Riding High on Technology-Driven Solutions

Karen Austin, CIO, PG&E
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Karen Austin, CIO, PG&E

Balancing interoperability and integration

Interoperability of technology solutions is paramount. As infrastructure and applications become easier to stand up through cloud services, the risk of systems being less integrated and data being replicated increases. As a CIO, I try to make sure we are laser focused on preventing any data duplication that ultimately clouds a single source of truth for the business and makes the technology expensive to maintain. Now more than ever, technologies need to have engineered integration and interoperability. If I expect this of our internal technologies, how can I expect any less of my technology providers?

Bringing technologies on the same page

The intersection of consumer technologies and enterprise technologies continues to evolve and improve. That said, we are still seeing some irreconcilable differences between the two worlds. Most commonly, these differences manifest themselves in two ways: through independent software vendors core to our business who have been slow to adapt their products to consumer-grade devices and operating systems and, secondly, through consumer-based companies ignoring the needs of the enterprise, especially in the security space.

"Great CIOs have passion for the business they are innovating –in particular, the workforce and customers using these solutions"

Current trends impacting the enterprise business environment

Analytics and the proliferation of mobile technologies are two trends that I see as key enablers to our business. On the analytics front, we are able to collect more granular usage data through the use of SmartMeter technologies, greatly improving our customers’ ability to make informed decisions on their energy usage. This data can also be used in our core operations by applying analytics across the data set to improve the safety and reliability of our utility assets.

On the mobile side of things, we see a great opportunity to empower our workforce (especially our fieldbased workers) by arming them with the applications and data they need to do their jobs even more safely and efficiently.

Myriad facets of a CIO

Technology is re-emerging as core to the business. Gone are the days of IT being purely a back-office function, charged only with keeping the ERP system up and running. Instead I continue to see more CIOs (myself included) establishing a direct reporting relationship with the company President/CEO, and IT  ecoming the "orchestrator" for cross-functional challenges within the enterprise. To play this orchestration role, expectations of CIOs and their personnel  as elevated.While technology acumen remains critical, business process acumen in IT partners is the real value-add CIOs now deliver.

IT is one of the few organizations that has a wide view across lines of business, including the work processes and technology enablers that support them. As such, the CIO has a  great opportunity to help drive an optimized enterprise, as well as governance and change management to ensure the company is investing in solutions that deliver the best value for internal and external customers.

My advice for fellow CIOs

Great CIOs have passion for the business they are innovating–in particular, the workforce and customers using these solutions. Technology for technology’s sake is a losing proposition. Technology that offers innovation to a business or process you and others are passionate about will make you a trusted IT partner and an inspired leader.

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