'If you wait for something to hit the mainstream, your business won’t be looking at the menu; it’ll be on it'

'If you wait for something to hit the mainstream, your business won’t be looking at the menu; it’ll be on it'
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John Abel, Vice President of Cloud Technology for the UK, Ireland and Israel on the challenges facing modern technology leaders

How long have you been in your current role?

I’ve been the Vice President of Cloud and Technology for the UK, Ireland and Israel for 2 years now.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

My role within Oracle is to lead the sales consulting and business development for all of technology offerings across UK, Ireland and Israel. I help to blend the strategy between on-premise solutions and cloud solutions, which is a key area of the strategy.

What is your professional background?

Previously I have been in several roles within Oracle, going back to 1994. I originally started as the Head of the Technology Office, and have since progressed to roles such as Chief Technology Architect of Western Europe, EMEA Hardware Engineered Systems Product Leader and Engineered Systems and Public Technology Cloud Leader for UK, Ireland and Israel. In 2016 I moved to my current role.

How do your particular areas of expertise manifest themselves in your current role?

One of my key areas of expertise is my knowledge around autonomous technologies and the benefits of the cloud. Because these technologies help to drive innovation, it means that I can not only assist Oracle with driving their business forward, but our customers too. These technologies are constantly expanding and growing, which means that my knowledge of them has to grow too.

What advice would you give to someone adopting a CIO role for the first time?

I would advise CIOs to encourage their companies to automate whatever and whenever they can to enable employees to focus on more valued work. Oracle are very much driving autonomous, as it’s vital to ensuring that employees can focus on more meaningful and innovative tasks. Autonomy is the future. For example, if large chunks of people’s time are being taken up by routine tasks, this means that they are not being utilized for more challenging and encouraging work. By using machine learning to allow companies to automate their work, not only does this improve accuracy and efficiency but it also puts humans’ intellect to greater and more productive uses.

As well as this, CIOs should establish or re-establish their digital credibility. Research has predicted that digital transformation will become a core responsibility of any organisation rather than being a handful of special initiatives carried out by CDOs. By getting ahead and prioritising digital transformation early, CIOs don’t face the risk of being behind in the future of their industries.

How do you see your role developing in 5 years’ time?

As mentioned previously it’s likely that CIO’s will adopt digital strategy as one of their core responsibilities, so this will be something that I will hope to continue to focus on, as we work closer with other C-level employees in lines of business such as Marketing, HR, sales and operations. Since the shift in focus around security and GDPR, I can envision that that will become a focus of mine as businesses are prioritising the security amongst their data and products. We will also be focusing on autonomous technologies which will drive business forward in many ways in the near future.

What are the greatest challenges facing modern technology leaders?

Modern technology leaders need to ensure that they adopt emerging technologies and innovations before they hit the mainstream. If you wait for something to hit the mainstream, your business won’t be looking at the menu; it’ll be on it, and about to be devoured. If that sounds too dramatic, then just ask the people who once worked for Kodak, Blockbusters, or Woolworth ... iconic brands that didn’t innovate. MySpace and Friends Reunited, anyone? Such is the speed of change that even the disruptors get disrupted. We used to be stunned when eBay, and Groupon took just a decade to get to $10 billion in annual revenues. Now there are about 30 companies that have gone from zero to $1 billion in four months.

How do you think a CIO can best support company revenue growth?

CIO’s can best support their companies’ growth by acknowledging and evaluating emerging technologies, business models and economic movements, such as machine learning, Blockchain and the Internet of Things. Although these can be daunting, they open considerable business opportunities and technology based advances. As well as this, they provide more personalised customer service which, if done right, can result in loyal customers.

John Abel will be appearing at the CIO & IT Leaders Summit. The agenda and further details of this important national event at Croke Park on September 12th can be found at ciosummit.ie

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