The creative CIO-UI


Posted on Apr 22, 2017

On Monday 20th March, attended the CIO forum. That evening’s agenda included a presentation of the results of the global IT leadership survey, conducted jointly by KPMG & Harvey Nash. Afterwards there was a panel discussion on “The creative CIO”. The final talk was by Jaap Gerretsen, creative strategist at NewBird, who presented his vision of the future of the User Interface (and its importance). Around 60 people attended the event.

The global IT leadership survey

The key takeaway from these survey results was that CIOs worldwide are reporting more and more failed IT projects. I think this is simply because IT projects are increasingly about end-to-end business value and so more complex to grasp. On top of that, delivering this kind of project in a multi-technology, multi-solution, multi-vendor and multi-partner world requires complex system thinkers and people who facilitate convergence by sharing insights into these ecosystems. Keeping track of the big picture is still the most underestimated part of larger transformations.

The panel discussion

The discussion was based on the survey presented but its main focus was on “The creative CIO”, as a link to the next presentation.
I watched this panel discussion quietly. Which is usually difficult for me… but not that evening. Two of the four panel members were CIOs and their main message to the CIO-filled audience was that the CDO function is increasingly being viewed as an obsolete invention. The CDO is completely irrelevant, they said, because digital=IT and IT=the responsibility of the CIO. So it makes sense that such a CIO should be digitally creative and ultimately it’s all about value.
They also said: “It is now time to stop talking about the term ‘business-IT-alignment’, since delivering value to the business is the key focus of IT and you never hear anyone speaking of HR- or finance-IT-alignment, right?”
Right away I felt that they had forgotten that HR is a people business at its core anyway and that financial processes don’t have a direct effect on all the company’s internal and external users on a daily basis.
I recently attended a Facebook live seminar where the speaker gave his opinion on what defines “creative people”.

He said: “Creative people know that there’s always an answer out there somewhere. They never think there’s something without an answer. They actually have a deep belief that there is always an answer. These people are also flexible in order to be able to find the answer. These people believe in abundance and live a life full of options. If you don’t believe that, you live a life of scarcity, and options are limited and you can never be really creative in a fast-changing world.”
I love that definition. It really makes you think, even now when writing it down.
The rest of the live seminar was mainly about finding your answers in people around you or in working with those people around you. What this means is that it’s about constantly, actively gathering valuable people around you and aligning with them.

So as an IT person, I conclude it’s a good idea to actively gather valuable business people around you and continuously align with them. No harm in calling this business-IT-alignment.

The future of the User Interface for the CIO

Maybe I’m digging a bit too deep here, but Jaap’s entire presentation was a metaphor for the CIO vs CDO discussion. I don’t think it was intended to be interpreted in this way… but I did.
We could say that the CIO’s User Interface is what business stakeholders experience when discussing IT strategy matters. What Jaap explained was that today’s UIs have too much engineering to work optimally and too little design to create value. He used typical car UIs as his main example, illustrating his point with a film:.

I strongly believe this is what differentiates an architect from an engineer – the design-focused mindset.

You need that mindset to really grasp user value vs other aspects. I know it’s all about balancing the two ends of the scale, design and engineering, but the big problem for a lot of CIOs is that they still concentrate too much on engineering and too little on creating value. Engineering information systems is a core business of IT, but this doesn’t mean it should be the single focus of the CIO. It’s proven that knowing what you want leads to deeper thinking of what you want, which leads to attracting input to improve what you want. Your mindset matters.

Networking/Business Development

The evening was hosted by Gumption, at their premises. They have a very good website by the way, with a very good UI well worth visiting! The Gumption group presents itself as a platform that supports young, independent consulting companies on their way to sustainable growth. They are like a startup incubator but small-scale and only for low-risk companies where Gumption detects structural potential. Much of the work is done by the largest member of Gumption, a company called TheValueChain. It is a large SAP implementation company whose main client is Umicore.

Finally, I had an interesting chat about health-care innovation with the new CIO of Agfa-Gevaert, who is still in her first 100 days. We talked about’s collaboration with the CIOs of Matexi and Brouwerij Martens. The next CIOforum will be a full-day masterclass with the focus on GDPR.

The creative CIO-UI