SAP has appointed a new global head of artificial intelligence, Walter Sun, after the previous post-holder quit to found her own AI startup.

For the past 18 years, Sun worked at Microsoft, most recently as VP of AI for its business and applications platform group. Sun has a PhD from MIT and continued to publish academic research papers during his time at Microsoft, in addition to teaching at Seattle and Washington universities.

As part of Microsoft’s development team, Sun created Bing Predicts, the inference engine that provides the “favored to win” forecasts beneath search results for sporting fixtures and attempted to predict the 2016 US presidential election winner. (Spoiler alert: it failed.)

More usefully for enterprises, he also helped develop Dynamics 365 AI for Market Insights, a feature for Microsoft’s ERP and CRM platform that scans search data to provide enterprises with information about emerging trends in social interest and sentiment around their brands. Most recently, he was involved in the introduction of Dynamics 365 Copilot, which draws on OpenAI’s GPT-4 generative AI model to, among other things, help marketers write engaging sales pitches. In a recent blog post, Sun described how Microsoft researchers conducted experiments to compare the performance of different AI models for use in Dynamics 365. His colleagues also studied how to write the most effective prompts for soliciting useful responses from generative AI systems.

Sun replaces Feiyu Xu as SAP’s global head of AI. She joined the company in 2020, after a three-year stint in a similar role at Lenovo. Prior to that, she had worked for two decades at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, DFKI.

In the three years Xu led SAP’s AI initiatives, the company introduced AI technologies to many of its products, including tools for supply chain planning, expense management, customer experience, and online commerce. In May 2023, around the time Xu announced her intention to leave the company, SAP said it would embed IBM’s Watson AI technology into its products.

SAP’s AI product team

The entire AI unit that previously reported to Xu will now report to Sun, an SAP representative said. Sun’s team will include two VPs of AI technology, Sebastian Wieczorek and Ulf Brackmann; a CTO, Johannes Hoffart, and a global AI product manager, Nadine Hoffmann.

Sun will report directly to Philipp Herzig, SAP’s head of cross-product engineering and experience, who reports to SAP’s executive board member for product engineering, Thomas Saueressig.

SAP couldn’t say whether Sun will have a seat on the company’s AI Ethics Steering Committee as his predecessor, Xu, did. For now, the only representative of the AI team on the committee is Wieczorek, the VP of AI technology. The other eight committee members hold senior posts with responsibility for marketing, data protection, government affairs, legal, diversity, customer data, quality, and sustainability.

As for Xu, after leaving SAP, she co-founded Nyonic, a Berlin-based startup that aims to build industry-focused, multilingual AI models that meet European ethical and legal standards. Xu is Nyonic’s chief innovation officer, and her co-founders include serial AI entrepreneur Han Dong as CEO in Shanghai, NLP expert Johannes Otterbach as CTO, computational linguist Hans Uszkoreit as chief science officer, and Vanessa Cann, a board member of the German AI Association, as CEO for Europe. The company is hiring engineers in Berlin and Shanghai.

Enterprise Applications, SAP

At Topgolf Callaway Brands, digital transformation has been a key enabler of strategic growth and expansion, laying the foundation for the company’s future.

Ely Callaway Jr. founded the company in 1982, buying Hickory Stick USA golf clubs after that maker started running low on funds. In 1986, the company released the Big Bertha driver using computer-controlled manufacturing machines. While golf clubs and golf balls remain the company’s beating heart, over the past 40 years its revenue mix has shifted to include apparel and gear. Its acquisition of Topgolf International, completed in March 2021, added technology and tech-enabled entertainment to the mix, pushing the company toward digital transformation.

“The acquisition of Topgolf, I would say, is the final move to get into the digital space as a brand,” says Fabio Casanova, IT global solution advisor and retail solution architect at Topgolf Callaway. “Topgolf is known for its venues, for the locations, but what many people don’t know is that Topgolf have the IP for the Toptracer technology.”

Toptracer is a ball-tracking technology that uses complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors to capture a golf ball in flight. It uses multiple video angles to extrapolate the flight of the ball. The PGA Tour uses the technology to help broadcasters present information to fans about a shot’s rise, speed, arc, and distance. Topgolf driving ranges provide golfers with data about their performance at the range via a mobile app.

“Topgolf is a tech company,” Casanova says. “It’s going to help Callaway transition from a manufacturer, wholesale business to digital.”

Driving digital transformation

Topgolf is just the latest in a string of acquisitions by Callaway, including fashion brand TravisMathew and OGIO International (a maker of golf bags, backpacks, and travel luggage) in 2017, and Jack Wolfskin (an outdoor apparel, footwear, and equipment company) in 2018.

Callaway inherited a lot of legacy systems as a result of the acquisitions, and its current digital transformation journey has been driven by a need to migrate those disparate legacy systems to a single system. Casanova notes that not only does the company want to unify the data across its various brands, his team of eight doesn’t have the various skillsets needed to maintain all those legacy systems.

In 2016, 84% of Callaway’s revenue mix was in golf equipment. By 2021, the mix had shifted to 38% in golf equipment, 38% from Topgolf, and 24% in apparel, gear, and other lines of business. By fiscal 2025, Callaway projects Topgolf will account for 46% of its revenue mix, with golf equipment at 27% and apparel, gear, and other lines of business providing 27% as well.

That ongoing shift is making direct customer engagement increasingly important, which means the company must leverage its organizational data to deliver intelligent, personalized customer experiences to remain competitive. To do that, Callaway is working closely with partners GK Software, a specialist in cloud services for retail, and SAP.

The current push started with a project to streamline point-of-sale (POS) processes for Callaway’s TravisMathew brand. It deployed the SAP Omnichannel Point-of-Sale application by GK, automating workflows and helping make finance and store staff more efficient by providing them with a unified, integrated solution.

“Now you start gathering all this information from a customer perspective,” Casanova says. “Replatforming, data mining, building our data lakes to just clean the data, because back in those days it was so many systems, the data was not consistent. Now we’re having one single point of entry. We migrated 200,000 retail customers from TravisMathew to us.”

Those customers, Casanova explains, were in a kind of “sleep” stage — in the database but not active. When Callaway launched the new PoS application, it also launched a new contact form that would allow it to relate new purchases to existing customers to generate a customer history, with extra loyalty points as an enticement.

“This was really successful,” Casanova says. “It’s been four years now since we launched the loyalty program from TravisMathew and we already have a million subscribers.”

For the IT team, the new PoS application meant they could monitor the system environment for all TravisMathew stores from a single location, enabling them to identify and address maintenance issues quickly. Data could also be shared automatically between the head office and individual stores, streamlining finance processes. Automation eliminated the need for manual data entry, reducing errors and saving time.

Going global

That project laid the groundwork for the international expansion of Callaway’s various brands.

“Now, when I have a new country, I have 80% of my process, my system, everything already configured,” Casanova says. “What I do is simply go to the country to see if there’s any digitalization that I need to adapt, but it’s literally just switching on and off features.”

Since 2020, the company has done six big international rollouts — including replacing all the systems and installing all the stores in a new country — at an average of about three months for each rollout.

“What takes more time is literally the change management and training, rather than the system itself,” Casanova says. “I think the key is having this standardized solution using SAP in GK because it’s literally copy and paste. We add a new company code. The master data is the same. We have the image ready to deploy.”

For now, Callaway still runs everything on-premises on its own infrastructure because the company is not yet ready from a structural standpoint to make the transition to the public cloud.

“You have all these domains, network-wise it’s very difficult to get employees, payroll, everything else — it takes time,” Casanova says.

He and his team have focused on enabling the business from a front-end perspective, but the plan over the coming year is to migrate the back end from its on-prem infrastructure to the public cloud.

Digital Transformation

In today’s era of economic uncertainty, enterprises must embrace digital transformation to stay relevant. By 2026, global spending on digital transformation is expected to reach US$3.4 trillion, and this trend is accelerating. For most enterprises, digital transformation encompasses the infrastructure needed to facilitate computing, storage, and networking, while digital technologies such as the cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced networks are critical enablers for future digital development.

To further the discussion on these technologies, Huawei hosted its 5th Industry Digital Transformation Summit at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023 in Barcelona. The Summit acted as a platform that engendered meaningful conversations among global enterprise customers and digital industry leaders, and facilitated discussions on innovation and development in the realms of digital infrastructure and digital technologies.

Developing Tailored Digital Solutions for Industry Applications

As digital technology matured, so have the demands for tailored, scenario-specific digital solutions in various sectors. Solutioning requirements across industries, or even within industry verticals, often appear similar at first. However, to fully realise the benefits of digital innovation, organisations need to match specific scenarios to specific solutions.

At MWC 2023, Huawei showcased how it works closely with diverse global and local partners to provide a range of scenario-specific solutions for public services, healthcare, education, and electric power suppliers.

Despite having already launched more than 100 scenario-based solutions, David Wang, Executive Director of the Board, Chairman of the ICT Infrastructure Managing Board, and President of Enterprise BG, Huawei, emphasised the company’s continued commitment to deepen its roots in the enterprise market and go further in its pursuit of innovation.

“We are ready to use leading technologies and dive deep into scenarios. Together with our partners, we will enable industry digitalisation, help SMEs access intelligence, and promote sustainable development to create new value together.” added Wang.

David Wang delivered an opening speech for the Industry Digital Transformation Summit


Huawei’s scenario-based approach is already transforming diverse industries, including education and finance. Some notable examples include:

Huawei Smart Classrooms

In traditional school systems, teaching resources tend to be unevenly distributed due to infrastructure and economic differences. Over the last five years, China invested over 1.7 trillion yuan to solve this imbalance, developing smart classrooms in 90% of the country’s schools.

Students from all regions, rural and urban, now have the same access to immersive learning and high-quality teaching resources via a national smart education platform. At MWC 2023, Huawei announced the launch of the Smart Classroom 2.0 solution, leveraging Wi-Fi 7 and intelligent edge devices to enable smart teaching practices through cloud-edge synergy.  The smart classroom solution has opened a world of equal educational opportunities to students of all backgrounds.

Intelligent Finance

Mobile payment is fast becoming a global norm: two billion people were using mobile payments worldwide, with a total transaction volume exceeding US$17 trillion, with an annual growth rate of 27% in 2021. But not everyone has access to a mobile phone or formal banking facilities. In Ghana, two thirds of the population lack a bank card, and 60% of people use feature phones rather than smartphones.

Recognising these challenges, Ghana Commercial Bank launched the mobile money platform G-Money which allows Ghanaians to use their mobile phones for deposits and money transfers; this attracted over 700,000 mobile money users. At the heart of Mobile Money is Huawei’s mobile wallet solution, designed to enable basic financial services on feature phones and smartphones, just one example of Huawei’s work with global partners to build payment and micro-finance solutions. Today, Huawei’s Intelligent Finance Solution is a trusted service provider for 400 million users worldwide, from street vendors in China to migrant workers in Ghana.

Collaborating with Global Partners and Helping SMEs Access Artificial Intelligence

To build effective solutions that enable digitalisation, Huawei leverages its global partnership ecosystem of more than 35,000 partners. Huawei works closely with these partners to constantly build stronger capabilities within the ecosystem, while cultivating a deep pool of ICT talent. To date, Huawei has certified over 750,000 ICT professionals and has collaborated with over 2,400 talent alliances.

Huawei is also focused on enabling SMEs, by making it easier for small enterprises to get access to a range of digital infrastructure, technologies, expertise, and Artificial Intelligence.

Holding True to Social Values

As societies worldwide grapple with the effects of climate change and the challenges of ensuring environmental sustainability, technology is playing a critical and growing role in mitigating human impact on the environment.

Digital technology has immense potential to promote sustainable development while creating greater social value through innovation and collaboration. Whether it’s ensuring biodiversity through digital solutions or achieving energy efficiency through better-designed ICT infrastructure and networks, Huawei is constantly pushing boundaries, developing solutions that help industries address the growing challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Driving Technology Forward for the Future

Research and development (R&D) are the key to innovative new products, services, and business models, but to deliver genuine value, R&D must be deeply embedded in the organisation’s mission and culture. Huawei’s commitment to innovation and driving digital technology is evident in its consistent commitment to R&D: 54.8% of Huawei’s workforce is engaged in R&D, working on US$132.5 billion worth of R&D investments in the last decade. Today, Huawei possesses one of the largest patent portfolios in the world, with active patents across over 45,000 patent families.

At MWC 2023, Huawei launched its latest innovations:

A new series of smart campus network solutions, built on Wi-Fi 7 and 50G PON technologies.

The first data centre ransomware protection solution, powered by network-storage collaboration.

Huawei Cloud’s KooVerse unified cloud infrastructure and new cloud services, such as LandingZone and GaussDB, to help enterprises of all sizes embrace and leverage the cloud.

“Digital technology is the right place for us to help industries go digital. Huawei will focus on connectivity, computing, cloud, and other digital technologies. We will continue inspiring innovation to drive industry digital transformation.” said Bob Chen, Vice President of Enterprise BG, Huawei, at the summit.

In his keynote speech, Bob Chen outlined how digital technologies have impacted the development of the world’s economy, cultures, societies, and environment.


Huawei today is a trusted partner to over 700 cities as well as 267 Fortune 500 companies around the world. Looking to the future, Huawei will continue to build on its strengths in the digital enterprise segment, grow with customers and partners, and lead innovation in digital infrastructure.

Learn more about Huawei’s latest innovations and how the company creates new value together with global partners here.

Digital Transformation

CIOs have a significant opportunity to drive a transformation and innovation agenda in 2023. Despite the global economic outlook pointing to ongoing market disruption, inflation, and recession in many parts of the world, organisations are going to want to continue to invest in technology, and this will benefit both employees and customers.

Research in the The Human-Centered Insights To Fuel IT’s Vision 2022 report, conducted by Reach3 for Lenovo, 2024, shows that 20 per cent of the Global 2,000 CEOs will report an increased appetite for risk and improved resilience. As Deloitte research highlights, the reasons for this come down to handling disruption.

“Almost 100 per cent of responding leaders believe their organisations will face serious threats or disruptions in the next two to three years,” the Deloitte report notes. “They’re concerned about the breakneck pace at which their organisations must develop, deploy, and manage new technologies. And they’re keenly aware of technology’s potential to disrupt business models, customer behaviours, and markets.”

Delivering the technology that will assist the organisation to deliver an innovation strategy and address the challenge of disruption will not be easy. The Lenovo and Reach3 research shows that 76 per cent of CIOs are finding it a challenge to balance business innovation and operational excellence. Many IT leaders are still grappling with the shift to hybrid working environments and the massive shift in IT strategy that is required for that to be viable over the longer term.

Additionally, CIOs need to understand that in a highly disrupted global market, resilience means being flexible and able to adapt. According to a report on CIO, 72 per cent of IT leaders are frustrated by their business leader’s changing of priorities. There’s little alternative there, however. Businesses need to adapt to rapid changes in the macro environment, and this means business strategies will be under constant review.

By focusing on the experience, both for employees and customers, the CIO can lead positive disruption and innovation, while at the same time promoting stability and resilience across the organisation.

How the employee experience affects resilience

One great concern that business leaders have is the ongoing impact of the global “Great Resignation”. While there are signs overseas that the trend is easing, in Australia it may just be getting started. A recent PwC study found that 38 per cent of Australian workers are looking for a new job, and this is contrasted with 73 per cent of leaders finding it difficult to attract new talent.

Employee retention is, therefore, a critical part of organisational resilience. Businesses that have too high churn will struggle to fill critical roles, let alone be in a position to adapt to changes and disruption in the market.

The CIO can be part of the solution. Lenovo and Reach3 research shows that employees are 85 per cent more likely to stay at their job for three or more years, and are 230 per cent more engaged when they feel that their technology supports them at work. This does mean using technology to enable employee’s preferred ways of working (for example, employees want a hybrid work environment where they only spend one day in the office), and it means ensuring that they have all the software and hardware tools that they need to enjoy a seamless and flawless work experience.

Consumer demands and habits are changing

According to the CIO Technology Playbook 2023 study by Lenovo, organisations will generate as much as 43 per cent of revenue from digitally-connected products, services and customer experiences by 2027. CIOs and other IT decision makers are actively looking to leverage technology to optimise supply chains and improve asset utilisation, agility and resilience with this in mind.

To execute on the opportunity here, CIOs need to deliver an IT environment that is seamless and where uptime is guaranteed. The more an organisation relies on revenues from the digital sphere, the more expensive uptime becomes. To assist in achieving this, CIOs will want to look to consolidate vendors and find end-to-end suppliers, where interconnectedness between technologies and applications is built in and doesn’t require the IT team to finesse it.

A good example of how a CIO can deliver this is via the latest Lenovo devices, powered by Intel. For example, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, powered by Intel vPro, An Intel Evo Design, is built for what IT needs and users want.

Additionally, CIOs will need to consider sustainability, as corporate responsibility has become a hot-button subject for consumers. According to a Lenovo study, 60 per cent of consumers prefer brands that reflect their personal values, and 80 per cent consider sustainability to be part of their value system. 60 per cent of consumers are willing to change buying habits to reduce environmental impact, meaning that IT decision leaders need to find vendor partners that can display proven sustainability credentials.

To address the organisation’s challenges across both employees and consumers, CIOs need to take a leadership role within the organisation. The opportunities are there, and the understanding of the value that IT returns to the organisation among others in the executive layer has never been clearer. CIOs have a real opportunity to drive a progressive and value-adding agenda through the next few years of disruption.


For many IT leaders, taking on an IT opportunity abroad can be a boon for career and life experience alike.

When Richard Ventre got an opportunity to move to India from the Netherlands, he latched on to it. “We live in a world that is more global than ever before and it is important to experience different cultures, customs, and traditions,” he says.

Ventre, who quit his job as director of global IT at Maersk Group port operation subsidiary APM Terminals in The Hague to join Ahmedabad-based Adani Ports and Logistics as its CIO in December 2019, is part of a growing group of IT leaders embracing the “expat CIO” experience, taking their expertise to foreign countries in search of new cultural opportunities and challenges — and, in the case of Bhupendra Pant, larger global leadership roles.

“I had spent more than two decades working for multinational companies such as L&T and Welspun in India and already had exposure to international projects. It was time to step out of India,” says Pant, who quit his position as CIO of Mumbai-based conglomerate Welspun Group to join automotive distributor and consumer electronics company OTE Group as its CIO in Muscat, Oman.

“Oman offers a good work culture, lifestyle, and the salary is not taxed,” Pant says. “It is easier [for Indian IT leaders] to switch to Gulf Cooperation Council countries than Europe and Australia. With lots of Indians here and not much of a time difference, change management is less, too.”

For others such as Brian Ferris, chief data, analytics, and technology officer at loyalty, marketing, and data analytics consulting firm Loyalty NZ, leading IT abroad was about “gaining huge value in seeing different issues and learning different ways of approaching problems, something that can’t be learnt out of a book.” He moved from New Zealand to Amsterdam, working with Nike and Heineken as their global enterprise architect for data and analytics.

Whatever may be the driver for going international, relocating to a different country is a big decision that needs to factor in risk as well as reward. And, as the strong focus on digitization and globalization increasingly presents new opportunities for CIOs to go global, IT leaders must evaluate each variable carefully before taking the leap. spoke with top IT leaders who have taken up international roles about the key challenges they encountered and the strategies they adopted to become successful abroad.

The challenges of managing IT in a foreign land

Adjusting to a new environment, motivating team members, and earning trust are challenges all expat CIOs confront. But differences in levels of technology maturity, project management, and governance can also present issues for foreign CIOs in fulfilling their core responsibilities.

Brian Ferris, chief data, analytics, and technology officer, Loyalty NZ

Brian Ferris / Loyalty NZ

Assumptions about technology development being at the same level in different countries, for example, often prove wrong. “When I landed in Europe, I was surprised to see that New Zealand was ahead of it in cashless transactions. In terms of technology expertise, New Zealand has around half a dozen SAP experts. In Europe, the pool is huge, and the specialization is massive,” Ferris points out by way of example.

As New Zealand doesn’t have nearly as many historical buildings as Europe does, Ferris was also in for a surprise when he was denied permission to run a new cable into an old building in the Netherlands. “There were huge changes in my perspective. I would say the first three months were the hardest,” he says.

Governance is another area that can vary vastly from country to country. Ventre realized this when working on a large cloud migration project for Adani Ports as part of its strategy to digitize ports and logistics.

“The levels of process maturity in India were low as compared to Europe. The entrepreneurial spirit burns bright in India and technology execution and adoption can move quickly but in an unstructured and less controlled manner. In Europe there is a tendency for governance to stifle agility, but you feel that you have more control and confidence in the outcome. I don’t believe either extreme is right, and that somewhere between these two extremes lies the answer,” says Ventre, who has since returned to the Netherlands as group CIO of SHV Holdings.

How technology is consumed can also vary. Joe Locandro moved from Australia to Hong Kong to take up the role of CIO at CLP Group. From there he moved to Cathay Pacific Airways and then to Dubai to become VP of business technology services at Emirates. He experienced a high propensity for bespoke developments outside Australia.   

“While other global airlines used Amadeus or Sabre, Emirates had built its own ticketing and reservation system. Similarly, CLP had a lot of custom development for its transmission and distribution business. It could be because the companies wanted to be self-reliant rather than be controlled by western software companies or the fact that there wasn’t enough support of packages locally as compared to Europe and North America,” says Locandro.

Whatever the reason, getting acceptance for off-the-shelf software packages was a challenge for Locandro, despite the fact that their total cost of ownership would be better in the long term compared to developing and maintaining solutions in house.

In moving to the Middle East, Pant found the lack of a vibrant startup and partner ecosystem difficult. “PoCs take a lot of time,” he says. “Skill sets needed are not readily available or are available at high price points, all of which prevents us from getting results fast.”

As a foreigner, building trust with the IT team is extremely important, an aspect that proved to be “the most important and challenging issue” for David Berry, CIO of apparel and accessories manufacturer Boardriders, when he shifted from Häagen-Dazs in the US to become VP of IT at Grand Metropolitan Foods Europe in France.

“How do you get people to trust you that you’re not just going to impose an American view on things and [instead] respect the international side of things. If you can’t get over that you can’t settle down because you’re only as good as your team,” he says.

Building trust becomes even more difficult in countries whose cultures differ widely from your own. For instance, as compared to the Dutch, Indians are less direct, more polite, and more respectful of position and authority, Ventre says.  

“As a leader you want to be challenged, you want to be told that your idea is stupid and that there is a better way to do it but there is very little dissent in India. In such a situation, it takes a lot of time to build trust,” he says.

Dealing with business stakeholders

Business expectations of IT can also differ from country to country. For example, according to Ventre, expectations in Europe focus on the ‘how,’ whereas in India they concentrate on the ‘what.’

He felt that taking the time to improve the maturity of the IT function and setting it up for future success was less valued in India than delivering the next project, regardless of how the project was delivered.

Differing corporate structures can also pose challenges, especially when it comes to issues of collaboration versus hierarchy.

Joe Locandro, CIO, Fletcher Building

Joe Locandro / Fletcher Building

“It is very challenging to work in corporate Australia and New Zealand where everybody wants to have a say in technology. Some business units want to share some solutions while others want to build their own fiefdoms and have shadow IT,” Locandro says. “The poor CIO gets pulled from pillar to post because every business unit has a different philosophy. There is a necessary overcomplication of collaboration.”

The Middle East and Asia, however, have more of a hierarchical setup, Locandro says, with implicit trust in specialists, who are allowed to get on with their job, which results in speed to market.

“The downside is that if you try to do that in Australia or New Zealand, you wouldn’t get business buy-in and therefore you wouldn’t achieve your objectives. Similarly, if you tried to use the Australian approach in Asia or the Middle East, you’d never get anything done,” says Locandro, who returned to Australia from Dubai in 2018 and has since taken the CIO role at Fletcher Building in Auckland, New Zealand.

As for Ventre’s experience, business leaders in India expect their CIOs to have an in-depth knowledge of technology and a hands-on approach to it, he says.

“I remember being in meetings and being asked very detailed technical questions and expected to have the answer,” he says. “In Europe, if I was going into a meeting with the board about cybersecurity, I would have my CISO by my side, but in India you find that doesn’t happen as much. The CIO is expected to have the answer and if he/she doesn’t then the fear is that it might reflect on his/her ability.”

Because of this, Ventre says, European CIOs have been able to evolve their careers into business leaders first and IT leaders second. “I am not the expert in cyber, architecture, cloud, project delivery, or data, nor should I be. I have an amazing team of domain experts around me for that. My job is to develop the technology strategy that underpins the business strategy, and to orchestrate my people to achieve our goals and the right outcomes for the business,” he says.

Culture clashes

Aligning with the new culture might not be easy or to everyone’s liking but IT leaders will have to go the extra mile to do so if they seek success.

For example, Europe offers lots of opportunities and people can carve out careers and climb the professional ladder quickly, Ventre says, but India, with its large population, is far more competitive. To get ahead people feel compelled to work harder than the next, often putting work before family, he observed.

Richard Ventre, Group CIO, SHV Holdings, with his family at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India

Richard Ventre

“I had a real challenge to convince my team that I did not want to see them in the office past 6:30pm. It was like a battle of the wills to see who the last person in the office could be. As the working week ended on a Saturday at 2pm, I lost the ‘Friday feeling.’” Ventre says of his time in India.

In some countries, an expat IT leader’s communication skills can be put to the test, as top management may seek advice not from people of position but from those they trust.

“In Australia I can directly tell someone I’m not happy about something. However, in Hong Kong and in the Middle East, you sometimes need to convey messages to your suppliers or to other departments through a trusted third party,” says Locandro.

The Iron Rice Bowl, a Chinese term for employment security, is yet another cultural challenge, typical of Asian countries, that an expat CIO will have to contend with, Locandro says, adding that most people prefer to have a full-time job in these countries, which is opposite to Australia and New Zealand where lots of people, because of tax and other choices, want to contract and consult. For Locandro this was a major hinderance in infusing fresh talent into CLP as the company’s churn rates was as low as 5%.

Over time, Locandro addressed this issue by shifting CLP from being Hong Kong-centric to Asia Pacific-centric, expanding into India, Cambodia, and Thailand, as well as launching projects offshore. “Some people self-selected out as they couldn’t handle the change. For those who stayed back, I did a lot of skill development,” he says. “I started doing such a reorganization exercise every two years, and those who didn’t want to change generally left. Coupled with people retiring, the churn rate increased to 8 to 10%.”

Changing jobs regularly can also be considered suspicious in certain cultures, something that Ferris encountered when he moved to Europe. “It’s typical in New Zealand to move to a new role every three years but in Europe changing jobs frequently is viewed with suspicion. It was a real challenge for me early on because it was seen that there must be something wrong with me where I couldn’t hold down a job. I had never considered my CV from that perspective and had to explain to people that it was very, very normal where I came from,” he says.

Building business value abroad

To address the myriad challenges of leading IT abroad, IT leaders must leverage their communication, collaboration, and relationship-building skills. 

One key area where an expat IT leader’s soft skills will be tested is in establishing an effective relationship with business stakeholders. In this aspect, Pant’s experience of “working with very demanding stakeholders in professionally managed companies as well as family-owned businesses in India was very helpful,” he says.

Bhupendra Pant, CIO, OTE Group, in Muscat, Oman

Bhupendra Pant

“As IT leaders, you should initiate a few things that add value from the management’s perspective. While they are expected to keep the lights on and secure the crown jewels, they should quickly understand what is being appreciated and what isn’t. For this, CIOs must constantly take feedback from the stakeholders by setting up good communication between business and IT,” he says.

To accelerate this at OTE Group, Pant made the CIO’s office and IT department more accessible across the company’s grades and locations. For example, when his team was working on its OTE Connect mobile app for customer service, the IT team was transferred to the vehicle service location where it not only worked closely with the business but also interacted with external customers.

“Initially there were teething troubles but there was no argument or justification on any adverse feedback, and we would immediately rectify it. We would also not shy away from asking what we needed from the business. This also helped in improving the participation from business,” Pant says, adding that the approach of proactively seeking feedback was much appreciated.

To successfully bring business on the same page as IT, Locandro organized a yearly innovation day during his stint with CLP. On this day, business leaders were invited to talk about the successes of their IT projects and how it helped them. He also set up an innovation center and organized walk-throughs for business units.

Ferris made sure he spoke short, crisp sentences with very clear meaning with his bosses who weren’t native English speakers, even though they could be incredibly fluent in the language. “People get lost in long sentences, and when senior leaders get lost they don’t admit it; they just say no. Give them something they care about, but make sure they could understand it,” he says.

To deliver value and break down silos between business and IT, Ferris leveraged a distributed model — embedding squads into other business units rather than grabbing all the authority himself. “I found if I held the budget and the reporting line, giving away operational control was a powerful tool to build trust. Also, my embedded resources could learn about a business unit far better than I ever could from a conversation. They are in team meetings, hearing the vibe and seeing the opportunity. This approach helped us in breaking down silos delivering value in a big way,” he says.

Staying on the right side of risk and compliance are critical for any technology decision maker, but for foreign IT leaders the need for help may be more pronounced. For Berry, it meant working closely with the human resources and internal audit team. “Dealing with HR is extremely important because they know the law, they know the regulations in the country. Working with internal audit is important from a financial point of view. I stay close to them to make sure what I do follows whatever the regulations are,” he says.

Making connections

Not recognizing subtle cultural differences can lead to a CIO treading on toes without knowing it. For a better understanding of the local culture, Locandro studied Chinese history and took Mandarin classes when he was in Hong Kong. Similarly, he learned about Muslim culture when he went to Dubai.

“In Spain everyone goes out to lunch together. If you are eating alone at your desk, which is very normal in many cultures, it is considered very rude and you’re really thumbing your nose at the team when you do it,” says Ferris, who also recommends CIOs to use websites such as Hofstede Insights to compare countries on key dimensions before making the switch.

Brian Ferris, chief data, analytics, and technology officer, Loyalty NZ, at Nike headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Brian Ferris

When in India, Ventre ended his team meetings with “theek hai, chalo” (it’s fine, let’s go), a small indication that he understood some Hindi and was trying. “I would never have been able to hold meetings in Hindi, Gujarati, or Dutch but I understood some words/phrases and it is important to show a willingness to learn,” he says. “The reality is that in most global organizations the business language is English, but that does not mean you should be ignorant to the fact that you are working in a different country with a different language.”

Another area where making an effort is vital and can pay off is in developing a professional network.

Locandro, for example, had to map out a network of trusted third parties to get his messages across to business and technology stakeholders within the company and outside. “The trusted people needed to reach out to stakeholders in IT were mostly inside the organization. In case of suppliers, they would be people in business or in chambers of commerce and for government, I had to go through other government departments,” he says, adding that it took him two years to create a social-professional network to break into the inner circles and get accepted.

“Eventually, I ended up being one of the thought leaders and got invited to a lot of Chinese events in mainland China, in Hong Kong and government and advisory,” he says.

While at Heineken in Amsterdam, Ferris formed a peer network “to get together away from everyone else and share learnings and problems.” Under this non-competitive peer relationship initiative, he set up a technology architecture group comprising IT leaders from big companies such as Shell and Phillips, which proved to be “valuable for everyone.”

Embrace the challenge

The decision to go international brings a steep learning curve for IT leaders, but the transition to a new geography has its rewards.

“There is enrichment of thought, diversity, and insights. CEOs look for resilience, adaptability, and clarity in thinking. The experience you gain offshore gives you those dimensions, and when you speak in the job interviews, you can draw from a whole range of experiences,” says Locandro, who credits his entry back into New Zealand to his ability to apply global best practices over other candidates.

Ferris says his international exposure has made him aware that “technology won’t always come out of the US Silicon Valley. Eindhoven and Hilversum are hotbeds of innovation. Culturally, I think it’s really helped me in understanding and building my teams better. I have more empathy and respect for people working and operating in another language,” he says.

And the peer networks built while abroad are invaluable. As Berry says, “I still have contacts in virtually every country I’ve worked in. When I have any business or technology issue, I can call somebody up in any country and seek a solution. This is the power of networking and collaboration.”

Careers, CIO, IT Leadership

Almost two months after cloud-based CRM software provider Salesforce announced it would be cutting around 950 jobs, the company has announced it will lay off about 10% of its workforce, roughly 8,000 employees, and close some offices as part of a restructuring plan.

Salesforce had nearly 80,000 global employees as of February 2022, up from more than 49,000 employees as of January 2020.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, the company disclosed that its restructuring plan calls for the company to incur charges between $1.4 billion and $2.1 billion, with up to $1 billion of those costs being shouldered by the company in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Salesforce said these costs consist of up to $1.4 billion in charges related to employee transition, severance payments, employee benefits, and share-based compensation; while up to $650 million will be spent on exit charges associated with the office space reductions.

In a letter sent by Salesforce’s co-CEO Marc Benioff and attached to Wednesday’s SEC filing, he told employees “the environment remains challenging, and our customers are taking a more measured approach to their purchasing decisions. With this in mind, we’ve made the very difficult decision to reduce our workforce by about 10 percent, mostly over the coming weeks.”

Salesforce over-hired during the pandemic

He added that as Salesforce’s revenue accelerated through the pandemic, the company over-hired and can no longer sustain its current workforce size due to the ongoing economic downturn. “I take responsibility for that,” Benioff said in his letter.

The company said it expects to complete most of the employee restructuring plan by the end of fiscal year 2024, and to finish its real-estate restructuring in fiscal 2026. According to Benioff’s letter, US-based employees affected by the layoffs will receive a minimum of nearly five months of pay, health insurance, career resources, and other benefits to help with their transition. Those outside the US will receive a similar level of support, with Salesforce confirming that local processes will align with employment laws in each country.

Despite having a relatively successful financial 2022, the year’s last quarter saw the company grapple with several high-profile executive departures, including co-CEO Bret Taylor and Stewart Butterfield, the chief executive and co-founder of Slack, both of whom announced they would be leaving the company in the same week. Salesforce acquired Slack in 2020 for $27 billion, in a deal where Taylor played a key role.

The news comes as the WSJ reported that, based on estimates from, employers in the tech sector collectively cut more than 150,000 jobs in 2022. In comparison, according to data compiled by the site, there were only about 80,000 layoffs in March-December 2020 and 15,000 during the whole of 2021, meaning that technology companies have been laying off workers at the fastest pace since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

CRM Systems, Technology Industry

Senior executives around the world are realising their business success is irrevocably tied to their network strategy. Yet, the goalposts keep moving amid rapidly evolving network technology, making it harder to stay on a sustainable path of network growth.

This is clear from NTT’s 2022–23 Global Network Report, for which we conducted 1,378 in-depth interviews across 21 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Australia and New Zealand.

The interviews delivered a treasure trove of data about the importance of the network to organizations, how the network is transforming, how organizations manage and buy the network, and how it is delivered.

Insights from the top

From the survey results, another valuable layer of insight emerged: it soon became clear that most organizations at the top of their game from a business-performance perspective shared certain characteristics when it came to their network strategies.

For example, we found that nearly all executives (98%) agree that the network is a critical part of driving business growth – yet 72% believe that a lack of network maturity is negatively affecting their delivery and goals.

Ever-increasing security and compliance risks present further challenges. Distributed hybrid work models present far more attack opportunities for malicious actors, and compliance (including data privacy) is a complicated topic in a multicloud-enabled world. So, for most of our respondents, much remains to be done to future-proof their networks. But when we looked at the top performers, it was clear that they had already made great strides in this regard and in other areas.

We classified top performers as those with:

Higher revenue growth (increased by more than 10% in the last fiscal year)A stronger operating profit as a percentage of revenue (more than 15% in the last fiscal year)

Conversely, underperforming organizations were categorised as having:

Poor revenue growth (0% or less in the last fiscal year)A weaker operating profit as a percentage of revenue (less than 5% in the last fiscal year)

Network traits of top performers

Strategic alignment: Almost 9 in 10 top-performing organizations have aligned their technology strategy and their business goals; similarly, nearly 8 in 10 have aligned their network and business strategies, compared with only about 40% of underperformers on both counts.Investment in digital transformation and the network: Nearly 90% of top performers are accelerating their investment in digital transformation compared with less than half of underperformers.Increasing dependence on the network: Almost 70%of top performers believe strongly that their network dependency will grow in the next two years, but just more than 40% of underperformers say the same.Adoption of leading technologies: Almost 8 in 10 top performers have implemented leading technologies such as multicloud networking, edge computing, SD-WAN and 5G.A preference for outsourcing: More than 7 in 10 top performers already outsource most of their network management; more than half also believe their future network information technology needs will be fully outsourced and managed, compared with just over a quarter of underperformers.Network as a service: Top performers are almost twice as likely as underperformers to strongly prefer a network-as-a-service model (6 in 10 compared with 3 in 10).Sustainability: Top performers are almost 90% more likely to focus on sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals than underperformers.

These are just some of the many relevant and actionable insights contained in our full 2022–23 Global Network Report. The report also includes a look at the technologies on the rise that are affecting the network, suggests steps to follow to transform your network, and gives practical advice on future-proofing your network.

Download the 2022–23 Global Network Report now.

Amit Dhingra is Executive Vice President of Enterprise Network Services at NTT

Business, Business Intelligence, Multi Cloud

Even as enterprises attempt to tackle economic headwinds with budget cutbacks, a research report from market research firm Gartner showed that end-user public cloud spending is expected to grow in 2023.

The report, which covers categories such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) among other cloud services, showed that public cloud spending is slated to reach a total of $591.80 billion in 2023, a 20.7% increase from $490.30 billion in 2022.

The 20.7% growth in spending is higher than the 18.8% growth recorded in 2022.  

“Current inflationary pressures and macroeconomic conditions are having a push and pull effect on cloud spending. Cloud computing will continue to be a bastion of safety and innovation, supporting growth during uncertain times due to its agile, elastic and scalable nature,” said Sid Nag, a vice president and analyst at Gartner.

Infrastructure-as-a-service to outpace other services in growth

Out of all the public cloud services, IaaS is expected to see the highest growth in 2023 with spending expected to reach $150.25 billion, an increase of 29.8% from $115.74 billion in 2022.

The reason for the growth, according to Gartner, is continued migration of enterprises to the cloud.

“IaaS will naturally continue to grow as businesses accelerate IT modernization initiatives to minimize risk and optimize costs,” Nag said, adding that moving operations to the cloud also reduces capital expenditures by extending cash outlays over a subscription term.

This benefit will play a vital role during times of economic uncertainty as cash will be critical to maintaining operations for an enterprise, the analyst said.

PaaS and SaaS to grow despite challenges

SaaS is expected to grow but might see the most impact from an economic downturn due to staffing challenges and enterprises’ focus on margin protection because of inflation, according to Gartner.

“Higher-wage and more skilled staff are required to develop modern SaaS applications, so organizations will be challenged as hiring is reduced to control costs,” said Nag.

SaaS spending is expected to reach $195.20 billion in 2023, an increase of 16.8% from $167.10 billion in 2022. SaaS spending in 2021 was estimated at $146.32 billion.

Explaining the continued growth in SaaS services, Nag said that cloud spending will grow due to its “perpetual” usage.

“Once applications and workloads move to the cloud they generally stay there, and subscription models ensure that spending will continue through the term of the contract and most likely well beyond,” Nag said.

PaaS spending is expected to grow by 23.2% to reach $136.40 billion in 2023 compared to $110.67 billion in 2022.

The growth in PaaS services can be attributed to its ability to facilitate more efficient and automated code generation for SaaS applications, according to the market research firm.

However, despite the generally upbeat outlook, Gartner cautioned that if enterprises end up deciding to make large budget cuts, cloud spending could be affected since it forms the biggest chunk of any IT budget.

“Cloud spending could decrease if overall IT budgets shrink, given that cloud continues to be the largest chunk of IT spend and proportionate budget growth,” said Nag.

Other public cloud services such as security capabilities, business process services (BPaaS), and desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) are all expected to grow in 2023, the report showed.

Budgeting, Cloud Computing

Sometimes one size does fit all.

That’s true in the case of audio specialist Sonos, which developed a universal IT stack that could be used by its 1,200 employees, manufacturing partners, and engineers scattered in 15 locations across the globe.

The innovation, dubbed “IT in a Box,” was developed in October 2020, just as CIO Ruth Sleeter took the helm, and though it was designed for more general use it was a panacea for the Sonos IT’s pandemic response. 

Also known informally as “Sonos Homes,” the solution enabled a scalable and expedient way to build a Sonos office environment in areas where no office exists. The project has earned Sonos a CIO 100 Award for IT leadership and innovation.

Sleeter credits the company’s “very virtual” and employee-centric corporate culture with the project’s inception at a time when COVID-19 was forcing employees out of physical offices worldwide.

“We believed in a very flexible, diversified workforce and were employee-centric well before the pandemic hit in order to get the right talent in the right places,” says Sleeter, noting that employers often forget, for example, that recent college graduates often share an apartment with several others and needed a solution that would work in tight areas as well as big manufacturing plants. “Even pre-pandemic, we were at the forefront of this work experience and used video and Zoom and Teams.”

Plans for IT in a Box began in mid-2020 when it became clear Sonos engineers needed a more dependable work environment to collaborate with external design and manufacturing partners — not relying on partners’ infrastructure, such as “guest wifi,” which sometimes proved unreliable and a security risk, according to the company.

The project got a big push with Sleeter’s arrival.

“One of the biggest impacts that I can have as a CIO is to drive culture through technology that leads to great innovation,” she says.

“We continue to raise our pace and our innovation around collaboration. We realized that there is a huge need to think globally about that and not to get super mired in our own experiences through the pandemic,” Sleeter adds. “We really look to try to solve this problem across our entire technology stack and one of the things that we ended up with was with this very portable infrastructure.”

A network-centric solution

Sonos’ IT in a Box consists of three components: a secured network, robust collaboration tools, and compute power for engineers designing the company’s high-end audio and entertainment gear.

Wide availability of components, particularly in an era of supply-chain fiascos, was a key design element for a solution that would be used not only by employees but also by third-party partners at large independent manufacturing sites globally, Sleeter says.

The network layer is the most unique aspect of the solution, according to Sonos, and was designed to ensure that any employee and partner from any location globally could confidently access the corporate platform.

The network, for example, is comprised of low-cost Meraki routers and access points that enable Sonos IT to manage and configure the installation from anywhere in the world using the Cisco Meraki management portal. This equipment is readily available from local vendors to allow for fast implementation, according to the company.

“We looked at the technology stack from a network perspective first, one that we can replicate and expand whether employees are working in a small location or a big office,” Sleeter says. “It’s perfectly adaptable. It can work for two people in a room, a mobile solution that people carry with them, or a full installation in a very big room with 10 seats and a big table. We made it very elastic and very scalable.”

Jim Hauser, senior director of cloud infrastructure and operations at Sonos, says the magic of the solution is in its simplicity. Prepackaging a company-specific IT stack with components that are widely available ensures that Sonos IT eliminates common communication snags that occur between employees and partner engineers at different locations globally.

It also guarantees access to its components for engineers or designers who may be in very remote locations with limited access to technology.

“In North America, we have a little bit of a blessing that in many cases, we have big spaces to work if we’re not in an office. But when you go outside of this very small region, in the rest of the world, it’s not always the case,” Hauser says. “A lot of our employees really value the fact that everybody has the exact same experiences if they’re walking into someone’s office here in Seattle or anywhere else in the world.”

The corporation, which competes with Bose and Bang & Olufsen, is headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif., and has many offices in the US and Europe. But most of its employees, designers, and engineers are scattered across the globe and require great flexibility and dependability in order to work as a team.

“We could be working with any type of partner [such as] an installation partner, an LSP, a contract manufacturer, a [retail] store even, and any location that pops up in which we need to put an engineer in,” Sleeter says. “We deploy this, and again that can be anywhere in the globe at any point, and they’re automatically connected into our Sonos network.”

Ging Yong Tan, senior business development manager at Pentech, an IT partner that supports Sonos’ manufacturing facilities in Malaysia, sees the solution as unique in the industry.

“The new IT infrastructure from Sonos has given the company’s manufacturing partners a convenient way to collaborate with Sonos employees around the world. I don’t see many companies set up their own collaboration infrastructure in a manufacturing facility. This solution offers time savings and productivity improvements for both the manufacturing team and my IT team which supports them,” he says.

The future of work, indeed.

CIO 100, Collaboration Software, Networking

We live in a highly connected world. Technology has broken down many barriers to trade.  Every aspect of retail has been disrupted, from the way shoppers research purchases to the methods they use to pay. However, despite the powerful forces of globalization, significant local differences exist. 

In some countries, the use of mobile phones is now an essential part of the physical shopping experience, while in other territories there’s a more obvious distinction between online and offline shopping. 

Payment innovations like buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) are popular in parts of the world but have yet to gain traction everywhere. And some countries are far more comfortable buying items like groceries online than others.

So, while it’s possible to sketch global trends, an understanding of local markets is vital if merchants are to create services, payment options, and communication strategies that will really resonate. The old saying ‘retail is detail’ is as relevant now as ever.


Every year, we publish reports about shopping trends around the world. This year’s reports, the Global Digital Shopping Index series, looked at six different markets: the UAE, Brazil, the USA, the UK, Australia, and Mexico. Here are some of the key local differences we’ve uncovered this year: 

Ringing the changes
Many of us got used to shopping online during the pandemic – and now that people are returning to stores, they’re using their phones to help them shop.

The overall use of mobile phones to enhance the in-store shopping experience is up 19% since 2020, but as the chart below illustrates, the use of phones varies considerably in different markets.


% of in-store shoppers who used mobile devices to assist with their shopping experiences *

Flexing up
One of the big developments in payments over the last few years has been the rise of flexible BNLP platforms. BNPL is used by the majority of consumers in Brazil but only a third of total shoppers in the UK.


Overall % of shoppers who use BNPL, by country *

Comparing the data on Brazil to the numbers in the UAE reveals some stark differences: over half of older consumers in Brazil use BNPL, whereas in the UAE it’s only around 1 in 20.

But while Brazil shows across-the-board adoption of BNPL, the biggest adopters are young Australians. They’re more than three times more likely to use flexible payment platforms than the oldest generation of consumers.


Share of consumers in selected markets who’ve used BNPL in the last year, by generation *

Food for thought
When the pandemic hit, much of modern life switched online – including activities like buying groceries. Today, just over 40% of consumers say they’re likely to order their groceries online. But that figure masks some big regional differences, with Brazilian shoppers half as likely to do so as consumers in the UAE.


Consumers who are “very” or “extremely likely” to buy groceries using a “digital-first” approach *

While on average people are less likely to buy groceries online than non-perishables like clothes or electronics, that’s not the case everywhere. Indeed, consumers in the UAE are far more likely to buy their groceries online than anything else.


Most likely categories to be bought using a “digital-first” approach, by country *

One size does not fit all
Digitalization, flexible payments and the use of mobile phones as part of the shopping experience are all factors no retailer can ignoreBut, as these stats show, merchants need to dig beneath the headline trends if they really want to succeed in individual markets.

A little local knowledge really could go a long way.

For the full picture, explore the Global Digital Shopping Index series now.

*  All data comes from the Global Digital Shopping Index and supporting research

IT Leadership