CTO view: the growing convergence of information technology and operation technology

Delving into the role of the CTO, Information Age is on a mission to understand what makes them tick, their tips to succeed, the challenges they face and their biggest tech predictions for the foreseeable future.

Let’s start with Simon Daykin, UK CTO at Leidos.

His role is focused on making sure that the company is putting “our best foot forward in terms of really inspiring and finding the best possible technology solutions for our customers’ problems,” he says. It’s about “getting under the skin of the customers’ problems.”

Daykin’s role, as is so often the case, is very outward-facing. He’s there to make sure Leidos understand its customers’ mission needs — what it is they’re trying to do — and make sure that his team put together the best possible solution to their problems.

The other big part of his role is making sure that as an organisation, Leidos has the right capabilities to deliver for its customers. From an inward-facing perspective, Daykin champions capability growth, particularly in areas where the market is going.

He also focuses on growing and nurturing the right capabilities within the organisation, particularly people; “making sure we are attracting, developing, growing our people because we’re very much a people business,” he continues.

“We are a systems and services integrator, we’re not a product business, so this is very much focused on making sure we have the right things to deliver the right outcomes for our customers.”

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Tips for CTO success

In Daykin’s mind, relevance is absolutely key. As a CTO, you’ve got to make sure you really understand what a customer is trying to achieve and help them reimagine how they’re going to achieve — all surrounding people, process and technology.

“Technology may be part of the answer, but it’s not where to start,” says Daykin. “Success in digital transformation is about reimagining the experience, reimagining how to solve the problem and reimagining the balance between people, process and technology.

“One of the most important things a CTO can do in any organisation is support the business and the customer in reimagining how to deliver outcomes in a truly digital world.”

Digitisation makes existing things digital and digital transformation is the reimagining of something for the digital world.

Given the above, one of the key roles of a CTO is to help organisations understand that difference and work through it to enable their business to succeed in delivery and product development, for example.

“You need to be passionate and be able to help people understand what the technology can bring. Communicate that it will enable them to go on that innovation journey and change the outcomes in a positive way for the business,” explains Daykin.

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CTO challenges

There are a number of real challenges in the industry at the moment. These surround “team building capabilities”, says Daykin. In order to create the most innovative and successful teams possible, CTOs need to attract and retain diverse talent. This no mean feat, as there is well documented tech talent shortage and diversity levels are worryingly low. “We need to make sure that we are bringing the industry forward in terms of skills and development,” continues Daykin.

The rate of change in the world of tech is continuous. In this very fast-paced environment there’s a lot of challenges around helping make sure technology is properly applied. Just because something is shiny and new, doesn’t make it relevant. “Don’t put technology in for technology’s sake,” confirms Daykin. “Make sure to always keep an eye on what the right outcome is, because sometimes the technology can be cool and exciting but if it’s not relevant, then that’s often where programmes get into trouble.”

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CTO tech predictions

What’s really exciting Daykin is the  growing convergence of operational technology and information technology. “I think that is going to really open up lots of new opportunities,” he says.

“The vast amount of new data that the operational technology world is going to make available to what was traditionally more of an information technology world is going to be transformative; in terms of being able to find out new things and make new predictions.

IT will begin impacting the physical world — how we do things.

“We are seeing organisations dramatically change the nature of the products they’re bringing to market with information technology, but we’re only at the beginning of that curve.”

Daykin does warn that there are a number of things to watch out for. Cyber security, for example, is something that must now be considered from the outset; built in at the design phase.

“Cyber is only an enabler if you consider it from the very outset and bake it into everything you do. So secure by design, secure by delivery, has got to be the mantra from everybody as we go on that transformative journey, bringing together operational technology and information technology,” signs off Daykin.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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