How Successful CIOs Master the Art of Change

Chief information officers know that automation, machine learning, and predictive technologies have finally arrived.  But many are still trying to figure out how to employ these solutions across their organizations.

As companies look for game-changing economics through digital transformation, there is no one else in the C-Suite better prepared for the task. CIOs are the executive leaders with the technical understanding to connect business strategy with technology, digital tools with business processes.

About one-hundred of my peers from around the world gathered in Orlando for the fifth annual CIO Decisions in May to discuss strategies for the way forward and bring back new ideas to their organizations. Here are a few takeaways:


The velocity at which organizations adapt and transform will determine success. CIOs are uniquely positioned to declare ownership of that success by utilizing technology to improve the experience of business functions and customers.

Guest speaker Glenn Schneider, Chief Information Officer at Discover Financial Services, described the importance of speed to advance his organization’s digital transformation efforts. Discover needed the ability to deploy new product features and  functionality faster. One way to achieve that was moving to a continuous  delivery pipeline for application development. Embracing cloud and automation, and using open source tools with a focus on flexibility helped to increase the speed of innovation.


Other speakers at CIO Decisions inspired us to think about our roles in new ways.

Andrew McAfee, author and Co-Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, discussed the potential of machine learning and automation, and the big-picture hurdles CIOs must overcome to realize their benefits.

Complex decisions we previously thought needed human interference will no longer. Case in point: a team of programmers created a software that beat a worldwide champion of Go – a 300-year old game of strategy that is seen as much more complex than chess. What does that mean for companies? We haven’t even touched the edge yet of how innovation can improve enterprise performance, but machines can free up human brains to explore with the help of technology that can move a lot faster and deeper.

“What’s happening now is bigger than the electricity transition,” said McAfee.


CIOs are in the business of creating insanely great experiences – not just technology. Too often in IT, CIOs have led with the goal of cost reduction. But if CIOs lead with great experiences, the cost and inefficiencies will naturally drop out.

Schneider of Discover Financial Services put a finer point on this, both in terms of the customer experience and the employee experience.  He explained that customers should enjoy a more personalized experience, while the institutions meets its regulatory obligations and ensures customer privacy. Discover found that different customers have different needs, but by linking customer activity on Discover Web or mobile sites with calls into account representatives, they could ensure that every interaction is seamless and customized.  He also talked about how Discover looked to improve the employee experience with tools that allowed them to work smarter. That includes leveraging automation for day-to-day tasks to free up time to focus on high-value work.


Daniel Pink, author of several books, including “To Sell is Human,” advised CIOs on how to better persuade colleagues and board members.

While most CIOs may not categorize themselves as salespeople, they are spending a large portion of their time convincing colleagues, boards, and employees to agree to certain strategies or assignments. To succeed as a leader means succeeding as a salesperson. Pink mapped out a roadmap to doing this: Get out of your head and imagine the idea from your target’s point of view. When an idea flops and you fail to persuade, it is important to explain rejection in a way that leaves you feeling buoyant. Shift the sales tactic from one of problem-solving to problem-finding. Lastly, when asking someone to do something, make it easy for them to agree.

CIOs were able to share their learnings from the day in small-group dialogues that brought the high-level conversation to real-world scenarios across four areas: shared services; customer service; enterprise security; and machine learning. A common theme across all was the need to work on cultural and talent changes alongside investment in technology. In addition, CIO highlighted the challenge of communicating the business value of technology.

“Automation requires a mind-set shift. You need to ‘show’ them how they can benefit. Metrics are key,” said a CIO.

To continue advancing the digital transformation of business, CIOs must partner with the CEO. Our CEO, John Donahoe, shared some guidance with event participants. Firstly, CIOs have to link their work to business priorities, with clear metrics on value to customers and finances. He added that while digital transformation will have costs with which many stakeholders may disagree, that’s okay. Spend time on enlisting agents of change who are with you, rather than convincing those against you.

To read more about the key insights from CIO Decisions17, click here.


Chris Bedi
Chris Bedi joined ServiceNow in September 2015 and currently serves as ServiceNow’s Chief Information Officer. Prior to joining ServiceNow, Bedi served as CIO of JDSU from August 2011 to March 2015 where he was responsible for IT, Facilities, and Indirect Procurement. Prior to JDSU, Bedi held various positions at VeriSign from April 2002 until August 2011, including CIO, VP Corporate Development, and VP HR Operations. Bedi began his career at KPMG Consulting from June 1996 to April 2002. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan.

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