IBM Middle East recently hosted its 8th annual CIO conference, which gathered industry experts, CIOs, analysts and global specialists in Dubai for one day at The Ritz Carlton Hotel. Speakers, panellists and attendees gathered to explore and discuss growth opportunities for businesses in today’s economic environment and the role that collaboration, partnership and innovation plays in helping organisations to achieve their business objectives. The topic was broken down by Robert Le Blanc, Senior Vice President, IBM Software Group during his keynote speech in which he spoke about using innovation to facilitate the growth of organisations and face the significant new challenges of the digital era.
“The IBM CIO conference has evolved and grown since our inaugural event in 2004 to become an annual meeting point for the region to address the issues they face with a changing business environment. This year’s event attracted over 350 CIO’s from across the region making for meaningful, inclusive, region-led discussions that shared experiences and best practice in delivering on the vision of 'Partnering for Growth,” said Amr Refaat, General Manager IBM Middle East and Africa. “We’ve been fortunate to have had discussions with CIOs in sectors from government to healthcare and from banking to education across the region and we look forward to continuing these conversations over the coming year.”
Nancy Thomas, Vice President and Application Management Services Leader of IBM Global Business Services, gave a presentation focused on the results of IBM’s annual CIO study and how they can be used to empower CIO’s and achieve the goals set by an organisation. Over 3,000 CIOS were interviewed for the 2011 CIO study, which provides statistical analyses of responses and underscore the increasingly vital role of the CIO.
Thomas explained the four mandates defined in the study under which CIO’s operate. The predominate mandate for the MEA region was the expand mandate, which includes organizations that expect CIOs to help re-engineer their organizations, making them faster, more flexible, and better equipped to turn data into insights.
Thomas also moderated a discussion in which a panel of eminent industry experts including Ghazi Qarout, Michael Reagin, Jacob Kuriyan and Ali Nahle, shared insights on these findings. Among the points discussed was the increasingly strategic role that CIOs are playing as leaders of innovation and growth. The panelists agreed that technology not only provides organisations with a competitive advantage, but also allows them to remain in line with business goals and objectives. As highlighted in the discussion, leading CIOs must not only have the ability to grasp the capabilities of technologies such as cloud, analytics, and mobility, but also be able to harness the power of such technologies to facilitate the growth and success of their organisation.
Additionally, the panelists engaged in a stimulating conversation regarding the challenges facing CIO’s today, particularly with regards to the high expectations placed upon them. “Today’s CIO’s are expected to do more for less,” stated Ghazi Qarout, SVP and Head of IT, Al Hilal Bank, UAE. “In today’s rapidly evolving world, it is necessary to manage resources correctly and effectively in order to keep up with the times.” According to the CIO study, external forces are placing more pressure on CIO’s to lead effectively. While CIO’s globally rank market factors as the main external force impacting their organization, regulatory concerns generally rank higher among CIO’s of the MEA region than among their global peers.
The dialogue also touched upon the priorities of CIO’s in the MEA region as outlined by the CIO study. People skills and internal collaboration and communications were listed as key areas for CIO’s to focus when aligning IT with business strategy. In comparing CIO’s of the Middle East to the global sample, the study proves that the former place much greater focus on business intelligence and analytics (94% vs 83%), mobility solutions (81% vs 74%), business process management (75% vs 60%) and risk management and compliance (71% vs 58%).
Moreover, the study found that when asked about visionary plans to increase competitiveness over the next 3 to 5 years, Business Process management, Self-Service Portals and Risk Management rank as high priorities among CIO’s of the MEA region.
Following the panel discussion, Khalid Kark, Vice President and Research Director at Forrester Research, presented a session that confirmed the crucial role CIOs play in driving empowered business technology solutions to help businesses face increasingly complex business environments. Kark gave an extensive analysis of surveys conducted regarding the role of IT in achieving business objectives.
Gururaj Rao, IBM Fellow and Systems Chief Engineer at Systems and Technology Group, delivered an insightful presentation in which he stressed the crucial need for Smarter Computing in an era of “insight for discovery.” Rao elaborated on the evolving nature of information technology and the factors which contribute to shifts in technology innovations, particularly new capabilities in ‘big data’ and information integration. He explained how optimised systems can be designed to meet new challenges brought about by new transformations in the industry.
Following Rao’s presentaion, IBM global executives led 6 breakout sessions where regional CIOs were invited to discuss the issues affecting their businesses regionally and globally. Topics that were covered included; ‘The deep dive: business intelligence in today’s changing world’, ‘Taking hybrid computing to the next level’, ‘Disaster recovery: business continuity and outstanding uptime results’, ‘Cloud Computing: Rethink IT. Reinvent Business’, ‘Smarter Collaboration and Social Networking for Effective Business Results’ and ‘Enterprise security: Managing risk and minimising vulnerability’.
“This year’s CIO conference certainly provided grounds for a meaningful and engaging discussion on the role of the CIO today, and the future of Information Technology,” commented Rao. “It certainly was a pleasure to join leaders of IT from all over the region in exploring ways to contribute to the success of one another’s organizations.”
The conference was also attended by eminent IBM executives including; Colin Powell, Vice President, Business Analytics & Optimisation; Wolfgang Wendt, Vice President System Z, IBM Systems & Software Group; Bowman Hall, Worldwide Cloud Computing Client Engagements Director and Jason Hilling, Strategy and Enablement Leader, IBM Security Services, amongst many others.
IBM has been helping CIOs turn insights into strategic business actions for many years and conducts an annual Global CIO Study on how technology leaders help their organisations adapt to accelerating business change and complexity.