How and When Emerging Technologies Keep the Business Competitive

Juanene Wong, CIO, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP
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Juanene Wong, CIO, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP

1. How would you describe the role of a CIO today?

I view the CIO’s role as a key stakeholder in the overall business strategy. The role has become increasingly complex as it ensures technology adoption strategy improves business processes and efficiencies. The expansion and high visibility of security issues has re-drawn the job description of CIOs in practically every industry. Our focus has shifted from adopting new technology for the sake of staying current to ensuring any new technology is scalable and secure throughout its entire life cycle. A significant part of the day is now focused on managing expectations. There truly is more emphasis now on the “information” component to the title as the growth of our data footprint requires us to continually seek value of that data to the business.

2. How can the CIOs make their business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT?

It’s critical for the CIO to speak the same language as those in finance, marketing, accounting and human resources. When CIOs have a solid business background, they can connect the dots to help their counterparts understand how a particular technology can achieve their departmental goals. When areas go “rogue” with their technology projects, it will cost more in terms of soft costs and resources to inject a project into the catalogue of IT support offerings. When technology initiatives are accomplished using a cross-functional team dynamic, the various business areas can leverage skill sets across the organization. This type of synergy will reduce overall costs of implementation and ensure the deliverables and expectations are met. The C-suite must collaborate together to determine how and when emerging technologies keep the business competitive.

  ​When technology initiatives are accomplished using a cross-functional team dynamic, the various business areas can leverage skill sets across the organization   

3. As the technology sphere evolves with each passing day, what are some of the latest trends that are gripping your mind?

For the legal industry, many law firms are beginning to leverage their expansive data collection as a tangible business asset. We are starting to see where machine learning based on end users’ data consumption and search history can help curate relevant information for attorneys. Law firms are investing in automation software to review, code and perform analytics. We are getting quicker and wider insights into datasets at an unprecedented rate. Leveraging this type of technology allows our attorneys to focus their efforts on the more complex issues that are critical to their clients.

4. Moving from traditional IT to a service offering model requires a major mindset shift in IT. How did you make that happen?

IT leaders who do not see themselves as a service provider are destined for failure. I do not want to lead a team that is perceived merely as the department that keeps the lights on. An agile IT team should be focused and always prepared for changes in the business requirements. I manage the IT functions as an internal business that provides various services that are a price competitive option when compared to third party offerings. Through my annual budgeting process, my team can present opportunities to either improve our firms’ productivity or reduce costs. We strive towards standardization and avoid as many one-off scenarios as possible. I provide the firm with full financial visibility and can show a direct association of technology costs to consumption. It is critical for any organization to have policies and governance structure in place to outline and define the support catalogue and expectations for the IT group. IT does not want to be seen as competing with the personal consumer technology market. They do, however, want to be consulted and have an active voice in what will help them be a success along with the business they support.

5. What is your advice for the upcoming or budding CIOs?

To be a successful CIO, it’s important to align your skill-set and passion for technology that supports the business. Do not spend all of your time in the IT department–reach out to other areas of the business and listen to what they need to support their goals. Identify specific performance metrics that highlight the value you bring to your organization. Understand how personal consumer technology can grow organically within your organization as some trends may become a business requirement. Partner with strong local vendors who can help you find the most appropriate technologies for your organization. Seek out peers and conferences that are focused on organizations similar to your own. Volunteer for as many projects as you can handle–but make sure you balance work expectations and personal commitments.

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