ARA Houston

Disruption in the Digital Age: An ARA Houston Recap

Our final ARA event for 2015 has come and gone, making this one of our most successful years to date! While none of our success would be possible without the support, enthusiasm and passion from our incredible network, we also wouldn’t be able to host such dynamic events were it not for the esteemed group of panelists we’ve worked with this year.

To that end, we’re fortunate enough to share details from this month’s ARA Houston event, Bridging the Gap in the Age of Disruption, compliments of Tina Baugh, Director of Information Technology at the Menninger Clinic. She was a table moderator and shares her take on the evening’s discussions.

The ARA Houston event topic was pulled straight from the Harvey Nash 2015 CIO Survey in association with KPMG and tied directly to digital innovation and how many companies are struggling to manage it. The pace of digital and the race to innovate has left many organizations lacking an enterprise-wide digital strategy and desperately seeking to acquire the right skills.

As our attendees and moderators took a deeper dive into the survey and discussed how we can begin to expedite a real change in the tech industry, they focused on the following areas of conversation:

  • Tech budget growth and the drivers behind the growth
  • The skills challenge: big data analytics
  • The gender gap within the CIO role
  • Security challenges facing global CIOs and their organizations

Not surprisingly, a number of additional points surfaced while dissecting these topics. As Tina notes below, some of the most important takeaways seem to tie directly to diversity, inclusion and advancement.

ARA Houston Recap & Important Takeaways – Tina Baugh, Director of Information Technology, Menninger Clinic

Diversity Continues to Be an Issue

One of the guests at the recent ARA Houston event remarked that he recently received 80 applications for one job opening, and yet, not a single applicant was a woman. Interestingly, this coincided directly with the Harvey Nash CIO Survey which said, “Despite receiving significant media and political attention in recent years, the proportion of women in IT leadership roles responding to the CIO Survey remains stubbornly low. Women make up only 8 percent of the total survey population in 2015, a number which has been broadly static in the last three years.”

This brought up the larger issue that we, as an industry, need to focus on attracting women into this field. Where does it begin and what can we do about it? Aside from creating diversity and inclusion programs, which many companies are starting to do, companies also need to begin paying attention to how they’re crafting their recruitment messages.

Another area of conversation which branched from the diversity discussion was regarding women re-entering the workforce after a number of years. More and more, we’re seeing this trend happen and yet, companies don’t have the correct infrastructure to welcome this top talent back into the fold. By addressing and providing support for women, we may begin to see real change in these statistics.

What is Digital Strategy? Why Do We Need t?

The CIO survey disclosed that only one in four organizations (or 27 percent) have a digital strategy that extends enterprise wide and while a further 26 percent have a strategy, it’s only in parts of their organizations. Given that 62 percent of CIOs expect disruption in the next two years, the data suggests not all organizations are prepared for digital disruption.

Many tables at the Houston event discussed digital strategy—“What is it?” and “Why do we need it?”—and shared opinions about how it is represented in their own companies. The definition, as we uncovered, is very dependent upon the company and industry itself. In oil and gas (industries very present in the Houston market), the idea of digital strategy really has prominent focus and is in the center of what many companies believe to be part of their overall growth strategy. All agreed that in order for it to be successful, however, there needs to be a buy-in from entire global company.

Feeling Insecure About Security

Now, more than ever before, cyber-security seems to be the top issue for many global organizations. As the CIO survey data suggestions, the majority of CIOs are concerned about profit and brand damage from a cyber-security attack and yet, only 23 percent of CIOs believe they are “very well” prepared to handle an attack. At my own table, I referenced this Gartner article which says that the number of prepared organization will nearly double over the next two-to-three years.

The conversation, it seems, has shifted from simply prevention to actual remediation and resolution. It’s no longer enough to just have a plan “in case”—companies must also have a contingency plan in place, so if and when an attack happens, the impact to shareholders and the business itself remains very low.

So, who is in charge of making sure there’s a plan in place? We agreed that the CDO/CEO/CIO all share responsibility. Each executive really needs to be able to perform all IT functions at all levels and not really focus on the “C title” only. In doing so, they’ll be able to establish credibility at all levels. No matter what, the CIO needs to have the partnerships with the business to help define the path for the organization. The CIO needs to be able to speak in business terms, not just IT terms, in order to effectively express and establish the correct path for the company.

While the conversation around digital innovation and disruption will and should continue, we are hopeful that by providing an outlet for the industry to come together and discuss this topic, that there can be real advancement and change.

Please consider this an extension of our ongoing mission to mentor women in technology. You can continue the discussion here, on LinkedIn or on Twitter at @ARAmentors where we invite you to share leadership and development lessons and challenges you think women in IT need to discuss.