sean harley ascential video

Ascential CIO Sean Harley believes designing and delivering the workplace of the future is a cultural rather than technological challenge.

The 2018 CIO 100 high-flyer was in conversation with CIO UK at the 2018 CIO Summit at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Shard, when he discussed authenticity, artificial intelligence, and the leadership themes from presentations by Unilever CIO Jane Moran and Morrisons Chief Technology Director Anna Barsby which particularly resonated with him.

A member of the steering group for CIO UK and Computerworld UK's Workplace of the Future research, Harley shared some of his thoughts on the future workplace and the sorts of questions CIOs should be asked and asking in our upcoming study into artificial intelligence.

"I think the biggest challenge of the workplace of the future is culture - understanding the people who are going to come in to your environment, what they need and how they operate," he said.

"Mid-level management trusting people not to be sitting in front of them is going to be a big ask, and investment is going to need to be made from an HR and enablement perspective.

"It just isn't a technology problem; it's a business problem."

Artificial intelligence

On artificial intelligence Harley challenged organisations and their CIOs to start with business goals rather than the buzz around AI.

He said: "We challenge ourselves on this and the question I ask our business when they say 'we need to do some artificial intelligence' is 'what is the question you are trying to answer?'

"You can have as much data as you want, but if you don't know the questions you are trying to answer how can you apply AI across that to make it informative, make the decision that get the results that you're looking for? What questions are we looking to answer?"

CIO priorities

The CIO of the FTSE 250 company said that staying ahead of the game of the organisation's CEO was a focus for the next year, as well as developing new capabilities in digital marketplaces.

"We've heavily invested in our business in the last 12 months and next year will see a big shift from us into providing a true data and insight capability into a digital ecommerce marketplace - and how companies design their products to work on that environment, market their products effectively, and sell their products in that environment effectively.

"It's a big challenge."