Yesterday marked MIDMRKT Suite’s 10 year anniversary, and we celebrated by welcoming 120 IT executives and 54 solution providers to the 2019 Spring CIO Forum.

As attendees were checking in, I spoke with RC Woodson, VP, IT at Doyon Limited, who explained why he attends the MIDMRKT CIO Forum. “I come to this event because, unlike other conferences, this gathering gives me my time back. By attending the CIO Forum, I can avoid having to travel to four other major conferences this year. No other conference has the quality of solution providers that the CIO Forum brings – they are vetted and relevant, and they come prepared to make great deals.” RC continued to say, “The MIDMRKT CIO Forum also helps me navigate the turmoil of the current environment of IT”.

We kicked off the sessions with our Leadership Roundtables, where executives held strategic discussions about the following topics:

• RPA Adoption Strategies
• Securing Budget for Emerging Technologies
• Business Value of IT: Building Credibility with the C Suite
• Fostering Leadership: From STEAM to Team
• Creating a Culture of Innovation
• Building Risk-Based Security Roadmaps
• Mergers, Acquisitions and IT Challenges

Following the Leadership Roundtables was our popular speed-networking session, where executives were given the opportunity to get to know their peers in a quick and intimate format.

Keeping true to the peer-focused theme of the day, we had three IT executives take the stage for quick and practical sessions, called MIDMRKTx Presentations.

Taking the stage first was Jeff Fudge the CIO with Ashley Furniture. His session, titled “DevOps: A view from the trenches”, challenged the standard vendor definition of DevOps. In summary, Fudge explained that “Development is transforming companies and infrastructure is becoming commoditized. It’s no longer about stability, it’s about how fast you are changing for your customers.” Fudge went on to talk about how culture is more important than tools are to the success of a DevOps environment.

Second to the stage was Ken Knapton the SVP & CIO at Merrick Bank. Ken spoke about ‘Leadership: Bridging Organization Divide in a Broken Organization.” In this presentation, Ken discussed the importance of leaders stepping in to help internal conflict within an organization. Ken posed the question, “How do we amplify the behaviors that drive success and not tolerate the behaviors that stall success?” Ken gave the audience three ways to approach the challenge of internal conflict: 1) get the hearts of the leaders, 2) get the hearts of the team members, and 3) model the expected behavior – lead by example.

Closing the MIDMRKTx presentations, Kevin Dunn the CIO & CISO at US Retirement & Benefits Partners, Inc. discussed “Strengthening Your Human Firewall.” Kevin set the stage by telling a common story that could happen in any company – Employee ‘Bob’ opens a phishing email and lets in an attacker that the CIO doesn’t discover for a month. This is a scenario that is all too common, so Kevin gave the audience insights into the goals of attackers, as well as how IT executives can countermeasure these attacks by educating and building the ‘Human Firewall’. Three insights Kevin discussed:

  1. Give your people the space to defend. Instill a ‘Think before you click’ mantra.
  2. Practice. Practice. Practice. Phishing emails should be sent as if an attacker created them.
  3. Make sure employees know that they have a safe way to report their actions.

After these sessions, guests were given time to ask presenters questions and talk more thoroughly about the topics in private roundtables.

Finishing off the day, was a panel discussion about, “Changing Culture for the Future of IT”. Opening and moderating the discussion was Rick Pastore the Senior Director and IT Research Advisor at Hackett Research. Rick began by sharing some statistics about IT culture, gathered in a recent study by the Hackett Group, Changing IT’s Culture: Goals, Challenges, and Best Practices. One statistic revealed that “Most IT organization have a hierarchical cultural, yet the majority want to move to an innovation culture.”

Moving through the discussion, Mary Holler, CIO for Integer Holdings Corporation discussed the factors that influenced the need for change within her IT group – sophisticated industry competitors and internal growth. Mary said, “When I joined the company, IT was still operating as if it supported a small organization. We had to fix the foundation to quickly get to the strategic opportunities.”

Rick moved the conversation to talk about Tim Nall’s journey to move IT closer to the business. Tim, the SVP and CIO fro Brown Forman explained, “When I became the CIO, we had a very traditional IT group. Simply, no one in IT knew how we made money. I made changes within IT to better align with with revenue for company.” Nall continued, “We have directors that now sit on regional leadership teams, which has really helped us see how IT can help drive revenue.”

Expanding upon the concept of the ‘Business Relationship Role’, Rick asked Tim Arthur, Global CIO for Alltech to explain how he has structured this role. Tim said, “We created business engagement managers to work with the business and understand it. Their job is to evaluate new business opportunities, so we don’t miss out.” Tim continued to explain, “They act as a two-way conduit between the business and IT, which helps us communicate what capabilities we have and help get new ideas in place.”

Extending the concept of understanding the business, Rick asked Brendan Lutz, Sr. Director of Information Systems for Blue Apron about the challenges he faces with changing the culture of his stakeholders. Brendan called attention to the difference in working for a traditional organization vs. a digitally native organization, like Blue Apron. “We have been tech-enabled since day one. Disruptive culture is part of our DNA, and stakeholders are coming up with ideas all the time. As an IT group, we want to move fast and be state of the art, but we also have to manage chaos. We try to control the chaos by encouraging stakeholders to identify risk.”

We are thrilled with the energy and excitement that has been generated on the first day of the event and can’t wait to take this energy into the next two days. We’ll keep you posted!