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The theme at this year's MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass., was "The CIO Adventure: Now, Next and ... Beyond."
Sessions at the event explored everything from machine learning and internet of things (IoT) to business leadership and talent management -- and the SearchCIO team was there to cover it all.
Scroll through our Instagram roundup of the MIT CIO Symposium and relive some of the most illuminating and interesting moments from the event.
Morning: Cultivating a cognitive business
8:45 a.m.: "Pathways to Future Ready: The Digital Playbook," Kresge Auditorium
At the keynote panel, moderator Peter Weill, chairman of the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research (CISR), kicked off the day by stating that there's real money at stake in the work CIOs are doing to help transform their companies for the digital era. MIT research shows digitally transformed companies outperform their peers, posting margins that are 16 percentage points higher than the industry average. Expert panelists from General Electric, DBS, BNY Mellon and Salesforce joined Weill onstage to discuss ways they're transforming customer experience and operational efficiency for the digital age. Here are some interesting snippets from the panel:
- Ross Meyercord, executive vice president and CIO at Salesforce, said even if your organization is digital, your processes and people can be analog. Transforming them is crucial.
- Jim Fowler, vice president and CIO at General Electric, went out on limb and defined the difference between a CIO's job and that of a chief digital officer. He argued that a CDO is focused on growing commercial digital products, while the CIO is focused on internal digital transformation.
- Lucille Mayer, head of client experience delivery and global innovation at BNY Mellon, said, "Technology is a partner at the table. The sooner businesses realize that, the better."
- David Gledhill, group CIO at DBS, said a digitally engaged customer brings in twice the revenue of a traditional customer at DBS.
9:45 a.m.: "Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future," Kresge Auditorium
Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, directors at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and authors of Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future, naturally had a lot to say about machine learning and automation. For starters, the authors admitted they had underestimated the scale of AI's disruption: Every job and process will be affected by artificial intelligence, but how to prepare for this disruption is still unclear. For example, they said they believe providing universal basic income is not a feasible solution for the anxiety and lack of purpose people will feel when their jobs are taken over by robots.
They said the first machine age was about telling a machine what to do, and the second machine age -- which we're in now -- is about getting machines to learn. A result of the second stage is these machines are producing insights that neither the machines nor humans can explain.
10:30 a.m.: Make way for robot, Kresge Auditorium
MIT CIO Symposium attendees got a taste of robotics technology in action with the remote presence of MIT's Paul McDonagh-Smith. He joined us via a wheeled, remote-controlled robot equipped with a camera, microphone, speaker and screen displaying a live video of his face. Talk about attending the conference in style.
10:45 a.m.: "Putting AI to Work," Kresge Auditorium
Panelists at the "Putting AI to Work" session said today's AI is about augmentation -- helping people be better versions of themselves -- not about automation. Unfortunately, when we humans program machines to augment human actions, we also tend to reinforce human biases, according to Joi Ito, director at the MIT Media Lab.
"We're finding that the data is as biased as we are," Ito said. Panelists agreed, adding that, in many ways, all AI applications are prisoner to the data sets that they're trained on.
Seth Earley, CEO of Earley Information Science in Carlisle, Mass., advised CIOs to keep one thing in mind when building up AI capabilities within their organizations: You can't outsource innovation. There's a certain amount of expertise you need to have internally. Put another way: Don't rely too much on vendors to bring the AI future to you.
11:45 a.m.: " The Cognitive Company: Incremental Present, Transformational Future," Kresge Auditorium
Tom Davenport, distinguished professor at Babson College and fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, took the stage to bust some myths about cognitive computing and offer advice for becoming a cognitive company. His advice for CIOs: Start with picking the right technology for the problem, pace yourself by taking incremental steps, develop pilot programs, build on your analytics capabilities and "don't pave the cow paths."
Afternoon: All eyes on digital innovation
12:15 p.m.: " The CIO Adventure: Insights from the Leadership Award Finalists," Sala De Puerto Rico
The lunch session in MIT's Sala De Puerto Rico was filled with good food and good insights from past and present MIT Leadership Award Finalists. The panelists said it's important for workers to retrain themselves to be of value to new IT, and two of the panelists estimated that 30% of their workers wouldn't be able to make the jump to digital or adopt digital skills.
1:15 p.m.: "Expanding the Reach of Digital Innovation," Kresge Auditorium
The panel on digital innovation ran the gamut on how to spur innovation. MIT CISR's Nils Fonstad said total spend on innovation is not a competitive differentiator; it's all about how those funds are allocated.
Shamim Mohammad, senior vice president and CIO at CarMax, based in Richmond, Va., said his organization is no longer funding projects; it's funding teams. From there, the progress of each team is measured, and CarMax boosts whatever is working.
Jim Swanson, CIO at Monsanto, based in St. Louis, said innovation starts with having a firm grasp of the essentials -- if organizations today don't have some basic data and modern technology skills, they'll be at the bottom of the marketplace. Those skills may come from younger workers, according to Michael Morris, general manager at Topcoder, based in San Francisco. Morris said the top software developers on the planet are young, with peak performance at ages 17 or 18.
2:15 p.m.: Between sessions, MIT campus
I make my way through the MIT campus and toward a session in the Kresge Auditorium, passing attendees, speakers and sponsors.
2:45 p.m.: "Winning with the Internet of Things," Sala De Puerto Rico
At the "Winning with the Internet of Things" session, moderator Barbara Haley Wixom, principal scientist at MIT CISR, began by discussing the results of CISR's recent survey. Researchers found there are two paths organizations take when implementing IoT strategies: improving operational efficiency or improving market effectiveness. Operational efficiency correlates with ROI and market effectiveness with top-line measures. Choosing the right path and sticking to it can make all the difference, Wixom said.
Panelists at the same session talked about ownership, transforming legacy systems, internal culture change and the need for standardization when it comes to IoT. Mark Meyer, CIO of Tetra Pak Group, said his IT organization is co-developing IoT capabilities with partners now and trusting that they will work out ownership later.
4:00 p.m.: Lights, camera, action! Outside of Kresge Auditorium
SearchCIO's Nicole Laskowski and Mekhala Roy conduct one last video interview outside of the Kresge Auditorium. Our team conducted more than 10 video interviews throughout the day with CIOs and IT professionals. This interview was with Julia Davis, CIO at Aflac.
And that closed out our time at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium.
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More from the 2017 MIT CIO Symposium:
IT startups seek product advice from CIOs
Workplace changes needed to fix gender-diversity problem in IT
Today's AI doesn't live up to hype, panelists say