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CIO Summit- The Evolving Digital Landscape

19 Sep 2018

Anne Marie Walsh

Anne Marie Walsh discusses how the evolving digital landscape is something that poses both one of the greatest challenges and opportunities to the world of work as we know it.

Brightwater Executive were getting their tech on again last week with a visit to the annual CIO summit in Croke Park. As always it proved thought provoking on a number of levels but the pertinent themes to emerge were:

1. Focus on the human experience first and foremost
A lot is bandied about in relation to digital strategy but one of the key themes that emerged from the conference was how digital initiatives need to be designed and delivered in line with customer interactions every step of the way. The theme of IT and tech being a fulcrum to the wider business is something we have seen progressively in Brightwater Executive whereby senior tech candidates are required to have a mix of commercial and customer facing skills whilst coming from a strong technical background themselves. Increasingly IT is seen as central to as opposed to supportive of the wider business. 

2. Re-imagining what tech talent really means
A second point which was raised was that often in the hiring process and equally in the education system, there can be too much focus on deep technical skills. Broader skills such as the ability to listen, collaboration, innovation and creative thinking are paramount to address the perceived digital skills shortage. John Ryan, Director of Zinopy made the point that the talent is in the country but our challenge is to re-programme it or to explore how this talent might be best utilised for careers in tech.  Niamh Bushnell also alluded to the trends in other countries to open candidacy for roles to people with no skills and again alluded to learning as you go, being a problem solver and being persistent as three key traits of a good candidate. Some really appealing anecdotal evidence was given of successes that various participants had had with hiring people for jobs with no apparent relevant skills i.e. hiring a candidate for a first level tech support role who had no relevant skills but was absolutely passionate about music. He has since transferred that passion to grow his career and is now a technical manager in the same company. 

3. A Seismic Shift in the workplace, are the robots taking over?
The word robot comes from the Slavic word “rabota”, which means labour/work. 

When I was growing up the concept of robots to me was c3po in Star Wars but today there are about 10 million industrial robots toiling around the world. Japan is the top country with the highest density of robot utilisation in its manufacturing industry. One of the key discussions at the conference was whether the perceived threat that robots once posed in terms of taking our jobs has been realised. One of the points repeatedly made at the conference was that jobs won’t disappear because of the bots but rather the repetitive nature of the jobs will disappear and the jobs that humans are doing could well make a slow evolution into a much more interesting beast. We listened to a very informative presentation from Jonathan Kidd, Head of Digital Information and Robotics at Bank of Ireland who explained that BOI currently has 130 robots in use who are freeing up employees to spend more time with customers or in effect taking the robot out of the person.

The evolving digital landscape is something that poses both one of the greatest challenges and opportunities to the world of work as we know it. The resounding message from the speakers was that this is something to embrace and not to fear.  Equally, across the aim of a good digital strategy, the search for tech talent and the growth of robots in the workplace, the unified theme was to put the human experience at centre stage and use tech as a support not as a threat.

Anne Marie Walsh Partner of Brightwater Executive and recruits exclusively for C-suite, non-exec directors and Senior management roles across IT, engineering and supply chain roles on behalf of clients ranging from SMEs to large multinationals.