CIO Summit – the pinnacle of inspirational innovation

On Thursday 27th September the Microsoft Enterprise Team bundled over to the very nice Langham Hotel in London with our Windows 8 devices for the CIO Summit 2012.


As the Business sponsor, our stand at the summit drew great interest as we demonstrated the versatility of Windows 8 on a touch-screen TV, a tablet, laptop and mobile. Hopefully it was a great sneak-preview of the new operating system for all the CIOs who had gathered for the summit.


The main attraction of the day though was, of course, the key speakers. There was a fantastic selection of great presenters to listen to and a chance for the audience to relax, listen and fuel their imagination and inspiration – both were in plentiful supply.


The day was broken down in to three main sessions – Business, Technology and Leadership. I found all the speakers very interesting indeed but, in order to keep this blog at a respectable size, I will just give a quick summary of some of the key speakers…

The Langham Hotel, London - marvellous muffins

Business session


The Business session was off to a cracking start with Trevor Didcock of easyJet talking about how they are investing in mobile technology to improve trip planning and booking and, interestingly, planning to move to allocated seating (rather than it being a free-for-all as many of us are accustomed to now).


Vying for my title of ‘most inspirational female speaker of the day’ was Ibukun Adebayo - mother, writer and IT Director of Turning Point (a social enterprise, focused on improving lives and communities). She spoke about the challenges of joining an organisation that had long standing political issues around togetherness plus disengaged IT users. Thankfully she managed to turn the IT challenges around by bringing in Microsoft Active Directory, VM Ware and a KPI system – this slicker IT solution improved people’s perception of communication within the organisation. Now they have established a better technology setup, they are moving from a technology-focussed strategy to a people-focussed strategy.


Microsoft’s UK Managing Director, Michel Van der Bel was up next. He suggested that technology will be a major influencing factor in cultural, social and political change in the future (if not already). And what’s driving the pace of this change? Well it’s consumer-driven devices and continuous cloud services (featuring platforms such as Yammer, Skype, LinkedIn, Lync and Twitter).


More importantly, it’s four ‘megatrends’ which Microsoft sees as dominating the next decade… mobility, social, cloud and big data.

Michel Van der Bel - Managing Director of Microsoft UK

One impressive figure which featured in Michel’s presentation was that 91% of organisations expect to spend on mobile devices in 2012. Many of the new devices will hopefully soon have the new Windows Phone 8 operating system on. Flexibility across numerous devices for the “reimagined” Windows 8 is one of its main features.


Some key messages from Michel’s presentation also included “it’s all about empowering people” when it comes to devices and “looking at IT in isolation is not enough” regarding innovation. Those are topics which came up quite a bit through the duration of the day.


Richard Hodkinson from business law firm DWF LLP spoke about the advantages of the cloud after Shaun Mundy, Group Director of Buro Happold had talked about the excellent work they have done with using Microsoft Lync in 18 of their offices as well as 90% of their devices running Windows 7. It wasn’t easy at the start though – Shaun had to improve the IT service and improve morale. Success was achieved through a maturity model, good procurement, transparent services and transparent internal communications. Buro Happold is a pretty impressive engineering firm actually – they’ve worked on the O2 Arena in London, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, the Olympic Stadium and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre!


Technology Session


After a short break which included some incredibly tasty blueberry muffins, it was time for the Technology Session…


Albert Hitchcock from Vodafone spoke at length about how they are investing heavily in CRM and security technologies.


Enterprise will continue to be a focus for Vodafone and they will be offering a big range of Enterprise technologies. But ultimately, for Vodafone, it’s all about virtualisation, infrastructure standardisation, vision and the cloud.


William Payne, CIO of Veolia Environmental Services provided us with some interesting facts about how they now operate with 331,266 employees in 77 countries! In the UK, getting data from their fleet of vehicles back to office monitoring systems has been achieved. Though getting all this great data from the office back out into frontline operations remains an on-going challenge.


Elsewhere in the Technology Session Laura Schroeder gave a great talk about her IT successes at Workday. Suggesting business has changed – Laura highlighted some key points to note:


New realities - uncertain economy, social collaboration, rise of mobile
New challenges - reduced budgets, changing strategies, demand for data
New solutions - lower complexity, drive change


Interestingly, a Forrester survey reveals that 45% of IT leaders consider companies to be agile for change, but only 30% of non-IT exec feels the same.


Finally, Ian Cohen from JLT (an international risk specialist and employee benefits organisation), took to the floor as a last minute stand-in for another guest. Starting with a huge picture of Ozzy Osbourne as his first slide, this was going to be no ordinary presentation. Filled with references to rock music (his other passion) and Chelsea FC (his other, other passion), Ian outlined four key tips for building a social enterprise:


  1. start listening
  2. keep it simple
  3. think like a publisher
  4. ignite the conversation.




Leadership Session


If the day had already been put in top gear by the previous excellent speakers, the event got a whole new transmission overhaul as Gerry Pennell, CIO for LOCOG and Catherine Doran stepped up for their hugely inspirational talks.


Sadly for readers of this blog who weren’t there, we can’t bring you anything of what Gerry Pennell said regarding the IT for the Olympics at his request… but what we can say is that it was very good and very impressive. Definitely bar-raising, record-breaking stuff (pun intended).


News from the London 2012 gang will of course be released in the near future when they’re good and ready.


Catherine Doran took to the stage in the penultimate presentation of the day. It’s an impressive testament to the lady who has taken on a “very big gig” in revolutionising the Royal Mail Group’s IT. No pressure.


Royal Mail are in the eye of a storm at the moment. It’s an interesting paradox that they are delivering less mail volume-wise year on year although the amount of places they deliver to still grows due to continued house building.


Catherine openly admits that Royal Mail is on a “journey to privitisation”. But, with one of the county’s biggest brands to protect, she has a plan – “be brilliant at the basics”. “Build a sustainable future with profitable growth” she says.


The crash of the Royal Mail website last December was admittedly a wakeup call to how times have changed to a much more IT-focussed future for them. A few years ago they could have carried on regardless but this time it almost brought the whole thing crashing down.


Finally, her parting thought was about what’s to come for the Royal Mail – “focus on relationships”. Vision, confidence, leadership, motivation and relationships are firmly stamped on the Royal Mail Group’s future.


The final key speaker was Paul Brocklehurst of Surrey County Council. It was an interesting fact-driven talk showing how partnership working is at the heart of moving forward for them from an IT perspective. Like most local councils, they are faced with the requirement to save £365m over the next three years. So, as they are the 5th biggest council in England, this is no mean feat. The IT infrastructure which they need to change includes various office locations and 7,500 PCs. Not to mention challenges with staff morale (who have also previously shown to be slow adopters of IT).


Surrey County Council suggests that IT leadership should come from them when it comes to working with the many local partners. The council should ‘encourage services to embrace IT earlier and more strategically and listen to what people say’! It’s certainly sound advice.


Their IT Project aims to develop a technology roadmap to 2017 in the near future.


The audience of CIOs, IT Directors and the like all seemed to really get something out of the event. For them I guess it’s a great chance to put daily work to one side and really gather some thoughts and ideas about how to plan for the future. All the key speakers brought something to the table and clear themes had developed at the end of the day:


  • move away from IT-focussed technology strategies – include people and business needs
  • unified solutions is a good way forward and a good way to save money
  • no job is too big if you have staff and customers pulling in the same direction
  • transparency of action – build relationships
  • four megatrends will dominate the next decade: mobility, social, cloud, big data
  • flexible working is almost inevitable
  • a demand for data.


Personally, I thought one of the best points was made right at the end of the day in the final Q&A session. It was made by Andrew Jordan from the broadcaster NBC… ‘always listen to the up & coming generation of IT staff who are on the pulse of IT’.


Today’s interns or junior staff tend to be the most digitally-savvy people in the company these days and could be tomorrow’s CIOs so we’d be foolish not to.

posted by Howard

Content and Communities Manager for Microsoft UK Enterprise Insights


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