Insurance or not, many organizations are transforming themselves with agile models. We spoke to a top leader of an international insurance firm that is leveraging Agile approaches more often and in more projects. Here are some learnings we discovered.

What challenges did you need to overcome to be successful?

As we looked to scale Agile across our organization, one of the biggest problems that we experienced was that our tool wasn’t, well, agile. It was little more than a fancy looking spreadsheet and our staff spent their time battling with the tool rather than leveraging the tool to help the business. That just wasn’t sustainable.

In what ways do you address these issues?

Just like any other aspect of business, the ability to deliver work effectively using Agile requires a combination of the right information driving the ability to make sound decisions in a timely manner, and a tool that allows people to focus on doing their work rather than interacting with the tool. We needed to find a solution that could easily integrate with our other enterprise tools, and that could help us become more effective and efficient.

What was your end solution, and what impact did it have?

For us, Rally Software from Broadcom was the answer. We recently ran our first PI planning session using the tool and we cut the duration of the planning session by two hours. Multiply that across the number of people and the number of times we plan PIs and it becomes a material saving. And of course, that efficiency means staff time can be redirected into work that adds value to the business.

Rally integrates with our other tools — delivering information, consuming information, and generally improving workflow and automation. That means people have the information they need in a way that works for them, allowing them to focus on their tasks. We’re also planning to leverage Rally as a decision-making tool for the business — helping teams to prioritize and refine user stories and drive more improvements.

How is this driving your success?

We’re breaking down silos. With the ability to collaborate in a tool that actually helps us deliver, we are strengthening relationships between business and IT. That improves understanding and ultimately drives engagement in ensuring that the best possible solutions are delivered — so we can keep increasing customer and business value.

Conclusion

Through effective implementation of agile solutions such as Rally Software, teams can enhance innovation, optimally balance resources, and fuel dramatic improvements in delivery. Going agile is the first step toward more impactful Value Stream management — so what are you waiting for? If you find yourself in a similar business scenario and would like to learn best practices to unlock excellence with Agile analytics, be sure to download our eBook, “How To Interpret Data from Burnup / Burndown Charts.

Collaboration Software

In July, cloud-based subscription management platform provider Zuora hosted events in Melbourne and Sydney attended by leading executives from global and Australian recurring revenue businesses. Discussions covered a multitude of topics, but one that participants returned to time and time again was complexity as it related to technology.

Digitisation of industry has created remarkable opportunities and allowed for efficiency of a kind previously unimaginable. This shift has brought about radical simplification. What was once strictly manual can now be automated; a process that yesterday might have taken a week might now take a day – tomorrow it may take just hours. This all-encompassing disentanglement has led to rapid growth, entirely new client and consumer expectations, and ultimately, perhaps ironically, to an ecosystem of (mostly) cloud services with a complexity all its own.

Responding to customer needs

Scott Westbrook is the Vice President of Data & Technology for Deputy, a shift worker management software provider based in Sydney. At the Zuora event he said that client feedback isn’t just taken seriously at the company; it’s treated like a precious metal.

“When a Deputy user tells us about a problem they’re having or a function they require, that message is immediately sent around the company. It’s on the Slack channel for multiple teams. The CEO is looking at that sentiment as closely as anyone.”

But this dedication to serving clients and adapting to shifting or novel requirements – a hallmark of strong subscription companies – brings with it evermore elaborate protocols, processes and software solutions. In other words, in the quest to demonstrate continued value to clients, and as the company grows into new regions with different taxation laws and regulations, avoiding complexity is impossible.

“From the outside, you look at what we do and you think ‘That’s really easy’ but it’s actually incredibly complicated. We have more than 40,000 customers,” Westbrook said.

For Carbar, the vehicle subscription startup founded in Melbourne in 2016, the challenge of complexity is related to growth, as well, but also to major changes in company strategy.

Kieron Wogan, Cheif Marketing Officer, Carbar

Zuora

Chief Marketing Officer, Kieron Wogan, said at the event that an average Carbar customer subscribes to the service for more than two years. After that period, many “churn” not because they find the service unsatisfactory but, on the contrary, because they decide they want to own the car they enjoyed using through Carbar.

“We realised we could be involved in both the subscription side of car use, but also in the next step. So we’ve partnered with CarClarity to help customers in this situation to convert their subscription into a loan.

“The genius of this proposition is the ‘and’. Rather than subscribe or buy. We now offer customers the opportunity to subscribe and then buy.”

The aim is to create a simpler, more seamless service for the customer, understanding that this naturally leads to what Wogan describes as more “moving parts” at an operational level.

“If it doesn’t plug straight in, we’ll look elsewhere”

At the centre of all this complexity is often a very simple question: “Will all the digital platforms talk to each other?”

Message Media is a good example of just how critical this question is in the subscription economy. Founded in 2000, the B2B company helps businesses send messages to their customers. Success led to growth and the opportunity to expand both organically and through acquisition. It also led to global industry attention, and in 2021 Swedish software-as-a-service giant Sinch acquired the Melbourne-based company.

Igor Zevaka Director, Product Delivery, Nearmap

Zuora

What’s followed is a need to integrate and migrate platforms, making certain that, for example, a Zuora product (Message Media uses Zuora Billing), harmonises with platforms like Salesforce and Zendesk used by the subsidiary or parent company. 

This connection, which must be immediate and involve minimum friction, is important for all except the most steadfastly analogue companies, but essential for those who offer cloud services. As Igor Zevaka, Director of Product Delivery at aerial imagery company Nearmap, put it: “How does it all fit together? Can I plug in a platform and expect it to work in my system straight away? If I can’t, we might have to look elsewhere.”

Who’ll serve the service providers?

With all this being the case, a company like Zuora, offering the kind of billing, revenue and collection software that is imperative for any subscription company, the complexity of client businesses leads to complexity for their own.

Nick Cherrier, Zuora APAC Chair, Subscribed Institute

Zuora

Nick Cherrier is the APAC Chair of Zuora’s Subscribed Institute and says that Zuora has responded to this multiplicity with a significant transformation.

“Zuora has greatly accelerated the pace of its product releases in the last few years. We realised we needed to be more agile and get these products, or features, into the hands of customers as soon as possible. They’re stable, but there’s room for iteration. We want to evolve them while they’re in use rather than letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

“Our Revenue product is a good example of that change in mindset. It was and remains an excellent product, but as a product we obtained through acquisition, there were some initial challenges integrating with our existing suite. We changed that and today we see that customers with the top Net Promoter Scores are those that use the complete chain of Zuora Billing, Collect and Revenue. That lines up with a joint study we conducted with McKinsey recently, which demonstrated subscription businesses with optimised quote-to-cash processes grew four times faster than their peers.”

What’s the right approach to complexity?

None of the executives at the Zuora events spoke of complexity as a hurdle to step around. For them, it was a challenge to be overcome, a puzzle to be solved, an inevitability to be welcomed.

“At the moment, much of what we do is done on a monthly basis. We work on MRR [Monthly Recurring Revenue], so that metric makes sense to a degree. But as we’re predominantly usage based, it also means you need to make predictions based on what happened last month, which can be very complicated,” Westbrook said, referring to Deputy’s approach to forecasting revenue. 

“I want to move to doing things on a daily basis. When you’re seeing data come through in real time you don’t need to make those complicated assumptions anymore. It opens up a whole world of different options.”

Cherrier says that embracing multiplicity, as long as it’s supported by seamless software integration and judicious management, can become a competitive advantage.

“Complexity is not something companies should shy away from. As a company matures, it will add products, price models, expand into new territories and segments, add payment methods, even acquire or merge with other solutions.

“The key to success is to ensure you find the right balance in your design choices between complexity and simplicity. It has a material impact.”

SaaS

The CIO 100 is celebrated internationally, with the CIO 100 UK 2022 being announced on 22nd September. Following the awards ceremony, the virtual CIO 100 Conference will begin with a spotlight on the UK CIO #1, highlighting what crowned them the number one position, initiatives they have recently been working on, and what they are looking to achieve next. The event will also host a panel with the UK CIOs 2-4, which will follow a similar discussion. 

A key theme this year across the CIO 100 has been a new focus on transformation, following the efforts in previous years handling the Covid-19 pandemic. A key change is the innovation required in a world that is now more digital than ever before. As organizations strive to recover from the uncertainty wrought by the pandemic, they are taking a digital-first approach to building resilience into their operations. A session by Crawford Del Prete, President of IDC, will focus on how the journey to future digital enterprise has accelerated, driven by significant investments in new customer experiences, new digital ecosystem business models, digital supply chains, and future of work initiatives. 

Martha Poulter, CIO at the Royal Caribbean shares her Cloud at Sea story. The Royal Caribbean IT Team used the pandemic-era downtime to address some of the business challenges around using cloud-based technologies and systems when operating on the open sea — one of the few places in the world without persistent connectivity. Her session with Maryfran Johnson delves into how the company uses a mix of cloud, edge computing and satellite solutions to deliver seamless customer experiences whether ships are in port or untethered on the open ocean dealing with adverse weather conditions.  

As the competition for talent in the tech industry grows at all levels of the workforce, building a people-first culture that champions innovation, diversity, and flexibility is crucial. Tim Martin, CTO of Audible speaks with Beth Kormanik on how Audible has succeeded to inspire customer obsession, agility to adapt, and where employees are not afraid to fail in “their pursuit of technology disruption”.  

The CIO Boardroom session, hosted at lunchtime during the event, will bring CIOs in the UK together to discuss what is next for their roles. With a discussion on the importance of employees’ digital experience in organisations through how CIOs can better lead with purpose, the boardroom will look at how IT leaders are moving towards a new way of thinking of leadership and how to succeed in an increasingly virtual office landscape.  

The final sessions of the day will delve further into new approaches to IT leadership, shining the light on how the CIO 100 members have adapted their IT strategies to align with what the wider organisation is looking to achieve, continue to empower their teams, and embraced this new focus in transformation.   

There is still time to register for the event, which you can do here, and you can reach out to the Foundry UK Events Team with any questions you have and to find out more about future speaking opportunities and security events planned for 2023. 

CIO 100, Events, IDG Events, IT Leadership

By Thomas Been, DataStax

Winning enterprises take data, process it, and use it to deliver in-the-moment experiences to customers. Starbucks, Netflix, The Home Depot, and countless other organizations large and small have built great success based on this understanding. But what does that success look like, and what are the challenges faced by organizations that use real-time data?

Released today, The State of the Data Race 2022 is a summary of important new research based on an in-depth survey of more than 500 technology leaders and practitioners across a variety of industries about their data strategies. The survey was developed to explore how organizations use real-time data – the data that powers in-the-moment use cases such as recommendations, personalization, always-up-to-date inventory, and logistics. The results show that real-time data pays off in some very important ways: higher revenue growth and increased developer productivity.

Let’s take a closer look at three surprising findings that surfaced in the report.

Real-time data drives revenue growth

Speed is everything when it comes to staying competitive. Fortunately, technology has evolved to the point where it can support the need for speed – now companies of all sizes have the ability to build data architectures that can leverage data for powerful, in-the-moment user experiences.

And, according to the survey results, that’s exactly what they are doing – and they’re driving real results with it.

When looking specifically at responses from the top users of real-time data – organizations that excel at leveraging data to create new products and revenue streams – there is a strong strategic focus on real-time data. More than half of these organizations (52%) say their corporate strategy is focused on building organization-wide value with real-time data.  

Of these organizations, 42% say that real-time data has a “transformative impact” on revenue growth. But perhaps even more significant is a finding that applies to all the organizations involved in the survey (not just the data leaders); it shows a strong correlation between building a real-time data strategy and revenue growth. Overall, 71% of all respondents agree (either completely or somewhat) that they can tie their revenue growth directly to real-time data.

In other words, an organization-wide focus on leveraging real-time data is a proven path to accelerate revenue growth.

To quote Greg Sly, senior vice president of infrastructure and platform services at Verizon: “Real-time data is air. If you don’t have real-time data, you’re back in 1985.”

Developer productivity improves with access to real-time data

There’s another significant advantage that real-time data brings to the organizations that make it a priority: it helps developers, the people responsible for building instantaneous experiences, do their jobs better.

When asked how the use of real-time data has impacted developers’ jobs, a majority (66%) of real-time-data-focused organizations agree that developer productivity has improved. 

It should come as no surprise that developers are the ones with the tightest relationship with real-time data. The largest percentage of all organizations (27%) agreed that developer teams were the groups that worked most extensively with real-time data (this percentage was just a bit higher at 32%, for organizations that hold real-time data as core to their strategy).

Coupled with the finding that developer teams are the ones who work the most with real-time data, the importance of ensuring that developers have fast and ready access to real-time data becomes particularly significant. For these teams, it’s all about ease of building and time to market. The complexity and siloed technologies that plague many organizations’ data estates can be a serious detriment; developers shouldn’t have to grapple with figuring out where the data they need resides, or how to access it. This is particularly important in light of how real-time data impacts how developers get work done.

(For more on enabling developers with real-time data, read You’ve Got the Data. Why Can’t Your Developers Build with It?).

Yet it’s not just about enabling access to the data. It’s also about reorienting how organizations operateto make developers more productive.

Compared to organizations with less aggressive commitments to real-time data, those who have an organization-wide strategy for creating value with it are more likely to:

Have clear product owners (43% versus 32%)Have business unit accountability of data (42% versus 30%)Have line-of-business staff, developers, and data scientists working together in cross-functional teams (45% versus 32%)

This organizational pattern lines up every role behind one overarching goal on the way to creating value: shipping an application.

Until an application ships, all the good ideas in the world won’t impact the customer experience – or the bottom line. Organizations that make a strategic commitment to creating value with real-time data are making the changes that focus attention, align incentives, and drive prioritization around the fact that everyone will sink, or swim together based on developers’ productivity.

Real-time data challenges are organizational

Across all the organizations polled in the survey, the top three challenges they face when trying to leverage real-time data are complexity, costs, and accessibility (39%, 32%, and 30%, respectively, identified these as their top hurdles).

These hurdles stem in part from the fact that over time, many enterprises have invested in a variety of point technology solutions, resulting in data that’s locked in a variety of silos across the organization, making it difficult and often costly for developers to access the data they need to build applications.

These particular challenges, however, don’t rank as highly for data leaders. And the reason why has a lot to do with the progress these organizations have made in building real-time data architectures. The top issue for the most accomplished real-time data organizations is the availability of the necessary skills in their business units to leverage real-time data. The largest percentage (35%) identify this as their leading challenge.

This finding indicates the successful trail data leaders have blazed with their real-time data architectures. They’ve built the technology foundation to successfully leverage real-time data, and now they’re working on the next step. They understand that the right place to focus on building data products and the revenue they generate isn’t in IT, it’s within the business units.

Everyone can get real

The findings in The State of the Data Race 2022 reinforce the fact that the value of apps that use data to drive smart actions in real time is tangible and measurable in dollars and cents. The technology is ready, waiting, and openly available for organizations of all sizes. At DataStax we’ve worked to remove the barriers to mobilizing real-time data by offering an open data stack that enables enterprises to quickly build the smart, highly scalable applications required to be a data-driven business.

An organization’s commitment, imagination, and drive are all that’s needed to join the ranks of companies that leverage real-time data for revenue growth and productivity.

Download a free copy of The State of the Data Race 2022 today.

DataStax

About Thomas Been:

Thomas leads marketing at DataStax. He has helped businesses transform with data and technology for more than 20 years, in sales and marketing leadership roles at Sybase (acquired by SAP), TIBCO, and Druva.

Data Management, IT Leadership

There are no easy solutions when it comes to creating diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. Creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace comes with many challenges – and requires a nuanced approach that might not play well with existing blunt and outdated mechanisms.

To be successful in this space, companies are often faced with ensuring entire workforces comply with corporate directives while developing and nurturing cultures of inclusion, belonging, and respect.

[ Lisez la version française : « Comment les dirigeants canadiens des TI peuvent favoriser la diversité et l’inclusion » ]

While there are many pitfalls when it comes to hiring a diverse workforce, it can be done if you take a structured approach, says Carolyn Levy, group president of staffing and recruitment agency Randstad Technologies.

“A challenge that we’ve had is just making sure that our journey has D&I really embedded into our organization from all aspects, [including] what we do with recruitment,” says Levy, who also acts as chief diversity officer for Randstad Canada.

“We’re able to reach different marginalized communities and work to represent the community that we serve.”

Diversity and Inclusion, IT Leadership

There’s no roadmap. No standard approach. No required certifications. No tried-and-true methods to guarantee success. Executive coaching sounds like a profession at the opposite end of the spectrum from the CIO role.

Yet for former CIOs Jim Rinaldi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Jim DiMarzio of Toyo Tires and Mazda North American Operations, their recent career transitions to coaching felt like a natural next step after the mentoring work they’ve done for decades.

“Coaching is very individual,” says DiMarzio, who retired from Toyo in July 2021 and now serves as an IT Executive Coach with IDG’s CIO Executive Council. “It’s really about exploring the person’s plans and getting to know who they are professionally. His clients are first-level through mid-level IT managers. “The good thing is, they all want to talk to you and improve, so it’s positive right out of the box.”

“More people in our profession should learn how to coach, not just how to manage,” says Rinaldi, who retired from NASA/JPL earlier this year and now serves as executive director for Innovate@UCLA. “The workforce we have coming up today is digitally enabled but lacking experience.”

Catching up with these longtime IT leaders recently, we talked about the challenges they’re hearing about and helping with in their new coaching roles.

Maryfran Johnson: In today’s hybrid/remote workplaces, how are coaching needs changing when it comes to developing next-gen leaders?

Jim DiMarzio

Jim DiMarzio: There are a lot of nuances with the way people are managing remotely today, but communication is still the No. 1 concern. In some cases, managers are finding it easier to reach those people who used to hide in their offices and not answer the phone. But it’s also more difficult now—without those face-to-face meetings—to get your visions and ideas across about where technology can take the business next.

Jim Rinaldi:  I see two changes that are really happening. First, we have a growing workforce that can work from anywhere, and second, this new workforce expects managers to treat them the way they want to work. How does a manager and team look at the expectations of this new workforce? How do you make sure it’s inclusive and has much greater decision transparency?

As we get through all this business and digital transformation, there needs to be a management transformation, too. We need to rethink how this new workforce is being managed and motivated, and there’s not enough focus on it yet. One resource I’ve been recommending lately is Keith Ferrazzi’s new book, “Competing in the New World of Work.”

What leadership lessons did you learn the hard way (and are now sharing as a coach?)

Jim Rinaldi

Rinaldi:  Acceptance of change and how you deal with it, personally. I grew up in the days when if you didn’t move upward in the company, you weren’t moving. My reward system was always based on that. Now I wonder: Why didn’t I go and do something more, like get an advanced degree in computer science or math?

When I’m talking to someone today who has an opportunity to grow in a different way, I say, ‘Why not?’ Should it always be about money, promotions, and titles? Make sure you’re doing what you have a passion for, not just another stepping stone.

DiMarzio: There are three top things I talk about in my coaching work. No. 1: Have a vision and a strategy, regardless of your level, that you can rally your team around and feel good about. At the director level and up, that needs to be a business strategy everyone understands. No. 2: Always ensure you’re talking honestly to your staff, especially at the middle management level. Make sure they are talking to their staff, too. You have to have trust in those people to tell you what’s going on. No. 3: Make sure you have a good environment for the team. It takes only one person to poison that atmosphere.

Looking at your own career strategically, what was the best decision you ever made?

DiMarzio: I was working at Subaru on the east coast in the 1980s, and it was very large organization at the time, doing really well. As an IT manager in a very large shop, I knew I needed to work with the business more. But the reaction I’d get was always ‘You’re the IT guy, why are you talking?’ So, I went back to school to get my MBA. Once I was able to talk about the business, working with them on a vision of how technology could help, that was a turning point in my career.

Rinaldi: I’d say the best decisions are always around hiring good people. When you get the right people for the organization and job, your life is so much better! When you don’t, you’ve failed and have to fix it. I figured out early on that I enjoyed working with people like scientists, executives and professionals who I could trust and build relationships with. I learned that I enjoyed working at places that celebrated their successes and valued me as an employee. My desire to exceed expectations was driven by the environment I worked in.

What do you wish you figured out earlier in your career and would advise other IT leaders to do today?

DiMarzio: I’d have to say the value of networking and talking to other CIOs—not just for career purposes but to find out the best info about industry vendors or hear about where others are finding talent. The networking I did in the automotive industry was also important. For example, I kept in touch with the president of Land Rover after I left there, and he was one of the reasons I ended up at Mazda, where I stayed for 15 years.

Rinaldi:  My advice is to find a leader you admire, and then watch them, listen to them. Most CEOs and bosses are pretty good and you can learn from them, but also look at CEOs you don’t know. The important point is to observe people and watch their styles. And realize that in your 20s and 30s, you don’t have a leadership style yet! But you will develop one.   

This article originally appeared in CIO’s Career Strategist newsletter. Sign up today!

Careers, IT Leadership