I was privileged to be invited to participate on a panel for the CIO Breakfast as part of the recent TECHpalooza event here in South Florida (Ft. Lauderdale to be exact). The panel was entitled, “The Future of the AI Revolution.”
I must admit I had modest hopes for the discussion taking place at the ungodly hour of 7am, but I was pleasantly surprised – not only with the sophistication and maturity of the state of digital transformation at the companies represented on the panel, but equally so by the companies represented in the audience.
Having lived in South Florida for almost 22 years now, I have come to accept that this isn’t Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin or any of the other hot tech markets. However, due to Covid, digital nomads and the hard work of local organizations like Tech Hub South Florida, that isn’t the case anymore.
There is a vibrant tech scene stretching from Miami, past Ft. Lauderdale and all the way up to Northern Palm Beach County – and even beyond.
Besides myself, on the panel was Michael Fowler, who is a VP and business unit CIO at Florida Power and Light (FPL), Sam Jaddi, SVP and CIO at ADT, Caroline Roche, VP and Senior Partner IBM’s Transformation Services, and Chad Simpson, the CIO for City Furniture. The panel was moderated by Colby Brannan and Lee Buchness, senior partners at Culture Partners.
Also not able to join us, and missed, were John Machado, the CTO of UKG and Tamecka Mckay, CIO of the City of Ft. Lauderdale. The audience had an equally impressive roster of well-known brands, as well as a good mix of consultants, smaller companies and startups. All attendees were pre-approved and had to be a CIO or of the equivalent level to attend.
Though the discussion centered primarily around how the attendees were using AI or planned on using AI in their organizations, I was struck by the state-of-the-art technology that was being used almost universally across the board. These companies were almost all hybrid cloud users, shifting more and more of their infrastructure to the cloud.
To a person, they all were deep into DevOps and Cloud Native. Because several of them were in highly regulated industries, security and compliance processes were also very sophisticated. The level of digitization of these businesses was remarkable. ADT, for instance, is looking at how the smart home of the future will function and how they can be the hub of that. FPL is extremely forward thinking in communication with their customers via an app and being able to monitor their grid using every technology within their reach. Even City Furniture is digital first, with supply, shopping and delivery services all highly automated and digital.
We tend to think of our local companies, as just that – local. But hearing how they have transformed in the last few years and what their plans are to harness AI and other technologies to become the providers of tomorrow was extremely uplifting. The panel ran for near 90 minutes, as the standing room only audience would not let us off the stage.
Many members of the audience shared their own transformation stories with us. One interesting fact shared was that near 75% of the audience was already using gen AI in their business. Near 100% were well ahead on their digital transformation journeys. Another surprise for me was that their budgets for these initiatives were full speed ahead. I deal so much with tech tool vendors and venture backed companies that I have become used to hearing about budget cuts and delays on projects; but these participants whose companies are not generally thought of as “tech companies” were full speed ahead on their transformations.
We should remember that in the tech world. There is a big economy out there of companies doing exciting things around transformation. More than that, they are really jazzed about what else is coming down the pike and what that can mean as they seek to transform the very fabric of our day-to-day lives – not just in South Florida, but in the entire US and the world beyond that.
Shout out to the South Florida Tech Hub folks for putting on an amazing event.