other piece is the horizon next that we think is going to matter if not now then really soon. 5G and Edge, not from a consumer, "I can download the entirety of the Sopranos in 30 seconds," – that's interesting, especially once we start traveling again – but the protocol and the enterprise connectivity that allow us to do things we could never do before at an individual product level, at a facility, or a fleet. 5G and Edge has massive potential.
Hardware-driven AI supercomputing has massive potential. That's here and seeing great advances.
Advanced robotics, depending on your industry, physical robotics, and moving in and out of a confined shopfloor, how does that translate from drones to autonomous fleets and vehicles?
Then quantum. We've got teams deeply inventing, investing, and incubating quantum computing, which is a little bit further out than the other ones I just said, but it's going to be real, especially in things like drug discovery, portfolio management, and financial services. Those are just the easy ones that we can say, "Hey, we recognize the types of problems it's ideal for from today's paradigm. We can apply it to quantum."
There'll be a whole set of new use cases that get invented that wouldn't have been possible without it. It doesn't mean quantum replaces cloud, replaced distributed assistance, but it means it's a really important, new tool.
That last category of all of those emerging things, you as a leader need to be confident in what's real now, how important it might be tomorrow, and then back-cast in what level of investment is appropriate. That might be in your own shop or it might be making some really important strategic partnerships with individual technology providers, firms like Deloitte, startups, or elsewhere. But how do you arm yourself so you're not beholden to the opinion of product marketing [laughter] hype-cycle?
This is the week of CES, so you see a lot of headlines that never see fruition. You don't want handwaving potential and rhetoric. We need to get to real concrete, what matters, and what do you do now.
CIO planning in talent, people, culture, and diversity
Michael Krigsman: Bill, it seems very easy, in a way, to talk about technology investments because it's so concrete. But realize the benefit of those technology investments also requires investments in talent, organizational structure, and resiliency. Maybe talk about those issues with us.
Bill Briggs: I would say the scarcity of engineering architecture, and then specialists in those emerging areas that are coming, are real. Part of it is, how do you think through recruiting, the beacon you have, of how important technology is to your business, and how that's showing up? If it continues to be kind of a back-office operational excellence kind of posturing, it's going to be hard to get any of the people that you need.
You also have a lot of talent on the books already that probably have a deep interest in exploring some of these spaces. How do you harness that? How do you shape it?
In Deloitte, we call them the Guild Programs. It was an idea over a scotch one night and asked the team to come up with a better name. It was structured after the medieval guilds to say, "For topics that we know we need more people," so from neural net, deep ML, to cloud-native development, to now blockchain and quantum, "it's the clubhouse of people that are interested."
They might not have any background or expertise, and they might be doing something completely different in their day job. They might be a tax professional. They might be someone in our infrastructure group, in our internal IT group. But they let them raise their hand and say, "I'm a quantum enthusiast."
Then how do we guide them to becoming a guru: certification program and experience? I think that's something that every organization could try to co-opt.
I mentioned tech-savvy, tech fluency before. How do you raise, especially in the business? How do you get people to understand why this matters and how to lean in and help?
People throw around "ecosystem" as a lazy word, but it's a really important one. I think it was Bill Joy (years and years ago) who said, for Sun, "No matter who you are, more smart people don't work for you than that do." He probably said it more poetically than that, but that still holds true.
How do you tap into, instead of thinking about vendors, thinking about partners? How do you think about non-traditional relationships? It could be consortia. It could be co-investment. You need to tap different—
Then once you're thinking about it, like in Deloitte, it used to be a behavioral interview and a case interview, and only certain schools with this GPA with these majors. For a lot of our roles, we were shifting to, "I want to see your GitHub repository. I want to know what you can do, not what you've heard."
It means going to different campuses. It means going to different potential sources of talent.
Then, once they're here, how do you make sure you're celebrating that culture? Even if you can get them, getting them to stay and flourish, it needs to be a core part of what you value and how you show it.
Michael Krigsman: The @CXOTalk Twitter account, Lisbeth Shaw, asks this very good question. She says, "The report identifies diversity, equity, and inclusion as a prime area. These are not technologies. How do they factor into CIO investment strategies?"
Bill Briggs: They're a key part of innovation. We've done study after study to prove that getting diverse actors helping shape innovation agenda absolutely pays off in every kind of way.
The point of the report is to show tools that can be used, so we're not doing a one-off annual report out on diversity of workforce. Actually, to be able to track, nudge, and shape the behavior we want from team composition to making sure we've got a challenge board on AI models that are looking for bias (conscious or not). So, it tries to take something that's really important and shine a light on some technology, some tactical things we can be doing to advance the mission and also just elevate.
If we believe tech and innovation are at the heart of the strategy, then doing it without a diverse team is going to be suboptimal in every day. The flipside, how can we use tech to make a real dent in something that's been systemic for way too long?
Michael Krigsman: We have another question from LinkedIn. Jennifer Cox has a very specific question. You can see, I try to prioritize the questions that come in. Oftentimes, they're great. Jennifer Cox says, "What does the future of AR (augmented reality) look like? Will it continue to grow?"
Bill Briggs: If you look in the report, there's a nice what looks like a Star Wars opening crawl of the 12 years of tech trends research. At the top, we categorize them in these macro forces.
One of those macro forces is digital reality. That's where we put AR and VR and mixed reality. Those continue to advance. The technologies themselves mature and new form factors evolve.
The broader definition includes conversational voice, so voice-driven interface. It includes computer vision, so vision systems that can actually watch a production line and see if there's a defect.
That bigger category, we're beyond bullish on. It says, how do you bring the ingredients together? By the way, they're probably going to be built along with AI and cloud, but to think about different experiences and different engagement patterns.
For AR, there's huge potential in field service to be able to help guide repairs, to help do diagnostics beyond what an individual maybe has been certified in. It's something we love, AR from an actual sales and marketing.
If you look back last year, Deloitte had the U.S. Open golf tournament where you could actually have the course AR with the Android/iOS device on your coffee table and see the layout of the holes. As you click in, you see a visualization. It's just a different way to experience the event.
There's a ton of potential individually. That collective, which would include more than just the spatial computing and devices, were beyond volition.
Michael Krigsman: Let's go to another question from LinkedIn. Simone Jo Moore not only likes your guitar—
Bill Briggs: Yeah. [Laughter]
Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] So, that has not gone unnoticed. She actually wants you to play, but we'll leave that up to you. Simone – oh, okay.
Bill Briggs: Read your question and see if I can just have something strumming in the background.
Michael Krigsman: All right. I love it. Okay.
Bill Briggs: [Playing guitar]
Michael Krigsman: Simone asks about—
Bill Briggs: [Continues playing]
Michael Krigsman: No—
Bill Briggs: Go ahead.
Michael Krigsman: You go.
Bill Briggs: No, no. Go. You ask.
Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]
Bill Briggs: I didn't mean to interrupt you. Yeah.
Michael Krigsman: You didn't. No. All right. Simone asks about emotional AI and ethical AI. "The ethics are so sticky, she says. "Do CIOs need to be concerned about this as they're thinking about investment?"
Bill Briggs: I think that emotional AI is a great segue into this broader symbolic AI, what we call exponential intelligence, and where we're seeing this new. How we do layer in not just who you are in the content of what you've done in your relationship, but also (in some way) to understand emotional state, either through cameras that can see from your facial expression, to if you have sensors and things?
There is a ton of potential in that space. Call it emotional intelligence. Now, the question of where you draw the line is really important there.
That ethics, we have a broad category we call risk. Security and privacy is a clear line. Regulatory compliance is a clear line. But then this ethics and morality of "Just because we can, should we?" and what's our obligation to our people, to our community, to our customers, to our society? That's the question of our day, and I think that might be a place that you continue to see brand lines being drawn on their position there.
Tactically, like I mentioned before around DevOps, DevSecOps, and MLOps, embedding that in the thinking of investment and opportunity is needed. We've got to create some guideposts. We've got to create some policies.
Ethics, you can't solve for ethics. You can explore, understand, and commit yourself, but there's never going to be black and white like there are for regulatory compliance. Security and privacy is a lot easier to do.
Michael Krigsman: Okay.
Bill Briggs: [Playing guitar]
Michael Krigsman: Go ahead. Go.
Bill Briggs: [Continues playing] No, I was going to put it away, Michael. We can't do this. [Continues playing]
Okay. I used to play Black River for my kids. It was like a lullaby. My youngest just got a vinyl for Christmas and I made sure she had a Beatles album as a part of the – yes, yes, yes. Okay.
Customer experience and the CIO role
Michael Krigsman: All right. The role of the CIO in terms of customer experience, any thoughts about that?
Bill Briggs: If you follow through from before of the data investments needed, so much of the customer experience will continue to be predicated on understanding of the customer. It's shocking how many organizations don't own their customer master or are intentional about it.
I think this idea of, how do you help, as we're thinking about data, importantly, from a product service offering customer lens, have that in the fore. Then help understand those unmet needs.
I think that the biggest challenge with a lot of technology investments is, we start with the institutional inertia of how we've always done something. Then we say, "How do we take technology and make that better?" but the same fundamental thinking applies. RPA continues to be a great source of investment, but if you take an inefficient process and you put a bot on it, you've weaponized inefficiency, in a way.
The real opportunity is to say, "Hey, look. Let's take the combination of computer vision and AR, VR, MR, and personalized dynamic experiences powered by AI, and then think about what a new hospital or doctor experience would look like – fundamentally different than today." We wouldn't go and replicate the same set of things. We could do them completely differently. In fact, we're seeing it happen with remote medicine taking off this last year.
You have to challenge yourself to say, "Okay, here are all the ingredients." Maybe this is the kicker for the Tech Trends report. They're all ingredients that we can use to either cook the stuff we've always done a different way or come up with entirely new recipes that are going to surprise and delight customers and/or meet new needs that are unmet and/or reinvent how business models, industries, how work gets done.
I'm not, Deloitte's not, our team is not that interested in the former. There's some value to be had, but there's a pretty low ceiling on the value you can have in that. It sounds cliché, but how do we transform __________? Fill in the blank.
Michael Krigsman: Okay.
Bill Briggs: Government, supply chains, finance, what digital business models mean to traditional companies? Anyway—
Michael Krigsman: Well, we have another question from LinkedIn on this topic from Marguerite Johnson. Marguerite asks, "Does the report talk about digital?" I assume she means digital transformation in the context of customer experience. I'm very glad she asks that because that seems to be an important topic.
Bill Briggs: Part of the joy and the challenge of doing a report year-after-year, sometimes when you've covered something and it feels like it's still complete from what you covered in the past, you don't bring it forward. There's a through-line that would be the digital transformation, like, here's how we apply these things into something more.
Two years ago, we had one of the trends specifically on demystifying digital transformation. One of the important messages is not just customer and consumer. It includes the hooks into the back- and mid-office. They're all still out, I think.
You can tell me if I'm being flippant, but we didn't make it a chapter because it's a through-line theme. We've done it as a spotlight a couple of years ago and it holds true. So, if you can't find that, just hit me on LinkedIn. I'll send you a link to it, for sure.
CIO priorities and challenges in 2021
Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for CIOs right now?
Bill Briggs: We have a moment now, because of this last year, where there's a willingness to—I said "elevate" before—rethink the role of technology. There's a desire.
We did a study with the Wall Street Journal asking 100 CEOs who they were looking for to help them shape their technology agenda and strategy. Forty-percent was the CIO, the tech executive, which was the largest response by far. There's this opportunity and, I'd say, an obligation for us to step up.
I've never experienced a time when the things that were always sticking points—of those core investments, the data, the things that have been hanging over us for so many years—that there's a willingness to take a fresh look and say, "We need to invest for real this time." And so, you've got these great stars aligning of leadership need, a willingness to invest, and a willingness to finally puncture the bubble or the reality distortion field that we've been in that those things didn't matter, they weren't holding us back, and do something about it.
Part of it, though, for CIOs and tech execs is, we have to tell the story of how we want to show up differently and we need to help inspire. I use that word very intentionally. We need to inspire that agenda – the good and the bad, the hero's journey of innovation and growth, and the hard reality of the changes we have to make.
I'm emphasizing technology, but the culture through-line is huge, the talent through-line is huge. We have to solve for both and you can't just pretend to chase the upside, the innovation growth hero story, without actually taking on the responsibility and linking them together.
[Laughter] I used to say, "Core modernization and data management is like paying to replace your plumbing. It has to be done. You don't want your walls to fall down because of leaking but, man, it's not something you look forward to when you're budgeting for the year." How do we put some hot tubs [laughter], some steam baths, some saunas, and some waterslides in as well, along the way?
Michael Krigsman: How should CIOs tell this story, this inspirational story? It's also aspirational. I also wonder how many CIOs, quite frankly, have the chops to execute beyond the story.
Bill Briggs: Part of it is just being able to actually quantify some of the things that they're all over. They just don't roll up in a way that makes a through-line, a narrative that the rest of the organization can understand.
Just positioning existing spend into some categories to better show how because the tension is, we spend too much money and we don't get enough out of it. Well, let's actually show you what we're spending on. Let's quantify technical debt. Let's try to put a dollar amount on the complexity, the pain, the cost of maintenance that we all know is real but it never shows up in a line item, so it holds us back.
It's friction and gravity that we can't quite get our hands around. Actually measure it. It doesn't have to be precise – just directional. It's funny how few organizations actually have a tech strategy written down to help be their walkaround narrative with those pieces, starting with what we're doing today and having some kind of picture of what we should be doing tomorrow.
It's not meant to be a commercial of, "Call Deloitte to help create that tech strategy." That's not the point. It's, can you tell the narrative of the value you're creating?
Ultimately, what you want is to shift from, "Hey, tech is something we have to constantly fight to squeeze the budget." A few of our clients will say, "Your technology investments are the best return on capital in the entire organization portfolio, more than any of our treasury function, more than any of our new business lines, more than any of our marketing spend. We can show you how the technology investment has real return and you should be in the business of giving us more, to do more."
Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan, on Twitter, makes the comment that when technology is implemented well, it's scary for the status quo, but that's a good thing from an innovation standpoint.
Bill Briggs: I used to say the definition of AI is whatever we can't imagine computers doing and it evolves every day. You're right, technology seems like magic.
I'd switch out the "allowing us to do things fundamentally differently and reinventing" from the scary bit of "and what do I do now? Where does the carbon-based lifeform fit in this silicon-based normal?"
One of the emphases we have is the age of with – not W-I-D-T-H, but W-I-T-H. It's this idea of augmenting, shifting work from rote repetitive tasks that nobody wants to do into something much different.
I think that's another obligation. Go back to ethics and morality. How do we think about our people and their future, purpose, passion, mission, employability? The best organizations are making dramatic investments in technology and they're giving a path for their people to be a part of that journey.
Michael Krigsman: What do some of these things really have to do with the CIO?
Bill Briggs: The CIO should be a voice of this entire conversation. The question of, "Is it as a champion? Is it as a strategist? Is the CIO showing up as an architect of them?" it might differ depending on the top, the mixing board we're talking through here.
If you want to see technology, the trends be individual, piece-part technologies, that macro tech forces view is a good one and we've got different lenses to just track.
I think what you see is, these topics are more of an abstraction and derivative of the individual tech advances to say, "How do we harness them collectively?" The CIO needs to be one, again as not the sole owner of that agenda, but they should be looked at as the leader that they are. They are the technology leader of the organization. How do you show up and represent?
Just a final thought on that, Michael; the other piece. I know we covered a lot of ground and none of my clients are taking on all of this at once. These are all places that potentially could be right for opportunity.
My favorite quote of all time is Lorne Michaels from Saturday Night Live, the producer of Saturday Night Live. It's, "We don't go on because we're ready. We go on because it's 11:30." Right?
Live from New York. It's Saturday Night. If we've got a script, if we've got a set, if we've got a host, we're going.
What COVID has given us is a bit of urgency to that focus bit. We've seen so much get done, and so how do we create that kind of impetus going forward?
My second favorite quote is Duke Ellington. "I don't need time. I need deadlines."
You can maybe imagine I might be a bit of a tyrant to work for sometimes because it's, let's make bold ambitions and go after them. We can plot. We can roadmap. We can plan. We can strategize. Ultimately, it's all potential energy until you actually do something, so let's go.
Michael Krigsman: Bill Briggs, thank you so much for taking time to be with us today.
Bill Briggs: Thanks, Michael. Great to be here.
Michael Krigsman: Everybody, we've been talking with Bill Briggs, Global Chief Technology Officer of Deloitte. You can find the Tech Trends 2021 report. We'll put a link on the CXOTalk site or just search for it.
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Published Date: Jan 15, 2021
Author: Michael Krigsman
Episode ID: 687