Tip o’ the Red Hat to energy executives who shared their insights in Houston

ict-tip-o-the-red-hat-photoJust a few weeks ago, I made my first visit to the CDM Media CIO Energy Summit to moderate a roundtable on the relevance of IT to the energy industry. To kick off the summit, Dr. Steve Pratt, CTO of Centerpoint, gave a passionate and energizing keynote. His message? IT and its critical role in adding value to business. I couldn’t agree more.

“Strategy has become the single most important document,” asserted Pratt, effectively reinforcing the point about the vital need to realize value out of technology. Pratt’s keynote highlighted several best practices that can be adopted for IT to continuously add value and be relevant to the business.

With these thoughts fresh in mind, I sauntered over to my roundtable session in a conference room that was set up in a U formation for various leaders in the energy industry to engage in healthy discussion – and debate. After sharing a few of the challenges experienced by IT today, I opened up the floor for the executives in attendance to share their thoughts based on their experience and in the context of their enterprises. And share they did! What follows below is a summary of the key takeaways that emerged from this enlightening discussion. A tip o’ my Red Hat – so to speak – to the experience-based insight that these leaders shared at the CDM Media CIO Energy Summit!

Dialog. The arrow between IT and business is bi-directional was the first observation made. This was also reinforced with the need for a common vocabulary and language between business and IT. Businesses need to be more cognizant about technology and IT must also communicate in business terms. After all, every enterprise is a technology enterprise today!

ict-tip-o-the-red-hat-graphic

Access. Embed IT personnel within the business units was another best practice shared in the room. This means providing continuous access to personnel with the requisite IT expertise within the business units so that they are automatically factored into any business initiative rather than being an afterthought.

Security. It did not take long for security to come up as a key concern, driven by compliance as well as the sensitivity of customer data. IT should proactively make the case for continuous investment in effective security measures. Notwithstanding the results of this survey, the point was made about investments happening proactively in the security arena – especially if security is projected as a business concern. Let’s face it. We can and could be selective about what gets secured. Secure the data that matters. Secure assets that matter. Many times, innovation can be perceived as a security risk – right or wrong. Having an environment that is inherently secure so that innovators can experiment with their ideas is one way to address this concern. How about an environment that innovatively fosters the trifecta of business, technology and culture?

Talent. There are two different forces at play when it comes to workforce talent. For starters, there is the loss of domain expertise with the retirement of individuals with several years of valuable experience and knowledge which cannot be easily replaced by the new generation. Added to that, the next generation is very selective about the enterprises they choose to work for. Technology matters to the millennials – not only what they use in their personal lives but also what they work with. The cooler the technology, the better the employee experience! This generation also looks for sustained access to emerging technologies in the coming years. Open Source can be a litmus test for potential employers in the minds of these individuals.

There you have it. When I started the session I had question marks on the lines that connect the business of IT and the business of energy. After a rapid-fire engagement that lasted less than 20 minutes, we got many relevant answers.

What say you? What are other measures that IT can take to sustain relevance in the energy industry? Are there other challenges that IT experiences today? What are the challenges of the future? Please let me know.

Let the discussions begin! After all, collaboration is the best form of innovation.

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