I’m currently going back and forth between two extremely interesting books. Both have to do with oceans, of sorts. The first is “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, and the second is “Liferider: Heart Body, Soul, and Life Beyond the Ocean” by Laird Hamilton. Both are very different in what they cover but they also have some common themes around discovery, innovation and pursuing new avenues. In particular, Hamilton has one of my favorite quotes: Wiping out is an underappreciated skill.”

I am not a surfer, but I have definitely wiped out gloriously while attempting to surf and can appreciate the lessons learned from embracing new challenges, even if they lead to glorious failures.

On a less dramatic note, I took a step out of my professional comfort zone of speaking to service leaders and sat in on a discussion group of CIOs and CISOs. These IT and business security leaders, representing organizations across a variety of industries such as financial services, automotive, building management, industrial manufacturing, and high-tech manufacturing, were assembled to discuss their plans to “Harness Disruption – AI, Machine Learning, and Next Generation Opportunities.” The discussion was broken into three primary areas:

  • Strategic Planning and Collaboration – Building a Digital Strategy
  • Identifying Opportunities for Innovation – Aligning Current Infrastructure with New Technology
  • Designing for Disruption – Acquiring or Developing the Necessary Resources to Support a Digital Future State

A few nuggets from my table:

Artificial Intelligence Holds Great Promise, But…

  • Most solutions aren’t as mature as indicated by the market. CIOs were in general agreement that true artificial intelligence holds great promise for their organizations but weren’t convinced that available solutions were mature enough to meet business needs. There was the general sentiment that most available AI solutions were just packaged predictive analytics tools or ‘narrow AI’ and that they didn’t offer the depth of output promised by AI-related marketing.
  • Most organizations need to update their infrastructure to take advantage of AI. A common pain point across most CIOs was the need to upgrade their current infrastructure, regardless of advances in technology such as AI, AR, or otherwise. As stated by one attendee, “I have 8 systems that don’t talk to each other, I don’t need one more.” Newer solutions demand a richness of data that isn’t supported by most current infrastructures.

Security Can’t Be Limited to IT

Most security initiatives are currently rolled under IT and there is a concern that security remains an IT-focused problem when in reality, it must be addressed as a business risk and managed by enterprise risk management. Most CISOs in the group did report to IT, but several of the security leaders indicated that they had a seat at the leadership table or reported into the Chief Operating Officer. Regardless of operating structure, there was agreement that security needed to be prioritized as a business-wide initiative.

The Potential Conflict: Data Use and Data Protection

IT leaders recognize that AI and other solutions require better data. In fact, demands from customers for a more Amazon or Uber-like experience requires improved mining of customer, asset, work-related, and other data. However, these leaders also recognize that there is the potential for increased limits on the use and management of data, particularly as it relates to data privacy and security regulations. Organizations will have to navigate the evolving discussion around data privacy and data use as they determine the investments they want to make in data-hungry opportunities such as AI.

The Need to Remove the Link Between Innovation and Technology

CIOs believe that there is ample opportunity for innovation within organizations that doesn’t require a corresponding investment in technology or new systems. Too often, innovation is aligned with new technology, which discounts the investment in other forms of innovation. For CIOs, innovation should be seen as a way to reduce complexity for internal and external stakeholders, and this can be accomplished in multiple ways.

Given my inexperience with the audience, I tried to approach the discussion from the point of view of a Chief Service Officer and asked my table of CIOs what advice they would give to their corresponding service leaders. Here are a few ideas:

  • Involve the IT leader early in building an automation framework. My table of CIOs didn’t like it when I told them that they were often seen as roadblocks (rookie mistake?), but they advised that early involvement in the creation of a broader service automation roadmap would be ideal. This would enable both leaders to jointly identify areas of concern or need, prior to the involvement of software providers and consultants.
  • Understand the CIO’s needs. In a discussion regarding the interest in new solutions, one CIO highlighted his basic evaluation framework:
    • Do we already have this functionality or is it net new?
    • Does it reduce complexity (i.e. can it replace multiple systems?)
    • What is the real Total Cost of Ownership?

For CSOs, an understanding of the CIOs decision-making framework can be vital when presenting an automation or investment opportunity. More so, a general understanding of your CIO’s key pain points or perspectives on areas such as security, connectivity, and infrastructure, can be vital in formulating a development plan.

  • Highlight the business problem, not the gadget of the day. CIOs felt that they were often approached with new solutions that didn’t necessarily address a key business need. Quite often the solution or technology was being presented because it was new and interesting and could possibly support a particular use case. A well-defined business need was likely to get much more attention from the office of the CIO. If the problem was being felt by multiple functions and stakeholders, then it was likely to get an even higher priority.

Attending a CIO-focused event was extremely interesting and provided a unique opportunity into the mindset of a key business leader. I also got the feeling that the CIOs I spoke to would like to be seen as partners in business growth. They felt that technology projects were often aligned with cost cutting and efficiency and would like to see a greater focus on projects that prioritize growth. I believe that the CIO-CSO dynamic will become particularly interesting as we make progress around the concept of the digital thread and its impact on service execution and growth.

In terms of the general discussion around digital disruption, CIOs see the opportunity in new solutions and technologies, but generally believe that there is a lot of housecleaning to be done to really achieve the value promise of the digital future. To end with a Laird Hamilton quote:

“You eat garbage, you’re probably going to perform like garbage.”

The idea of the digital thread and the discussion of the digital future will be a key focus of ServiceMax’s upcoming Maximize event series. I hope that we are able to use the events as a platform to spearhead or support the discussion between CSOs and CIOs. If interested in learning more about Maximize, please feel free to visit www.servicemax.com/maximize.

I’m always happy to get your thoughts and feedback. Email me at or tweet @suma1r.

ABOUT Sumair Dutta

sumair duttaSumair Dutta is the VP of product marketing at ServiceMax. In this role, he helps shape ServiceMax messaging and positioning to support customers and prospects. Previously, Sumair worked closely with leaders of service businesses to define and shape their service vision while working hand in hand with implementation teams to execute on established service plans. Sumair is a thought leader in the field service and service management spaces and has conducted numerous research projects in the areas of field service, customer support and business strategy. He brings more than 15 years of experience in studying, analyzing and guiding field service organizations, first at the Aberdeen Group and most recently as the chief customer officer at The Service Council.