Houston_Panel copyThese are unprecedented times by any standard. It’s clear that the most innovative technology executives are keeping their businesses alive and moving forward each day. Nearly three months into this global pandemic, COVID-19 has affected the way the world does business in every sense. In that time, transformative industry leaders have enabled their teams to grow and contribute to the improved ways the world will do business forever.

In keeping communication open with its community, HMG Strategy hosted the HMG Live! Houston CIO Virtual Summit on May 1. This fifth installment of the HMG Live! Virtual Summit program featured an exciting mix of technology rock stars who shared how they are planning their futures, and what is meaningful as they look forward to the end of this crisis.

The HMG Live! audience heard from Renee Arrington, President and COO, Pearson Partners; Jamey Cummings, Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry; Jennifer Hartsock, VP and CIO, Baker Hughes; Paul Krueger, VP, IT and CIO, J.B. Poindexter Company, Inc.; Venu Madduri, CIO, Mears Group and Marie Myers, CTO, HP Inc.

Information Technology Steps into a New Light

The world has settled into a new stage of this digital revolution. Industry leaders worldwide are working at a break-neck pace to reimagine and reinvent their organizations as digital enterprises. IT is enabling the business to operate during these difficult times and technology-focused executives are in high demand. 

“CEOs and boards will be looking for CIOs and technology leaders who can turn things around,” Arrington said. “I think we'll see an emergence of increasing value for technology leaders.”

For example, this universal shift to digital has spurred executives to place security at the front of their thought processes.

“In times like this, supply chain risks float back to your organization,” Madduri said.

Having highly trained technology talent is the bedrock for managing those risks. Highly transformative times don’t just generate risk— it is important to consider the constructive possibilities as well.

“In this current crisis, we’re doing a lot of work with the business in using analytics to focus on ‘what-if’ scenarios and identify opportunities for the business,” Krueger said.

For example, Hartsock said Baker Hughes has been focused on virtual reality and augmented reality now more than ever. These prospects, she said, are aimed at addressing new virtual services.

Krueger claimed that virtual meetings and use of collaboration tools has seen a spike of roughly 700 percent, since the outbreak of COVID-19

"Customers want to interact with you in ways they haven't interacted in the past,” Myers said. “In some ways, this crisis has created a burning platform for HP, as we’re working virtually and consuming online.”

Now is the Time to Shine

Savvy CIOs and technology executives recognize the necessity to innovate and continually adapt to the environment around them. Creating a culture that’s based on change requires energy and positivity. But more importantly, it takes a strong commitment to communicate clearly with teams.

Madduri contends video conferencing is an incredibly useful tool for connecting people in highly distributed and isolated work groups. “Seeing each other on video calls helps to reassure people and foster collaboration and brainstorming,” he said.

Phone calls fall short in delivering the caliber of communication provided by the office environment.

“Picking up on visual cues is more important than ever for leaders in the current crisis,” Arrington said.

This is just one adjustment among many that need to be executed to stay relevant in a digital world. What many organizations need right now are leaders who can sift out all the noise, determine what matters, and communicate it in an articulate manner, according to Cummings.

“CISOs and technology leaders need to be the ‘calm in the storm’ right now,” he said.

It is important to remember that this is not simply a work-from-home environment, it is a work from lockdown environment, and upper-echelon leaders must empower their teams through this time of uncertainty.

“You need to be genuine to lead authentically in the current environment. Check your ego at the door and be real about it,” Arrington said. “Confidence without hubris is important.”

Employees are not expecting perfection in the wake of a worldwide digital shift, but they are expecting sincerity and a seat at the table.

"Courage is not the lack of fear, but strength in presence of it,” Madduri said. “Be humble with your teams and consider all ideas that are on the table.”

Distribute empowerment and positive energy from end-to-end to enable winning strategies. Krueger said J.B. Poindexter & Co. is focused on smoothing out processes and optimizing supply chains for a better tomorrow.

 “We're working on ways to be more agile and improve our ability to quickly scale,” he said.

With a prudent eye on operations, leaders can be confident in their decisions, even amid a multinational pandemic crisis. With a solid operational foundation, technology trailblazers can act on their courageous convictions and challenge the status quo.

"Leading boldly means knowing when to put our foot on the gas pedal to accelerate change and being able to stand up in front of our leaders to challenge things,” Hartsock said. “We’re coping with this reality through humility and transparency and focusing our teams on the go-forward, while protecting them as best we can.”

Moving the Business Forward

Madduri’s advice to CIOs and business leaders is: “2021 is going to happen. Be sure to continue to apply some focus on the strategies that will move the business forward. All companies, irrespective of size, need to think like start-ups.”

CIOs and technology executives also must help fellow members of the executive team to identify business opportunities that arise. “In this crisis, we have an unknown future state, and there are going to be opportunities that emerge for the business,” Krueger said.

Not much is known with certainty about the road ahead, but the panelists agreed the current environment is going to be a new normal.

"The ways in which we’re working now, in some respects, are going to become permanent fixtures,” Myers said.

This opens an opportunity to diversify the workforce, let go the grasp of geographical vicinity, and expand the use of digital tools.

As Myers pointed out, these rapid advancements are easier said than done, but with the right leadership mettle, they are possible.

“You have to be real,” Myers said. “Stay focused on the target and keep your team motivated, which is incredibly difficult in these circumstances.”

Listen to more of the incisive strategies and cutting-edge leadership tactics these rock stars shared by watching the archived recording of the HMG Live! Houston CIO Virtual Summit on HMG Strategy’s YouTube channel.

To learn more about HMG Live! and stay informed about upcoming Virtual Experiences, click here — and be sure to register for our Greenwich CIO Virtual Summit on June 10 today!