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CXO Series

Khalid Kark, Director, CIO Program at Deloitte shares his perspective & insight regarding the roles of CIO’s and challenges they are facing in technology industry.

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Khalid is a director with Deloitte LLP where he is the head of research and insights for CIOs. Khalid has served as a trusted advisor to large, multinational clients, and has decades of experience helping technology leaders anticipate and plan for the impacts of new technology. Previously, Khalid led the CIO Research at Forrester Research. His research has been widely featured in media outlets such as Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, The Boston Globe, and CIO magazine.

Sajid Khan: Khalid, thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Can you begin by sharing your perspective on the role of Managing Director for the CIO Program at Deloitte?

KK: Sure. I am part of Deloitte’s CIO program, a program designed to equip and advise CIOs on various elements on their role. My role focuses on engaging with CIOs in an advisory capacity and developing thought leadership to address issues that are important for them. It is an exciting role that allows me to interact and engage with some of the smartest minds and gain insights from their experiences and perspectives. Our research is regularly featured in various media outlets and has been externally recognized to be unique and differentiated. So I am very proud of our team and what they do.

SK: In your opinion, what have been some of the biggest challenges faced while delivering and leading research on technology leadership?

KK: First challenge – Google. I have been in research for almost two decades now, and more than ever I see people spewing off expert opinion on something they have no practical experience with. They have “educated” themselves by going online and researching on the topic. Having said that, ubiquity of information and perspectives keeps researches on their toes to look for new angles and perspectives that are not obvious.

Second challenge – velocity of change. The changes in technology are rapid and unrelenting. As a technology researcher you have to be on the bleeding edge, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the pace, evolution and obsolesce of technologies.

SK: Would you like to share some of your key initiatives since you have joined Deloitte back in 2015?

KK: My first goal was to establish a team that could produce differentiated thought leadership in the marketplace. We then started collecting data globally and conducting primary research. Now our team runs various research activities and produces regular content for CIOs. We are responsible for running our global CIO study where more than 1200 CIOs participate across 48 countries. We produce regular content through our “CIO Insider” series and have built capacity to take on complex research projects periodically.

SK: Since you interact with the CIOs frequently, in your opinion, how effective are CIOs in their role and where do you see them in 2020?

KK: Many CIOs know that they are at an inflection point. Most of the CIOs I talk to are really excited about their roles.  I often hear them say “this is the best time to be a CIO” or “I am energized by the impact we are creating.” But business expectations of a tech leader have dramatically changed in the past decade and if you are not ready to embrace constant change, you are probably not a good candidate for the job.

Our research uncovered three specific architypes of CIOs. Trusted operators – primarily responsible for ensuring effective, reliable, secure and efficient technology environment, change instigators, responsible for driving large complex business change and business co-creators, focused on creating new opportunities for top line growth. Our research suggests that roughly 55% of CIOs today are Trusted Operators, and 34 are business co-creators and 11% Change Instigators.

We are already seeing a dispersion in the role of a technology leader. With the emergence of Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Data Officers and Chief Digital Officers, there is no single technology leader in some organizations. I believe that by 2020 as technology becomes more important across businesses, we will see more dispersion in the role. So CIOs have a choice either to step up to this challenge or step aside for other business leaders to do it.

SK: What trends do you see ending their life cycle, what are some trends that you see for the future?

KK: There are many- but I’ll point to one significant one trend that will impact most CIOs in the very near future, if it hasn’t already impacted them – it is the rapidly changing talent models. It is not uncommon to see outsourced infrastructure for a large company, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. CIOs and technology leaders need to plan for 1) Gig economy, a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work. 2) Robotics and natural language processing allowing robots to work alongside humans, we have already started to see these co-bots. 3) The impact of artificial intelligence and automation on IT jobs. These jobs that are currently done by highly trained workers can be automated, thanks to the advance of deep learning and other forms of artificial intelligence.

SK: What role do you see 3rd party strategic consultants have now?

KK: I would broaden this to the whole technology ecosystem. If a CIO does not leverage their tech. ecosystem, they will not succeed, period. The ecosystem includes technology vendors, strategic partners, suppliers, and even technology incubators that can help keep CIOs and their teams on the leading edge. Today savvy CIOs are using their ecosystem for three things. 1) Focusing their efforts on systems and technologies that deliver competitive advantage to their organization, for everything else, they are looking for vendors, increasingly these are cloud providers 2) Driving large complex business transformations leveraging the expertise of service providers that have done those hundreds of times. 3) Looking for niche providers with specific expertise they may be lacking in their IT team.

SK: What has been the most memorable experience for you as a technology researcher?

KK: As a technology researcher you are often asked to speak at conferences, and that is where interesting things happen usually. Once I spoke to about 100 people in the room, most of them were furiously taking notes while I was speaking, so I told the crowd that I will end my 45 min presentation in 30, so we have more time for discussion and questions. When I ended and asked the audience for questions – there was complete silence, not a single question or a comment. The organizer then told me that many of the participants were not well versed in English and would not be able to ask question. (yes, this session was in a foreign country.) One other time I had to present right after Malcolm Gladwell, in a conference, as you can imagine it was a hard act to follow.

SK: What advice would you offer to our readers who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

KK: Technology Research is a fascinating area where things keep changing so quickly that you will never be bored. But it also requires a unique skillset, you need to be good at three things. 1) Analysis – You have to love data and have a logical bent, as a researcher you’ll probably spend the most time analyzing data. If you don’t love data and analysis, you are not a good fit. Learn the tools and techniques of data analysis. 2) Telling a story – Data without a compelling story and the right context is useless. You need to be good a simplifying things and describing you’re finding in interesting and engaging manner. 3) Presenting. Often people underestimate this skill, but I have found this to be the most critical skill in getting your message out and driving impact.

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