Innovating through leadership


Last month Information Age hosted Tech Leaders Summit 2016 at the Radisson Blu Portman in London. Summits like these are important in enabling open discussions about disruptive technologies, the benefits, the challenges and the possibilities amongst a range of IT professionals spanning a variety of technological fields.

Tech Leaders Summit, dubbed the mega summit, combined all four of Information Age’s leadership events – data, security, cloud and mobile – under one roof. Now is the most exciting time for all these areas, the benefits of data are breaking new ground, cyber security (its improvements and failures) is constantly in the public eye, the cloud is viewed as the way forward and the mobile era continues to redefine the workspace.

Information Age spoke to a number of professionals throughout the event and the overwhelming feeling prescribed to that of openness and a desire to share information from various spaces to enhance and innovate individual and collective business goals with regard to data, security, cloud and mobile.

‘I think it’s a really great event and there’s great opportunity for people from different industries, from different sizes, be they government or nongovernment to really interact with one another and really learn from each other, and that’s evident just from the sessions I’ve seen so far,’ said Christine Ashton, SVP technology transformation at Thomson Reuters, who was a panelist on the morning technology leadership panel.

The event itself had a large and diverse turnout, where these topics were collaboratively discussed and challenged throughout nearly 40 presentations and open panels over the course of the day.

Public service transformation

Both keynote speakers discussed similar topics surrounding public service transformation. Tech has enabled the two speakers from the Civil Service to disrupt, and at the same time improve, public services.

Leading the Government’s technology drive is Andy Beale, HM Government’s chief technology officer, and he was the first keynote speaker to kick proceedings off in the main ballroom.

>See also: Home Office and HM Government CTOs to headline Tech Leaders Summit

He discussed transforming government IT to establish better public services and to provide civil servants with more efficient and secure technologies based on their needs.

‘It is not just about how much we spend, it’s about the role technology has to play in continuing to transform the way government works. We need technology in government to make sure we can support the transformation of services and businesses for the good of citizens, businesses and UK prosperity as a whole,’ Beale said.

Sarah Wilkinson, the chief digital data & technology officer for The Home Office, preceded the first round of technology leadership presentations. She discussed the challenges associated with leading the transformation of government technology, its progress and the future possibilities ahead, in an especially well received speech.

‘We’re replacing the airwave-to-airwave service, which provides radio connectivity for emergency services across the country. We’re trying to replace that with a system that leverages 4G commercial networks that drives a significant efficiency.’ This was one of many proposed new systems enabled by technology Wilkinson introduced in her speech.

Attempts to modernise government technology have seen a string of expensive and failed transformation efforts. But, with disruptive technologies pioneering the way forward, the challenges of the past, Wilkinson suggested, are not as daunting a prospect.

Understanding data

The benefits of using big data are clear and storing and handling large amounts of data is now commonplace, it doesn’t mean all organisations are necessarily making the best of data as a competitive resource.

Understanding data and using it to further business goals is the real challenge. Thomas Lee-Warren, director of Royal Mail’s Data Group suggests some organisations spend 95% of their time sieving through increasing amounts of data and only get to use 5% of it to further innovation and business.

In the first data leadership presentation of the day John Sands, Qlik evangelist highlights the benefits for business understanding data brings. ‘Business intelligence is only optimised when you harness the collective human intelligence across an organisation. This accelerates organisations towards their goal of being more agile and more data driven to uncover, and take advantage of new possibilities.

>See also: Government CTO Andy Beale to open Tech Leaders Summit 2016 as keynote speaker

Data’s reign is made possible by the increased number of devices and sensors connected through the Internet of Things. But, improving business goals is not the only advantage to understanding data, as Andrea Powell, chief information officer at CABI, discussed in her presentation entitled: Can data help to feed world?

Understanding and utilising data has significant applications outside business and CABI has found a way to use the increased access to data to ‘create, process and deliver evidence-based solutions that will address the challenges’ of global sustainability.

In the public eye

Security is the topic that comes under the most public scrutiny and, as such, discussions were aplenty at Information Age’s Tech Leaders Summit.

It is the technology issue that is most frequently featured in news stories globally. How to implement effective security protocols in the face of increasing cyber threats was the most debated leadership subject of the day.

A lively panel discussion in the main ballroom prompted Adam Rates, head of strategy and architecture at Allianz Insurance, to point out that ‘the challenge for businesses is balancing the pragmatism of what you invest in, whether that’s cyber security or data security, with actually running a business. You’ve got to find the right balance in between.’

At his second Information Age event Daniel Selman, cyber industry and information security policy deputy head at the Ministry of Defence, hosted a presentation on the subject, articulating the very real threat posed by cyber attacks.

He also set out the background to the Defence Cyber Protection Partnership – a government and industry partnership seeking to improve the level of protection from the cyber threat in the defence supply chain.

He said that these attacks have risen by 81% from a year ago and costs large organisations between £1.46 million – £3.14 million a year; and small organisations between £75k – £311k.

One of the main points from the presentation to combat this loss ad vulnerability was cyber threat intelligence sharing. Selman stressed that collaboration is key and discussed how improving the sharing of information across industry/government and defining the proportionate cyber security standards will raise the level of understanding of the cyber threat in the supply chain.

Managing the future

With one eye focused on security the other should be firmly on managing the future. Cloud platforms, according to Simon Alcott, principal solution architect at Red Hat, offer the opportunity to unify management and operations, help adhere to compliance regulations and improve visibility, and access to vast networks.

>See also: UK’s largest summit for tech leadership reveals stellar speaker programme

The cloud has the ability to transform organisations from traditional animals to digital ones that improve the quality of services for their respective consumer. This was the main point from the director of technology and chief information officer, Charles Ewen’s presentation.

Time to go mobile

Mobility in all its forms presents an opportunity for IT leaders to disrupt current industries and explore new avenues.

Gabrielle Poczo, chief technology officer at WorldRemit, revealed in her presentation how the mobile could be used to enable the unbanked world. Mobile-money is a technologically driven solution that makes the movement of money safer and cheap.

‘It’s about empowering and enriching people’s lives through technology in parts of the world that are not as fortunate as we are. Mobile-money will play a role in the revolution of those developing countries.’

This is an example of how innovation in technology can disrupt traditional industry infrastructure. In this case, banking.

The Summit

Tech Leaders Summit 2016 provided a 360° high-level view of the technologies and trends most impacting organisations, and driving innovation in 2016 and beyond. Technology leaders have the opportunity to drive business innovation and in turn improve operational efficiency, ability and flexibility through this medium.

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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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