Q: What made you want to pursue this field? When did you first realise your passion for IT?
KG: Growing up as a kid in the US in the early 80’s era inspired by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, I always had a fascination and interest in tech with building, innovating and fixing things. My father, who was in the satellite telecommunications industry focused on innovation by building satellites and launching them innovating the way people communicated further too sparked my interest. At age 16, I set up my own company and started building my own PCs and reselling them and even had an e-commerce site selling PC components and did some small jobs fitting out corporate networks for small businesses when networking was a novel idea. Hence, I would say that it was quite early on that I knew I wanted to work in the tech industry and drive positive change though the use of technology.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self and people looking to get into the IT sector?
KG: The advice I would give to my younger self and others would be to do something you are passionate about and have a genuine interest in. If you love innovating, finding technical solutions for real world challenges, and wanting to drive the evolution and change in business, the way people work and interact then the tech industry is most definitely for you.
Q: CIOs from a decade ago had responsibilities in IT infrastructure. Do you think that with the evolution of businesses, we are seeing a shift where CIOs are now strategic business partners?
KG: Totally, the modern-day CIO has become more of a strategic business partner as most businesses today cannot operate without technology and most boards may today have an appreciation for technology but not know to what extent it can enhance their operation nor know how to implement. Most departments have developed an appetite for innovation but are not sure on execution and how it can be successfully adopted to drive greater business change and success. The days when IT was a back-office function working to fix and keep the lights on are shifting to a more digitally focused function, which means that they are now an enabler rather than a maintainer to all parts of an organisation's operational execution capability.
Q: Due to the ever-changing nature and scope of IT, from managing infrastructure to having overlaps in cyber security, are we seeing a struggle in defining IT roles and responsibilities? Could that play a role in increasing stress and taking a toll on mental health? If so, how can we address this problem?
KG: In the past, people would look for a work-life balance whereas today, in the hybrid and smart work environment, it has become more about work-life integration due to the nature of operations between highly connected people and businesses. That therefore has caused mental health to take on the spotlight as we live in such a connected society and being able to take some time away to disconnect is a struggle for most people, but even more so for people in the tech sector.
I say this because the IT department has a workload that is on an exponential trajectory as businesses become ever more technologically advanced in their operations. It is a department that is tasked to drive technological change and innovation throughout businesses every day and one that interfaces with all departments at a deeper level on how we operate within. The added pressure is then overlaid with keeping the business and its employees constantly online, connected, and safe from an increasing number of cyber threats which we have seen increasing globally.
There is not a straightforward way to address this, however, I do recommend people try and have time afterwork to unplug and stay away from their phones where possible to take up an activity or a task that would allow them to de-stress and we as business leaders also have a role to play to ensure we are supportive of this.
Q: Looking at the work you do in digital transformation, what does digital transformation mean to you and how do you measure its success?
KG: To me, digital transformation is about building a modern workplace on how we use technology as an enabler to enhance and accelerate the way we execute day-to-day operational tasks whilst improving better data-driven insights for businesses. On the consumer end, it is about being able to provide better technological engagement methods to interact and transact with our customers in a frictionless manner that is natural, thoughtful and one that surprises and delights your customers.
Q: What are some of the tech trends that firms should keep an eye out for?
KG: Consumers today are so much more tech-savvy and connected than they were a decade ago and firms really need to focus on ensuring that they can keep up with the pace of change in technology and consumer behavior. Key tech trends in retail seem to be around deeper omnichannel integration moving away from a multichannel approach. For example technologies that allow friction free checkout and ability to purchase items and have them delivered same day seems to be gathering momentum. Also, one area that’s taking starting to gather momentum is AI and ML and businesses need to focus on not only reviewing historical data but ability to predict emerging trends using key signals in the data they have. Lastly, the metaverse is something firms should keep an eye on as growth in this space is huge and whilst may not have an impact today in retail and hospitality, I foresee this as the next big channel long term for customer interaction and one for potential sales and growth.
Q: What are some strategies IT could adopt to alleviate business pressures?
KG: The IT strategy should focus on building a modern workplace and therefore, moving the IT workforce from keeping the lights on, to driving value add and innovation as this is where most businesses need their IT workforce focused on, now more than ever. To do this, there needs to be a shift from controlling and hosting all hardware and applications to transitioning to an IAAS and eventually, an SAAS model as one example. This has become much simpler and easier recently due to software authors moving their applications into this space. Another strategy is to focus on the business needs and look at operational processes and see how to automate these, reducing compliance issues and moving the workforce to be more analysis execution and customer-centric driven.
Kash Ghedia is a highly valued partner of the Global CIO Institute. Join the CIO Community to connect to Ghedia if you are interested in learning more about the work he does.