IT Visionaries: Exponential Tech and the Future of IT

By Erika Malzberg September 25, 2018

Convincing people and businesses that change is coming—that’s the job of the CIO. And that’s the focus of this year’s #ITVisionaries track at Dreamforce 2018.

To kick off this track, Chad Grills, CEO of the Mission (@ChadGrills @TheMissionHQ) moderated a panel with Alpna Doshi, CIO for Philips (@AlpnaJDoshi @Philips); Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce (@OlsovskyJoann @salesforce); and our own Zuora CIO, Alvina Antar (@alvinaantar, @zuora), to discuss how today’s CIOs are driving innovation and leading organizational change.

With the average tenure of the CIO the second shortest in the C-suite, the question—and the heart of this discussion—is how CIOs can push the pace of innovation while also keeping the lights on and the business running (without getting fired!).

Here are some highlights from this candid and enlightening conversation:

IT driving change

“CIOs are looking to pivot; they’re either being forced to disrupt by competitors or realizing that the status quo isn’t good enough and the pace of their growth isn’t sustainable.” – Alvina Antar, CIO for Zuora

“It’s really the people, and the hunger that they can have for the technology that drives change.” – Alpna Doshi, CIO for Philips

“If transformation was easy, it wouldn’t be something we’re all sitting here talking about.” – Alvina Antar, CIO for Zuora

“Within the 4th industrial innovation, CIOs need to push innovation with big bets.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

“If we start doing root cause analysis, we’ll spend another decade trying to figure out what is wrong. Instead, let’s look at what we need to do for business transformation now.” – Alpna Doshi, CIO for Philips

Balancing innovation with table stakes

“Innovation has its own definition. How we define it is dependent on your organizational culture and what changes will be meaningful for your company. Philips is a company with a beautiful long history, but what got us here is not going to get us there. We need to perform and transform.” – Alpna Doshi, CIO for Philips

“How do you balance the status quo with innovation? The reality is that it’s not really a balance. We’re way past balancing. In this day and age, our business is looking to tech leaders to be visionaries.” – Alvina Antar, CIO for Zuora

“All of us have a job to keep the lights on, keep the ship floating. These are table stakes. But hopefully we spend more time playing offense than defense. You have to be willing to cannibilize yourself.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

CIO as business leader

“A CIO is a business leader. If we fear for our jobs, we’re not doing the right thing. We have to be in an alert zone. We have to be the maverick. If we don’t create mavericks of CIOs, we’ll just be ticket takers behind the desk.” – Alpna Doshi, CIO for Philips

“I see myself as a business leader. The reality is that we’re part of the G&A function, but I try to run my group as a business. You’re measuring your business like a marketing and sales organization would measure their business. Position your business so that your held to same levels of accountability as the person who owns the pipeline.” – Alvina Antar, CIO for Zuora

“As IT, let’s move the needle and let the business feel the need to follow us.”- Alpna Doshi, CIO for Philips

Letting go of legacy tech investments

“When you talk about letting go of legacy investments, it’s hard. There are people whose names are attached to these investments. But our businesses are going to work around us if we don’t move past these legacy investments.” – Alvina Antar, CIO for Zuora

“If you’re in IT long enough, you’re there to take out the stuff that you previously put in.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

Getting organizational buy-in and alignment

“It’s not one person who stands up for this innovation. You need to get alignment across your peers to disrupt the status quo.” – Alvina Antar, CIO for Zuora

“As tech leaders we need to speak the language of the business. We can’t lose the business with all of our technical jargon that not only confuses but also makes listeners risk averse. We need to communicate in business terms in order to get buy-in.” – Alvina Antar, CIO for Zuora

“IT is not an order taker anymore. We need to be engaged business partners and part of the solution, to help figure out technologies that are a means to an end.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

“When something doesn’t work, it’s the recovery that counts. We’re not perfect, we’ll have projects that don’t work out but we just have to deal with that.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

“When the business sees the value of IT and the effects of leveraging technology, we start gaining credibility.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

Business Technology

“We renamed our IT team. We are now Business Technology. We are all growing so fast. It’s so important to have a really close tie with our business and a multi-year roadmap that we’re all going to embark on together.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

“Technology is a core part of delivering strategy; it’s a huge enabler.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

“I have seen IT blend. Within my IT shop I had functional experts reporting to me. Business experts seated side by side with my IT team. It was a blended IT department with functional and technical skills.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

What does IT look like in 2025?

“Look at evolving models in business: subscription-based business, SaaS. There was a world where we had all of these on premise. Now we are moving towards the cloud. All the large players are creating a hybrid cloud environment. As we go through this journey, IT will become more robotics oriented. IT has to be lean and not dependent on human error. I suspect that IT ceases to exist in 2025.” – Alpna Doshi, CIO for Philips

“The bulk of what we do now is all cloud based. It’s a different world. I don’t spend as much time in IT running infrastructure. This allows my team to play more offense, deliver more product, more value. This is the future of IT.” – Jo-ann Olsovsky, CIO for Salesforce

“The fundamentals of IT will ultimately be automated. There’s no reason to have individuals taking tickets and solving the same problems. The evolution of IT then becomes focused on business outcomes. Pivoting to recurring revenue biz models. Looking to acquire and cross-sell across different business lines. Launching new products. Expanding into new geographies. The new IT will be a business partner focused on business outcomes.” – Alvina Antar, CIO for Zuora

For more on transformation challenges facing IT leaders, check out the Mission Podcast IT Visionaries with Alvina Antar sharing lessons from her 20 years in IT.