Entering a Strong Second Year for Rhode Island CIO Forum

In today’s digital landscape, the role of Chief Information Officer has gone through one the largest shifts for a job definition. CIOs are carrying more responsibility in areas where they previously didn’t have a strong presence. A short time ago, only CEO’s and CFO’s were invited to sit at the table with the Board of Directors. Now CIO’s are not only expected to take a seat, they are expected to present business strategy, revenue opportunities and innovation to the operations of the company.

IT leaders are now more actively involved in identifying opportunities for competitive differentiation (21%), crafting new go-to market strategies and technologies (19%), and studying up on market trends and customer requirements in order to identify new commercial opportunities (16%). – IDG, 2019 CIOs Advance Their Strategic Roles

From that same report, it is predicted that these three aspects of a CIOs’ role will increase with intensity with driving business innovation as the higher focus. To bring such innovation and opportunities to a company, CIOs can no longer be just a functional CIO but a strategic leader who can bring transformation.

Tech Collective, which offers talent and resources for Rhode Island’s technology industry, along with RI Governor Raimondo, recognized this transformation and developed The Rhode Island CIO Forum. The Forum was established to provide an environment where CIOs can meet to expand their network and advance information technology thinking within the state. It is now, successfully, one year after the kickoff, a thriving group that meets three times a year for major speaker events and also smaller, less formal monthly CIO Coffee and Conversation gatherings. The mission is to advance information technology thinking, vet out future IT programs and policy decisions for RI community leaders and expand the network of CIOs.

The forum series kicked off in late spring 2018 with Jack Lenk, Senior Producer for Tellart, who consults with clients and coordinates design, development, and fabrication teams to define and deliver interactive projects. Jack’s presentation targeted how CIO’s are being increasingly asked to lead their businesses’ digital transformation and how teams are challenged in creating the vision. Jack touched upon the need for the ingredients to design new digital endeavors; improve customer experience and engagement; and drive new revenue streams. Through selected case studies of Tellart’s recent works, Jack demonstrated core principles for successful product development and communication learned from two decades of practice as a leading design consultancy operating at the frontier of emerging technologies.

In fall 2018, RI CIO Forum welcomed Martha Heller, CEO of Heller Associates, for her discussion of “What it Means to be a Transformational IT Leader.” Her presentation tackled and embraced the changing role of the CIO. Heller Associates being the premier source for CIO and Executive Technology Talent, this inspirational talk invited CIOs across diverse industries to consider their role in terms of “products,” and not “projects.” Martha introduced ideas on how CIOs can transform their teams into co-creators instead of functional order-takers by having them become Transformational IT leaders and creating vision for their company’s future. Martha complimented her message through stories from some of the world’s most successful companies and with highly relevant lessons learned from the CIOs who led those successful transformations.

The series continued earlier this year as the Forum welcomed Michael Lebovitz, Senior Vice President of Innovation at FM Global who shared how FM Global built their own innovative initiative from building a mission and vision, to creating a governance structure that fits with their corporate direction and organizational culture. Michael additionally explained how FM Global targeted opportunities, understood customer needs through design thinking and ethnographic interviewing, and their involvement in the innovation ecosystem here in RI.

Between these themed-optimized forums, the Tech Collective hosts organic, lighter discussions through its monthly CIO Coffee and Conversation series. This, also, gives the CIOs an opportunity to meet with its members to assess the most significant pain-points so the RI CIO Forum can respond quickly with collaborative events and training opportunities to create a collective solution.

According to IDG 2019 report “CIO Advance Their Strategic Role,” 90% of CIOs who participated, believe that in order to navigate through these new complex landscapes and balancing acts between IT operations and strategy, CIOs must have a strong network of support and advisers. With this a strong need across all CIOs assesments, the RI CIO Forum stimulates a new way that CIO’s can come together and explore how to successfully steer through critical stages of business growth, challenge ideas, network, and problem solve.

The Forum will continue to explore the power of digital transformation and innovation as well as explore new topics like blockchain, data analysis, cloud computing, internet of things, machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality and more based on the dynamic needs of this growing group of CIOs.

But first, we decided to spend two forums on cybersecurity. The Tech Collective is forming a CISO Forum at the request of their Cyber Security Steering Committee. The first two meetings of the new CISO group will occur concurrently with two CIO forums. On June 20th, we welcomed Michael Santarcangelo, a renowned national security consultant and speaker. His high energy talk covered a lot of ground on straight talk on improving the performance of your team.

Our next RI CIO Forum meeting is on September 17th from 4-7:30pm and we’re very excited that our speaker is Social Engineering guru, Chris Hadnagy. Chris is a nationally recognized expert in social engineering and his talk at Tech Collective will be on Social Engineering Attacks: 4 Main Vectors. His efforts in fostering the structure, professionalism, and awareness of social engineering have helped to convey social engineering as one of the top threats in security to individuals and organizations today. For more information about Chris and this event click here to read more about it and to register.  The Rhode Island CIO Forum is free for Tech Collective members! It is open to CIO/CISO nonmembers at $50 per ticket.