Yahoo CIO: Rethinking Information Technology

The technology industry is changing faster than ever, demanding new types of leadership to ensure IT systems meet the sky-high bar that is set across the sector. Growing workforce expectations in tech firms, combined with modern technologies, have pushed even leaders in Silicon Valley to innovate further and improve service delivery while embarking on ambitious programs of digital transformation. In this episode, Ben Haines, Enterprise CIO of early Internet pioneer Yahoo, shares his ideas on rethinking IT to meet these shifts head-on in today's exponential digital era.


Jun 20, 2017

The technology industry is changing faster than ever, demanding new types of leadership to ensure IT systems meet the sky-high bar that is set across the sector. Growing workforce expectations in tech firms, combined with modern technologies, have pushed even leaders in Silicon Valley to innovate further and improve service delivery while embarking on ambitious programs of digital transformation. In this episode, Ben Haines, Enterprise CIO of early Internet pioneer Yahoo, shares his ideas on rethinking IT to meet these shifts head-on in today's exponential digital era.

Ben Haines leads a team of over 400 people in enterprise IT at Yahoo. His responsibilities include ensuring all Yahoo workers are productive, from all corporate applications to the help desk. Ben Haines was previously the CIO at Pabst Brewing Co. as well as the former CIO at Box. He is an enterprise IT and business professional with over 17 years IT leadership experience. This visionary strategic executive has a focus on short-term execution for immediate results while developing a wide-ranging point-of-view the challenges and opportunities of today's IT fast-moving IT environments. Ben understands how to embrace new technologies responsibly while managing large budgets, executive expectations, and shifting end-user needs.


Dion Hinchcliffe: It’s Tuesday, June 20th, 1 PM Eastern Time, 10 AM on the Pacific Coast. This is Dion Hinchcliffe. I'm doing this show from Bangkok, Thailand today. I'm on my way to Frankfurt for an event. So …


… then Box, formerly, and then Yahoo as well. So Ben, welcome to the show.

Ben Haines: Well I am […]. How are you?

Dion Hinchcliffe: Very good! So, welcome, and Ben, most recently you’ve been the CIO of Yahoo, but apparently there’s been some events happen in the last week or so, so you have some exciting news to share? Maybe give us a little bit of an update; you’ve been on the show before; about how things are going? What’s the news? And tell us what’s going on with you?

Ben Haines: Yeah! Some exciting times. Really busy right now. So, Yahoo was purchased by Verizon. The deal closed last Tuesday, so we’re starting fresh and getting into some deep merger work. And, we’re effectively combining AOL and Yahoo together to form a new company called Oath, which is a house of at least fifty brands, which I still don’t know all of them, but they put out brands like TechCrunch and Huffington Post. And we have Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, just an amazing opportunity to bring two giants together and, yeah, get some awesome stuff working!

Dion Hinchcliffe: Oh, fantastic! So, that sounds like a big, new responsibility. Can you give us the … How big an IT empire that is for you to manage?

Ben Haines: Yeah. So, it’s, you know, very similar companies, and similar size. We’ll end up with somewhere between 14,000 employees, I think, and globally, we have about … you know, what I know so far, about 800 applications across the companies that we now have to merge together. And, we have to get everyone productive as fast as we can, and also keep revenue moving, of course.

So, yeah. There’s a lot to do at a global scale, which is really exciting. And, it gives us the ability to also … Time to change to do things that you couldn’t have done when you’re keeping the lights on, and there’s just all these reasons now to make some really big, hairy moves and draw some lines in the sand and get things moving, and shut down tech debt. So, it’s actually really exciting to get into this.

Dion Hinchcliffe: All right. So, the big news is: the CIO of both, now.

Ben Haines: Yes.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Umm, and, you’re primarily a media and technology company?

Ben Haines: Correct.

Dion Hinchcliffe: So, that 14,000 employees count is very different in terms of the amount of IT you have for employees by much higher than it would be in a traditional organization. Is that fair to say?

Ben Haines: Yeah, I think it’s … There are a lot of similarities, but there are also a lot more demands when you have thousands of engineers that are extremely technical, obviously. And, they have very high expectations. And, you also have a traditional sales team, and marketing team, and finance team. But, the DNA of the company is different because everyone wants to be as efficient as possible, digital … And, it’s just great to work in that environment because you have less explaining on the “why,” like “Why do we have to automate this process?” You have more to do around, “Well, why can’t it happen now?” And, we know how technology will […], and everyone knows everything. So, there’s a different pressure, but a more positive pressure of, “Yeah. We just want to get it done and less explaining, which is awesome.”

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah, exactly. For those of you just joining us, we’ve got Ben Haines, CIO of Oath. A new role. We’ll be taking your questions on Twitter. The #cxotalk hashtag, if you look at that or post there … We’ll be monitoring Twitter, you can post there, and I’ll ask Ben your questions.

So Ben, the core role of the CIO today: One of the things you said that was interesting to me was “keeping the revenue flowing.” I think there’s this sense now that the CIO has to be much more involved in P&L than ever before. And some companies put a Chief Digital Officer in place for that. How does that work for you? Are you primarily responsible for digital P&L, or is there a Chief Digital Officer, too? Or are you guys trying to figure all that out right now?

Ben Haines: No, we have mul- … It’s too big a job for one person. And, we have multiple platforms across the company in all our different properties and brands. It’s not a one-person job, and I believe everyone at this company has to be thinking like a Chief Digital Officer and how do we monetize, advertise on all of our different platforms. So, the CIO role at this company really plays a major enabling role. So how, when we’re in a merger situation, it’s “how does Employee A get access to all these systems that are on the Yahoo side, but they’re an AOL employee?” And week one, it’s just really hard to make all that happen.

But, you know, we’ve got to keep selling, and we’ve got to merge sales teams together and make sure that everyone can get what they need to get to and things don’t break. Yeah. So, it’s a lot of enabling in this environment.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah. What that … Sure sounds like a lot of what we call "business contiguity," right? Making sure that the lights are on and the infrastructure's running. So, where … How are you going to manage innovation and pushing the company forward? These days, internet and media companies have to move at light-speed, and not trying to get people to try to access the applications. And, is that going to be a challenge for you? Or…

Ben Haines: Yes. So, we're working through different sizes. And, the initial couple of months really is about that business continuity. And, then we’re going very aggressive on what is our long-term strategy. So, when you look at all the applications we have, you know, we don’t need two ERP systems. So, how do we quickly get to one? And, that helps us when you want to move fast. We don’t have a lot of time for analysis. We can’t overthink these things.

And, we can just move on what is the best product to use, and also the best practices and process because teams get caught up a little bit on, “We know the best way to do this, and our world, our process is the best process in the world.” Which is awesome, but some things just need to work. And so, we can move things really quickly by adopting a lot more standards, and especially when it comes to the “plumbing,” I call it; but adopt the standards as fast as we can and then move into the pieces that really start to differentiate the business and help move the business forward.

So, the speed is a major catalyst to make some decisions and, you know, cut things, cut bad habits, and bring in new processes and new technologies as needed.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah, so that's … It's the speed and agility, is kind of the term that's in vogue for moving more quickly. I asked the top CIOs that I could find, I think I included you on that survey, Ben, about whether they're feeling pressure this year to move quickly. And 96% said they felt either strong or very strong. 63% said there was very strong pressure to move much more quickly in 2017. How are you dealing with that? What is the … What tools are in your tool chest that you're bringing to bear to help move more quickly, or what are you experimenting with?

Ben Haines: Umm, look it all starts funnily enough, with people, and helping explain why some things need to happen faster than others, and also, making sure everyone understands why; why do we have to move fast? Finance has an objective that Sales isn't aware of, and finance is trying to move faster than Sales, that Sales needs to be aware of why that's important and get everyone on board. And once you get that communication and collaboration across the […]. So, this is a really … It's especially, I believe, all IT and CIOs really honing in on as we work across all these departments, and we have that visibility. So, we've got to make sure that everyone understands why we're doing this first. Otherwise, people start to block things.

And, once we get them on board, then we look at what are the next tools and systems we need to move with. And some things just take time, and you’ve got to work through. You know, systems of record can be challenging. But, you know, if everyone understands why we’re doing it, then the business can also give on some of those things that I really think they want. But, you know, if I use WorkDay, for example, you can do some amazing things in there, and spend a year configuring it, or you can spend three months and get it working. And then, let’s iterate.

And so, you start to bring some of the agile concepts, really, into some really traditional platforms. And, it’s like, “Guys, let’s just get that foundation in, and then let’s just iterate on top and have that schedule.” So, it’s not spending a year spending the perfect solution and everyone then loses interest, it’s getting that base and then moving forward.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah. And, one of the interesting things about agility is that the goal is to do, build the right thing for the customer; provide the right thing to the customer with whatever resources that you have. And, I’ve had developers come to me and say, “I don’t like having to re-do things over and over again until it’s right.” And, this is kind of the old “Throw it over the wall!” mentality we have. Do we have to unlearn or rethink some of our old preconceptions in IT to modernize? And, so what are those things that you think IT needs to kind of change?

Ben Haines: Yes, we definitely need to unlearn the traditional waterfall approach to everything that we have. And, it's very challenging in a systems-of-record space and ERP and spaces like that. And, we have to get comfortable with some failure. And, I think that’s really important and we're not going to fail on delivering a P&L and revenue. There are some limitations. But, there are things where let's at least get it out there and see what people think. If you're building an intranet, or let's "get that in the valley," we call it; a minimal, viable product.

And, we can really learn a lot from our production engineering teams and product engineering teams and apply that to IT, and just like, "Let's get it out there" … It can't be horrible and bad, it’s got to have the right user experience and have a solid foundation. But, yeah let’s get it out there and see what people think, and then let’s iterate and build on that.

And, you know, I still see a lot of traditional IT people. They’re looking for the ultimate blueprint. And we’ll spend six months on the ultimate blueprint and all of that. And, we can’t move fast enough like that. So, that’s probably the biggest thing I think we need to unlearn.

Dion Hinchliffe: Yeah, and I think somebody will be surprised at … It's even Waterfall, you know; "agile" has been the mantra for ten, fifteen years in the development space, right? But, projects still, at large, have a beginning, middle and an end, right? And so, the people look at it that way. I think it's very interesting and telling what you said about that perfect blueprint. And this, the traditional IT skillset was around engineering, right? It's about this careful planning because the company's counting on the system to run the business. So, there's risk management and governments, and all these things that the end-user doesn't understand has to go into it. But, I think that we’ve perhaps overinvested in that skillset and not enough on the people skills, right? This whole design thinking around empathy for the user.

So, what are your thoughts? I think it’s very interesting what you said about “learn from product engineering.” Are you actually trying to take product engineering know-how and kind of move it forward into the IT side?

Ben Haines: Yeah, so little things like turning the conversation around to have product owners, and a product owner owns the life cycle of that product, and they bring teams together. And when we’re done, it’s different for different groups, but we’ll bring teams together where a product owner will actually have business analysts and engineers in the one team. And, you know, they’re not having to go across siloes and speak to different managers and get everyone […]. Like, no, you just own it. You own the life cycle of that product, and you need to make it happen. And, you know, that gives some awesome accountability. And, it takes the conversation from an engineering conversation like you said to a product and business user engagement conversation. So, and I’ve been able to do it with some teams. You know, it’s a little harder if you’re in Oracle ERP. But, I still want … I got product […] and just keep trying. So, that’s one of the biggest things we’ve done and we’ve changed entire teams around.

And, you know, just little things; if, you know, you want to upset engineers, you just tell them they can’t sit where they’re sitting. They’ve got to sit next to the analysts. You’ve got to sit with the product owners, you know? And they can’t hide in the background and, you’ve literally forced all these teams together and said, “Alright guys. You’re all in this together, let’s make this work.” And, we’ve had some success. We’ve had some failures as well, but you need to do that to learn.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Well, yeah. And I’ve talked to several CIOs, who, in trying to implement things like Agile or DevOps, which is the other sexy topic of the day, it’s either those that are reticent and it’s not so much the training that isn’t efficient. It is the holdout. So, people who have a hard time adjusting their mindset.

We just had a comment on Twitter from Jeff Sussna.

Ben Haines: Ah, Jeff. Yep.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah, author of "Design and Delivery." And, he commented explaining; this is your comment about telling the "why" we've got to move faster, right? And, I agree with that completely. If people understand the motivation for something, they […]. But, he said it’s not sufficient. He says you also have to guide them through experience, right? So make them walk the walk. And, I’ve seen this too. Until they’ve been in the trenches with you, they can’t really understand. What are your thoughts on that?

Ben Haines: Yeah, I agree. The “why” is just a start. And, I think that’s the trick. If you don’t start with the “why,” yeah, you’re starting on the wrong foot, really. And so, you are helping to work everyone through that and work through experiences. The more knowledgeable people you have, that helps that whole conversation. It’s like, “We tried it here. Here’s what happens; it failed miserably, so here’s why we need to do it this way.” That definitely helps that conversation, for sure.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah, exactly. So, what do you see as the big shifts, Ben, in today’s IT operating environment, right? What’s coming in and kind of just wrecking all the chess pieces? Is it mobility? You know, previously, in your position at Yahoo, Yahoo has been one of the few companies to get mobile right, if you ask me.

Ben Haines: Right.

Dion Hinchcliffe: But, most companies are getting everything up into their apple cart […] by trying to go into mobile, because it’s hard, really hard. But, now there’s artificial intelligence and Internet of Things, and going to public cloud, although I suspect that’s not a problem with you guys. What’s really starting to get on your radar and forcing you to spend more attention than you might be ready for?

Ben Haines: So, the mobile one is an interesting one. I feel like it’s one area we’re kind of failing at from the enterprise standpoint, and it’s grating me quite a bit because I came in here just over a couple years ago, and just found a lot of hurdles from an enterprise perspective how to get my bar – which, we are really carrying towards. And this is one of those things. The catalyst of change now is, “Okay. We have to bring all these applications together.” And now, Model Now is mobile-only. Like, if it doesn’t work on mobile, you’re going to have a real tough time getting that application cleared through the integration process.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Most people won’t use that, right? Most people use mobile these days.

Ben Haines: Yeah.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Majority …

Ben Haines: Exactly! So … right. So, there’s this awesome forcing function now, where I’ve got to make sure my infrastructure’s correct and, you know, there’s going to be work around … Our […] doesn’t work on a mobile device. It’s horrible. But, maybe, it’s not really designed to and there’s a certain class of worker that’s okay, because they’re sitting on their phone or their PC their entire day, and that’s where they’re at.

So yeah, we’re really starting to force that function on mobile, and our fallback will be web-only so you should be able to work through a browser. And, that could potentially get to a Chromebook-only-type experience. Different groups have different opportunities and capabilities to move to that model, but that’s really where we’re heading.

The other big piece is probably no surprise is security. And, it’s been a really interesting journey for me, personally, because I went through mid-2000’s where IT was … we were the “department of ‘no’” and you must use a Blackberry because it’s the only secure thing, and you must be on the VPN and connecting to all our resources because that’s the only secure way to do it. Went through the startup of their whole […] space and that was going to change the world, and everything’s on the internet and the consumerization of IT. And, I think we’re not back, but we’re in a very different security world, right now when if comes to technology. And, we have to be a lot more considerate about security. And, not regress all the way back to the “department of ‘no’,” but we have to educate everyone in the company about there are secure ways to do things, these days. If you don't have two-factor as a default, you should not be upgrading. You should not be a CIO, as far as I'm concerned. If you're not mandating two-factor authentication in your company, that’s just a baseline and then let’s start from there.

So yeah, that’s probably the biggest challenge for us right now is making sure you blend that end-user experience. You know, we can’t get back to the “department of ‘no’,” you have to blend that into a secure end-user experience and that’s probably the biggest nut to crack right now.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah, that cybersecurity, which can be a career-ending event, you know, for IT leaders. You know, that is the tail that’s wagging the dog. And, if you look at the CIO priority surveys that always come out every year, the real priority at the very, very tippy-top is that security. We have to make it all safe and work, but it tends to all of a sudden monopolize budget, time, attention, and makes it hard to innovate. And so, what happens with things like shadow IT? We see that in this wave of new tools and technologies just kind of pouring over the firewall into our organizations. I have people calling me up and say, “We just saw this survey, and 20% of our workforce is using WhatsApp to do their work,” right? So, we have no control over that. What do you do about all of that?

Ben Haines: Yeah. Look, it really starts with a lot of education. The security is not the CIO’s responsibility. It’s not the CISO’s responsibility, and I love CISOs because they help us and they hinder us, but we have to have this awesome partnership and work together – and share that burden, really, of security. Look, it’s a company problem and if you want to be that person that brings in that application that suddenly all your employee data is now available on the internet because you went around policies, that’s a risk you are taking. And, you have to … but you’ve got to go company-wide. Like, “Here’s why,” it’s back to “Here’s why we need to be secure,” and “Here’s why you need to do this.” And we’re doing our best to make it fast and deliver things as fast as we can in a secure way.

So, we’re just starting that because shadow IT to me is a reflection on IT. And, we're not doing what the company needs, and it’s two-sided. There are factions or business groups in the company that just don’t … They just want to do it themselves because they want to own it, and ... But that’s also a bit of a reflection. I mean, we haven’t built that relationship. They don’t understand how we can deliver and how we can help, or there’s history and you come into a 20-year-old company where IT hasn’t delivered, and you’ve got to rebuild that trust. And, you rebuild that trust through executing and showing, “Well, here’s what we can do,” and if you make it easy enough for the business, I believe most of them don’t … As long as they’ve got so many things to worry about, you can tick the security box; you can let the people [know they’re] productive and they’re awesome, and I can actually get on to running my business. So, it’s a complex beast. We’ve got to work toward it.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah. And, so this brings us full-circle. The title of this episode is "Rethinking IT in the Exponential Era." And it's this exponential growth of tools and technologies and the standards that you were talking about earlier, and the needs of the business to move much more quickly. Can IT do it all? I mean, this is the question I'm seeing start to be asked, is a little, tiny department, you know, that's consuming 5-7% of revenue, to technology enable the entire business and the whole supply chain, and meet all customer needs. Is that realistic? Do we need to think of a new way of empowerment and enablement? How are you thinking about that challenge?

Ben Haines: Yeah. I think there are certain things we need to rethink, and we're just starting this journey here now with the new company, which is awesome. But, how do we provide platforms to enable people to be self-sufficient? And, give them data, think about internal APIs and putting these, I guess they’re large, but these secure platforms in place that people can then … Like, business intelligence is a big one. It’s just data everywhere. So, how do we provide some data access tools, and then enable analysts? If we don’t need to be writing reports. The days of IT writing reports are well and truly over. How do we get that data that we bless; it’s coming from the single-source and all of this traditional data management governance happens. And then, they can write the reports they want to write. And, that’s just one example, I think.

If you look at different platforms where, you know, how do we get … You […] tried to do it but to me, they’re kind of a big legacy application now. And they wouldn’t like me saying that, but they’re complex, but the clarity of space, I still think there’s some work to be done where you can have these people building smaller applications which are very departmental in nature, and it’s solving their problem which IT is like, “Well, we don’t have time to get to that departmental issue.” And how do you provide them guidelines and architectures, and guidance around, “Yeah, go and build this app and this platform. Knock yourselves out. We know it’ll be secure.”

And we give them wrappers around identity. Identity is critical! How do we provide all of these foundational wrappers so that they can be enabled? I don’t have the answers. I think that’s kind of where I think we need to be heading, and that’s what I’m working through the team with on that.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah, and I don’t think anyone has definitive answers. There have been some interesting success stories. Things that, you know, like change agents or IT champions programs where, you know, you let them experiment or let them bring a shadow IT experiment into the cold, and you look at it and say, “I’ll make it safe and secure,” or “no, I have to help you replace it.” So, I think there are some signposts that kind of show us where this is all going.

So, one of the things in your background, because you and I had a long relationship in the industry; I know that you know a lot about the digital workplace and things like collaboration. And that’s been changing a lot, and I know you’ve kind of been at the forefront of that. How is that evolving in high-tech organizations like yours right now?

Ben Haines: Yeah, it’s really interesting. The fallacy of one collaboration platform is there. There isn’t. There is not one collaboration platform. And, to standardize a company of ten-plus thousand people on one platform is a fool’s errand I believe, right now. And it’s really interesting. You know, there are "holy wars," I call them, over different tech tools. So, we've got the Slack thing going on here, and you have the HipChat, Camp, and everyone loves the tool that they want to use. And we actually build an integration platform, to, I think we call it “SuperChat,” my team has a little hack thing they did; to connect different chat platforms because, you know, one team was in HipChat, one was in Slack, and they liked it because they liked it and there are different integrations in the backend tools and all of that. And, they also wanted to be on the same conversations, so it’s like, “How do we get the chat tools actually talking to each other?” So, the collaboration space has really moved into that chat messaging side of it. That’s kind of risen to the top as what everyone wants to use. But, we’re still buried in email. It’s still about reality.

You know, intranets to me, I’ve seen, really have … You know, they’re still just a place for people to go to get really good information, but there’s not a lot of social collaboration happening, I believe, in the intranet space – at least in our company. It’s still that destination to go to. But, everyone’s really starting to focus on chat. And we're going to see that blow up because there's too many … There's an overflow of information. There are too many Slack channels, there are too many HipChat channels, and people don't know where to of to get information. It’s going to be interesting to see. It’s sitting back a little bit, and just watching that evolve, because IT can’t sit and go, “Well, here’s how the company’s going to collaborate.” Let’s throw it out there and they’ll tell us how they want to collaborate. It’s quite interesting.

Dion Hinchcliffe: So, I mean, I run into this a lot in organizations because my background is also in the digital workplace. And the question is, should we train workplace to modulate their collaboration to be more efficient? Or is too much collaboration or too little collaboration not good? Do you need to be in the middle somewhere? Or, is it a filter failure issue, as […] said? And, we want to capture all that information, but we need this knowledge, to manage the knowledge better? Where are we going? Because the firehose is a complaint I hear from everyone I talk to now.

Ben Haines: Look, I think it starts as a people problem, at first, and then you can solve it with some technology. But, you know, it’s an interesting one because there’s a lot going on and … There’s a lot of good conversation that the departmental but even the smaller groups and teams, where they’re talking and just working. It’s not a company-wide communication thing, that I believe. But, yeah. I don’t know how much success we would have. I think it’s a … If you try to explain about why do you have to be blasting out all this information to everyone? Like, who really needs to hear it? But, people are opting-in. And so, it’s a person’s choice if someone has their Slack channel and someone’s interested, they’re opting-in to that conversation. If they don’t like it, then they can opt out, you know, and filter that. But, I still think we need to see how this evolves. It could be interesting.

Dion Hinchcliffe: So, it sounds like you are falling more on the side of some digital collaboration skills [you] need to teach in this much more open communication era.

Ben Haines: Yeah, it’s an awareness. Where are people? What do people really need to hear? And, but I do think the technical side will come into play, for sure. And, like I said, the opt-in is … We have many different channels here and I don't opt-in to a lot of them because I can't filter a lot of the information. I don't know what's relevant. And it's kind of bad, but I have some people that I say, "Look, I need you to move on to this and let me know if anything comes up that I should be aware of."

Dion Hinchcliffe: And hopefully, it won’t be people in the future that will have these artificial intelligent agents that can draw our attention to things that need to be done. The unblinking gaze, as it were.

Ben Haines: Yeah. Definitely.

Dion Hinchcliffe: So, that brings us to the next topic. So, collaboration is a problem that most organizations are trying to get better at in the way of unengaged employees. Over half of organizations are just doing the least that they can. But, how do we collaborate better with the business today, given that they have more needs, and they also have more options to get IT. They don't have to go to you, Ben. And, I suspect, as most organizations, they sometimes don't. But how can we get them more involved to come to us first and when they do, how do we be responsive? Because it's the back-end issues. So, you've already got fifty projects. How do you service them? You know, this is what's driving the CMO away because they're at the bottom of the list, because it's not considered mission-critical.

Ben Haines: Right, right. So, it’s getting that organization alignment. And, I have different business teams at different stages, and different levels of trust are really what it comes down to. And now, it’s all we’ve got to start again for certain reasons, because we have different leadership now. With the merger, it’s kind of interesting but also scary to start rebuilding those trust levels.

You build the trust by executing. So, if you’re in there, and you’re at everyone’s trying to work together and you’re executing and I found a business, they don’t mind. They actually prefer you to be helping. It’s where you don’t have that trust, and where you don’t have that … You’ve got to prove why you’re doing it and how, how you can help. And, that is people-to-people, but talk to people and work through it. And then, there’s also once you get the company aligned … An organization’s wasting money and duplicative service to what we offer. You know, that’s a pretty basic conversation if we’re doing it right. And, you know, there’s money wasted. People are always happy to have … remove some topics and have those costs.

So, that’s one angle we work through. And … But I really look at my team to build those relationships, and really get into how can we help? And then, when you find departments that aren’t funded well enough, sometimes, we have money they don’t, funnily enough, but … You know, there’s a team I know that are trying to do something. I’m like, “Well, that, to me, is .5 of an engineer of an analyst and I can help you and make that happen,” “Really?” And I’m like, “Yeah, because we have the machine and we have it working. We can slot that into a sprint.” And, they’re amazed.

And then, there’s also joint efforts where I’m getting a lot of conversation is, like, well, if IT doesn’t do it, they’re going to go and do it and cost the company more money. So, why not fund IT to do it? And, we’ll do it and it’s in a lot better interest for the company. And, you’ve got to start just getting those conversations. And, like, so shadow IT is a reflection of IT predominantly not doing what the company needs. The fact is the company’s spending money to make that happen, and so we need to prove we can do it better.

Dion Hinchcliffe: You know, that’s very interesting. And I think that’s telling that, you know, you’re willing to sponsor business projects if you see the right opportunity. You have the resources and presumably, maybe some new tools and technologies you’d love to pilot in that area. But, you were talking about that IT has to go deeper. And, I think this is a longstanding challenge, that IT is its own discipline, right? You know, it’s kind of like asking a doctor who spent years and years and years accumulating this rarified knowledge in this special area to also learn to do something else, right? So this is what IT has to do. It has to learn the technology and then, have to learn the business, too. And I see a lot of IT people are reluctant. But I see all the new job skill breakdowns. Everyone’s going to have to be more multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary; be an expert in technology and the business. Is that really going to apply, though? Or are IT groups going to be able to make that move, or is there going to always be this resistance?

Ben Haines: Umm, well it’s the same. Resistance is futile. So, look. I’ve seen, and I look for businesspeople first over IT people. And, a businessperson who understands IT will be more successful, and it depends on the level. Obviously, business and engineers and engineering.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah, the person […] do your market services architecture, but you know…

Ben Haines: Exactly, exactly. But especially when you look at senior leaders and people running business process and product, even development. They really … It's harder to find a technologist who can […] up to the business space. But it depends on their training and background. But, a couple of my key leaders; one came from marketing and ran all these different programs and customer experience and customer support, and how to bend for IT. And, she was great in program management and project management and analysis. And now, she's leading a massive IT team. And, I've had many successes with bringing what I call "business leaders" in, and …

But, you have to have a plan. Like you said, you know, the market service architecture, you know, it’s a very specialized … So, it’s really, I guess, diversity within your team of the business IT; the leaders; is critical - absolutely critical to move forward.

Dion Hinchcliffe: That’s very interesting. So, we’re getting close to the end of the show. And, Tim Crawford, my good friend. You may be familiar with him, Ben.

Ben Haines: Ah, Crawford? […] expert?

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yup. …noted that it’s the impact of consumer engagement and digital collaboration that will impact the corporate world.

Ben Haines: Mhmm.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Do you agree with that statement? I mean, I see, at the top of the list now, along with cybersecurity now, is “customer experience” is the other big conversation. You know, is that the right priority? I mean, what should IT do to keep focusing on [it] if you’re generalizing that way?

Ben Haines: So, we really have a duality here because we have internal customers. And, there’s been all these arguments over here. We are business partners. But, we are providing a service as well, right? And we have to partner, we have to think about that internal customer experience and how is that helping the company, and helping the groups who are together. And then, yeah, externally-facing for sure. It really is. Then for us, as we are a digital company for all intents and purposes. Everything we do is internet-based and so, that is a major critical priority of what is that engagement, and like you said earlier, the mobility apps and all of that cover stuff. So yeah, I think it is. I really do.

Dion Hinchcliffe: And so, it kind of brings us back to rethinking IT. If we talk about the role of the CIO and where it’s going, and we look at consumer engagement or customer experience, is the CDO and the CMO larger going to carry that away and be responsible for that, and the CIO get everything else? I see some of that, and I also see everything rolling back over to the CIO, that it all just gets, you know, dotted line back to the CIO anyway. What do you see as the general trend?

Ben Haines: Yeah. I think of the general trend as you either get the right CIO in place, or you get the incumbent really steps up to it. There’s just this underlying technology gap, well call it, that we are, you know, well-versed in, that the marketing people are … And, for the CMO to be successful, you have to have an extremely strong partnership at the CIO level and enable that, otherwise you create a … you have a very big problem of creating a really big silo that, you know, is … You will be successful if you have the right collaboration in place.

CDO, to me; I see CDO and CIO kind of evolving. And, to me, there won’t be much difference between a CDO and a CIO. And, maybe that’s a logical step. CIOs, if you’re the right type of CIO, you do become a CDO. And it’s really that final piece of that puzzle. Like I said before, we've worked through finance, we've worked through sales, and we digitized all that. Now we're going to consumers. And maybe, that's the evolution of the CIO really, are you are now CDO as you bring in that [tool] and use a consumer experience into that group. But every organization is going to be different, right?

Dion Hinchcliffe: Well, and I’ve actually gone on record as that’s what’s going to happen, and now we’re seeing it happen. We have folks like David Chao, who recently got the CDO role added to the CIO; Alexander Bockelmann and UNIQA Insurance. He recently got the CDO role added to the CIO role, his title. So, I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen for reasons too complicated to go into here.

So, final question, Ben; and I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. You’ve been the CIO at a lot of top organizations. So, thinking back; pulling back at all that experience, all the current trends and issues you’re facing right now; what updated pieces of a device would you have for CIOs just getting into the role today?

Ben Haines: Umm, have a respect for what’s happened but don’t focus on it. [Laughter] So, you know, and if you’ve been lucky enough to have the right leaders that you’ve been mentoring with, that’s great. But, you know, really, we’re changing. We’re evolving. And if you’ve been in the IT space for ten years, it’s extremely different now. So look outside the organization and look at what different companies are doing.

And, you have to network. You have to see where everyone’s at, because what you might be thinking, “Oh wow! This is crazy to do X!” but there are ten other companies who have already done it. And you’re like, “Ah! Okay. That’s not bad at all.”

Look across industries and, you know, have a look at what different industries are doing. And right now, this is my third industry, I guess, that I’ve been in. And it’s very different how they operate. There are a lot of similarities, though. And so, you know, have a look at what’s happening out there.

And, don’t buy the marketing cloud from the enterprise software vendors. Like, they’re there to do a job, and so use something. Make sure you understand how that fits into your vision and what they’re vision is, and, you know, you’ve got to be responsible for that outcome and not just listen to the “marchitecture” coming out of some organizations.

They’re probably some of the big, big topics.

Dion Hinchcliffe: Yeah. The one that really resonated with me is this openness, willing to learn from others that have gone before you because almost no-one's a unique snowflake anymore. There are some battle-hardened people who are further down the journey, and you have to find and listened to them and see what they’ve learned.

Ben Haines: Yeah.

Dion Hinchcliffe: So, great! Well Ben, thanks so much for making time in your busy schedule. I know you’ve got some crazy things going on with all the changes in the organization in your new role. I hope that goes well, and I’d love to have you back on in a year or so to maybe tell us, give us an update on how all of that’s gone. So, appreciate that, and thanks for being on CxOTalk.

Ben Haines: Cool. Thanks, Dion.

Published Date: Jun 20, 2017

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 441