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Deloitte Chief Information Officer Sheila Doyle believes in the importance of using disruptive technologies to build an environment conducive to attracting and retaining top talent who will better serve clients.

Speaking to CIO UK, Doyle discussed cyber security, vendor management, innovation, and the technologies and working cultures which will define the workplace of the future. Doyle also explained how she sees the CIO role, at the professional services giant at least, as being a 'change agent' and 'interpreter' - cutting through the noise to steer the organisation with a clear, long-term vision through an exciting but difficult journey. Her ultimate goal? Serving Deloitte's clients seamlessly, across key services and in multiple countries.

What are your biggest challenges and opportunities, and how is the CIO function supporting the organisation's priorites?
Following the creation of Deloitte North West Europe in 2017, we have been busy integrating 10 separate technology organisations across different geographies into one 'Technology & Digital Services' operating model. We now have a team of 36,000 people who focus on delivering excellent services to our clients, across many aspects of their business - whether it is audit, consulting, tax, legal, financial advisory or risk management services. Our priority is to attract and retain this talent and give our people opportunities to grow their skills and careers.

The average age of our workforce is 32. This young workforce has high expectations when it comes to technology. We constantly endeavour to meet these expectations by adopting the latest innovations, whether it is accelerating the delivery of key services such as [email protected], our internal cloud adoption service, or Digital Services, focused on creating a smarter working day for our employees. Our aim is to empower our employees with an easy, intuitive technology experience based upon co-creation and collaboration. The mobility of our employees is also crucial: they need to be able to work anywhere, anytime, and have a good work-life balance. That's why we were very early adopters of mobility services and tools.

Which disruptive, emerging technologies do you expect to have the biggest impact on your organisation and sector?
Every year, Deloitte publishes its Tech Trends, which provides a detailed insight into the technologies that are likely to disrupt and influence organisations within the next 18-24 months. This year, three trends stand out for me. First is AI-powered organisations. Machine learning and robotic process automation are crucial technologies that are empowering our business models, including how we interact with, and deliver services to, clients and how we automate our internal processes.

Second is the connectivity of tomorrow. This means advanced network offerings to support how we connect a multitude of devices, support growth in IoT and move data quickly and securely around the world. I believe 5G and other developments are opening up new opportunities we can exploit.

Third is focused on generating an intimate client experience through what we call 'Beyond Marketing – customer experience reimagined'. Combining data from many aspects of the client journey, from information in the public domain, recent touch points with the firm, industry know-how and so on, helps create a personalised client experience.

As for what we are doing internally to incorporate technology into our processes and models: we have mapped our employee journey and identified several pain points that we are addressing with technology. This includes reducing the administrative overhead of scheduling resources for large volumes of work, for instance. We have introduced a solution that uses high levels of automation and can easily adapt to last minute resource availability due to unplanned absence or scheduling conflicts. We are also making the most of all the capabilities of Office 365 tools to help our people find expertise, co-create documents, work in more flexible ways, thus reducing the dependency on more old-fashioned ways of working such as sending email attachments or trying to find expertise through personal networks.

Our Do app is a product we created to make reporting workplace issues simple and intuitive. Using machine learning, supported by IBM Watson, it can identify an item with a problem, such as a coffee machine, printer for example, locate it through geo-fencing and then raise a ticket, automated data entry. Our people are busy serving and supporting our clients. We need to make it easy for them to work and offer them a digital experience that is intuitive and secure.

How much have you seen the CIO role change, and to what extent do you expect it to continue to evolve?
I believe that the CIO role has changed a lot over the years. In the past, my role was about delivering operational excellence and ensuring the availability of core services. While these activities remain important, my role has moved to one of strategic business partner and change instigator; it is a fun and exciting role.

I need to figure out how to take the business forward by advising on the adoption of new technologies, on how to extract value from the information and data available and how to support better decision making. I provide leadership in a world where technology growth is exponential and disruptive. My role is to help the organisation navigate through the various buzzwords, hype and endless choices on offer to select the real gems; solutions that will make a positive impact. I am seeing a far greater need for CIOs who can select the right solutions, apply them at scale, while at the same time ensure operational excellence in a complex world.

What do you think is role of the CIO in developing the digital and cyber security expertise of the highest levels of the organisation, and how do you disseminate this across the whole company?
As CIOs we have become central in delivering digital transformation, which may be a combination of modernising core systems - turning technical debt into technical equity - or the delivery of new digitally-enabled products and solutions. We have a great opportunity to act as change agents, ensuring that the board is aware of the disruptive technologies that may influence the business over the next 1-3 years.

If every company is becoming a tech company, then every board must be fluent in technology. It does not mean they have to become technologists. However, they need to understand how technology can enable or transform their business so that they can work with their CIO or Chief Digital Officer to ensure the organisation is using new technology to gain competitive advantage, attract and retain talent, grow revenue or increase profit. As for cyber security, the CIO role is indeed critical, along with the Chief Information Security Officer, to ensure that cyber is on every board agenda and that appropriate investment is available to protect the firm. The entire organisation must be cyber aware, it is a culture that is set at the top and permeates all the way through the organisation – from the executive and the board to every employee.

What do you think are the new technologies and cultures/methodologies which will define the future workplace, and what do you think is the role of the CIO in helping design and deliver these?
I think that two very important influences will shape the future workplace. First is the rise of the machine and the changing nature of the work we do. Second is the fact that the worker can be anybody - from a permanent employee to an external contractor or external transactional worker.

As IT leaders and professionals we are constantly adapting to changes in technology and are constantly having to re-invent our roles as new technology makes some roles obsolete or dramatically changes the nature of their work. Moreover, due to the changing nature of the worker, we have a key role to play in ensuring that every worker can have a seamless digital experience when performing tasks for the firm. This requires careful consideration of the mobile experience including tools, apps and security issues.

How do you work with key technology suppliers, large and small, to achieve your business goals? To what extent do you think this relationship has changed in recent years?
Collaborating with suppliers is a key success factor. The race for talent and skills is fierce; we must play to the strengths of our partners and work with them to help us deliver successful business outcomes. There are tremendous opportunities in building supplier relationships, however in my experience it requires a thoughtful, deliberate and strategic supplier relationship strategy.

In my role, I must make time to engage with our technology partners on a strategic level and not wait for the partners to bring ideas to me. At the same time, my technology partners must redefine the traditional account management relationship and ensure that they fully understand the strategy and challenges of the organisation. It is not easy to do, but it pays dividends for both parties when we get it right.

What is the role of IT leaders in developing the diversity of tech talent in their organisations, and do you foresee any change on the horizon regarding the technology sector's lack of diversity?
For many years in my career, I was often the only woman in the room at conferences, executive meetings or CIO leadership events. I am pleased to say that this is no longer the case. These days, I am now usually one of a dozen or so female leaders in the room at a technology event. We are making some progress, although the pace of change is too slow. We need to take steps at all levels in our organisation, and as CIOs we have a big part to play in enabling this change. I am very lucky to have a team of great women in IT at Deloitte. They push me to do more and they agitate for change. They are the IT leaders of tomorrow.