Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group


In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights video, Mike Vizard speaks with Ana Pinczuk, chief development officer for Anaplan, about how the CIO role is evolving during the age of digital business transformation.



Mike Vizard: Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Digital CxO videocast. I am your host, Mike Vizard. Today we’re with Ana Pinczuk, who is the Chief Development Officer for Anaplan, they make tools for your company and to plan your business better. Ana welcome to the show.

Ana Pinczuk: Great to be here Michael, it’s a pleasure.

Mike Vizard: I wanted to talk to you about how is the world of the CIO changing in this age of digital business transformation? Any time we turn around there seems to be a new alliance, a new merger, some sort of acquisition and I think it puts a lot of stress on the CIOs, but what are you seeing out there in terms of are they changing the way they think about IT in general as a result or what’s going on?

Ana Pinczuk: Yeah, you know from my perspective definitely Michael I think the role of the CIO is actually changing and so we talk a little bit about that and then we’re elevating the role of the CIO in general, right, with all the mergers and acquisitions that are going on and all the focus on digital transformation in general.

And if you think about the role of the CIO you know they used to be focused primarily at sort of right when a deal for example is about to close and then post-deal integration, right? But now with all the digital activity the CIO brings knowledge, you know a lot more knowledge about you know what’s out there, how to make evaluations about digital assets and CIOs and CTOs by the way get involved in things much earlier in the process, right? So from my perspective the role of the CIO is sort of pre-deal, during the deal, and then after the deal and they’re you know they’re kind of involved in the whole lifecycle today.

Mike Vizard: Given all that we have seen the emergence of all these other titles, there are chief digital officers, chief _____ [crosstalk] officers, there’s CTOs and CIOs in the same company these days.

Ana Pinczuk: Yeah.

Mike Vizard: In fact there’s no shortage of chiefs everywhere, right?

Ana Pinczuk: Yeah, that’s right.

Mike Vizard: So what is the role of the CIO especially in an organization that has all these other titles that have emerged?

Ana Pinczuk: You know it’s interesting because if you think about companies having some key metrics, you know if it’s revenue and operating margin and employee experience and customer sat, if you just take those four, if you think about the CIO of old it was primarily around operating margin, you know efficiency, some level of employee experience, and just the underpinning of a business, right? But if you think about the CIO today I venture to say that they’re a lot more involved in enabling the business, revenue enablers, right, or profit enablers. So I think we now see the emergence of strategic CIOs much more than just sort of the traditional CIO role.

They’re getting involved. You know a lot of them are evolving from CIO to chief digital officer, chief data officer, sometimes they work for each other depending – chief innovation officers is another one that I’ve seen. But the fundamental of the role is really around digital transformation, is around bringing technology and the technology stack into enabling a company to grow profitably, right? And those are the qualities that we’re seeing in the CIO today.

Mike Vizard: So it’s become much more of a team sport. It also seems that other members of the C-Suite are a lot more involved in technology decisions as well. I mean you’re starting to see CEOs, CROs, CMOs and all these other folks that exercise a fair amount of influence as well. So has it gotten harder to implement something in the age of digital transformation because it needs to touch all these different business needs?

Ana Pinczuk: Well you know actually I think there’s a bit more work that happens on the frontend, because decisions before I think for a CIO were somewhat siloed to the CIO making the decision. But if we think about enabling business processes today the CIO has to kind of go I call it “shifting left” for the CIO, but they’ve got to go and talk to the CRO, you know talk to the CFO, get alignment on what the business requirements are.

But once that is done from a kind of stakeholder management perspective then I believe that the implementation timing, you know what we need to actually execute becomes shorter. That’s really a key point especially when you’ve got SaaS services that you’re enabling. So you make these decisions on let’s say cloud or SaaS services early on and then the time to implementation should be much quicker.

Mike Vizard: Do you think it’s gotten harder to implement a solution across all these different SaaS services? They all have APIs, but I have to stitch that together at some higher level of abstraction and create some sort of workflow around that. I guess it’s maybe easier than it was when we all had packaged applications running on mobile services, but it seems to me at least that there’s so many more SaaS applications now that it may be getting tougher.

Ana Pinczuk: I don’t think so. I actually think that you know what’s happening is that people – you know there’s a foundation of data first of all and so key to all these SaaS applications, right, is making sure that companies understand and have governance of their data. But once you do that then you can actually you know leverage SaaS applications to provide purpose build or in some cases more general, but purpose-built capabilities, whether it’s for HR or for planning you know or for a sales CRM, et cetera.

And then with APIs you have an ability to stitch them together and many of these SaaS applications do process orchestration or workflow as well. So you have the ability to not just connect the data, not just connect through APIs, but to actually stitch together processes. It’s a lot easier, Michael, than it is to have – you know to build an organization that you know where you’re actually having to understand each one of those things for each app.

That’s what took a lot of time before. It would take you know two to three years, still does for many of you know ERP-type implementations, right? But now the workflows are built into the SaaS application, the APIs are there and so a lot of that work in cloud and SaaS is sort of is done for you and that’s what makes it a lot easier.

Mike Vizard: How flexible is that? Because in some organizations I’ve known there’s been more exceptions than rules shall we say and the business wants maximum flexibility, so how much can I adjust and how quickly can I adjust?

Ana Pinczuk: You know many of the SaaS applications, if I think about Anaplan as an example, we have no code, low codes, sort of UIs you know, and many do, that allow the business to really adjust the user experience that you’d give different types of personas that use your service. So for Anaplan that makes it, you know for us, that makes it really easy to adjust.

With APIs you know it’s very developer friendly and so depending on the organization, you’re giving a lot of power to your developers to, you know, drive the experience that you want for a company that’s purpose built for those companies. So I think that’s a lot easier than having to have a partner that builds; in the old days you’d get a partner, a GSI or somebody that builds a very purpose-built like software application for your company that’s a lot more complicated and more expensive too.

Mike Vizard: Is that contributing to the changing role of the CIO? It seems like back in the day the CIO would go and procure an app, set it up, and have all the workflows. Any time I needed to change something I went to the IT, they created a project and nine months later something might actually emerge. Now today, it seems like the CIO is setting up a system that gives the end user more of that control of the data and the workflow and maybe takes a secondary role, once they set it up they kind of can step back and see what happens.

Ana Pinczuk: Yeah, I mean I think what it does is it takes a little bit of the more routine work away from the CIO organization. So think about, think about all the times that maybe you and I would get requests for, you know, “Let me have access to this data,” or you know, “Can you add this knob to what I’m trying to do,” right? And so I definitely think that it’s freeing up IT organizations to be able to work on higher purpose elements. Taking away that, you know, that sort of interface role and allowing the business to self-serve.

And that’s really the magic of today’s SaaS applications is that you really want to give the flexibility to the business user to get access to what they need very, very quickly and not have IT be a burden in effect. So I think we’re seeing many CIOs really enable the self-service model, right, and enabling, especially, developers, but also business users to do what they need in real time.

Mike Vizard: Mmm. One of the issues you hear a lot about historically and today is data governance. How do I make sure that the data that sits in your SaaS platform is consistent with the data that sits in all the other SaaS platforms? I mean it’s always been a challenge, but I wonder with more SaaS applications than ever out there, is that becoming a bigger issue?

Ana Pinczuk: You know two things, it’s a great point Michael, because I think there’s two things out there. You know one is we’ve always had this issue of how to represent data. You know, do you say “customer” or do you say “C” or, you know, these sorts of things are items that we’re all wrestling with. So I think we still as companies need to look at data clean up, you know, that element.

Then there’s data governance, you know, which is who has access to data, right, and policies around data. What’s really nice these days is that there’s a lot of capabilities and tools out there that really help with data, data governance.

The last, the third item is really data privacy, which is, you know what, you know what is the – what are the rules that apply to different pieces of data, not just data, but metadata, right? So we think about data cleanliness, you know data governance, and data privacy. I think what’s nice now is there’s a lot more tooling I would say around that makes it easier.

By the way, the other thing that’s happening is every SaaS provider, every cloud provider, is doing a really good job in my mind of providing tools within their SaaS application to be able to – like admin tools, privacy enablement, security capabilities, identity and access management. So those are a lot more not regulated, but you know enabled in tools. I think that reminds people the importance of what to do in these areas, as opposed to leaving it to people that normally we would, we would not do as good a job as what’s enabled in the SaaS platforms today.

Mike Vizard: One of the historic issues about being a CIO in general is IT people are focused largely on stability, they’re focused on up-time, they’re focused on making sure services are available and yet the business wants maximum flexibility and they want everything to be more highly adaptable shall we say. If that’s the case how do I reconcile those two things, because sometimes flexibility is the enemy of stability and how do I make that all come together?

Ana Pinczuk: You know I don’t know a company that says, “I don’t care about stability,” you know. Every company that I talk to today still says, “Customer is number one,” you know and that means that the foundation of what you do has to work. So every IT organization starts with that.

But you know what I’m seeing today is IT organizations thinking about how much of their investment you know is going to each area, right? So if we think about stability and resiliency and you know, you know back-up and recovery and those sorts of things, that’s a portion of what IT organizations look at.

I think the other two areas, one has to do with growth. To your point you know you want to be able to focus on flexibility for growth and the user, the user experience. Then the third thing is any technology changes that you need to make to keep up. Because I think that’s the other thing that’s happening is things are changing so fast. So I think for any CIO, CIOs are doing portfolio management, right, and they’re having to look at their investments and say, “Okay, this is what I’m going to give to security and resiliency. This is what I’m going to do to flex the organization,” to your point, “and be able to enable growth.” “This is what I’m going to do for sort of the tech stack and make sure that I’m current.”

You know that’s the goal today is real portfolio management. Then depending on the kind of company that you are you figure out how much are you wiling to spend on each one of those areas.

Mike Vizard: Do you have any advice for folks? Because what we’re talking about here is as much cultural as it is technical. Do I take all these C-level folks and lock them in a room every six months to figure out the plan or is there some way to approach this with them or a rational thought process?

Ana Pinczuk: You know it’s a really great question, because by the way I feel like the days of doing an annual plan and then things are locked in for the year or even six months for a CIO and thinking that that’s the plan that you have I feel like those days are over. What’s happening instead is I’ve viewed C-Suites working on a continue, you know a rolling basis. You know you sort of have a rolling plan.

I mean think about COVID you know. Think about the global situation today where you might be having to you know shift where your factories are or shift where your people are, et cetera, right? So I think CIOs need to work with the C-Suite, understand what the priorities are for you know one to three years, where we’re going. Then you know put together… The way I like to think about it is put together a one-year plan, have a vision for three years and then execute on a monthly basis, right, and figure out what you need to do month-to-month and that might shift.

By the way, Michael, I think that’s why you know having vendors as part of your ecosystem that help a CIO that’s super important, right? Because in this time of change, lack of talent, you know access to talent it’s really the ecosystem that’s going to help the CIO. And that ecosystem to your point on culture I think you know for an organization to be tied to an ecosystem and to have the help of others and to learn from partners that’s what enables a culture to change, right? To see that others can help, you’re not alone in this journey, right? The skills can come from somewhere else and other partners can help you do the things you know that you need to do.

In our world you know whether it’s you know CICD or the new secure, you know continuous integration, continuous delivery, or new security things that are needed, you know the CIO brings in, those are, those are things that require new talent, new skills, and new ways of working. That’s where the culture change happens and that’s where partners can really help.

Mike Vizard: All right we’ve been talking about the divide between IT and the business for decades now, do you think that things are getting better or worse?

Ana Pinczuk: I think things are getting better. They’re getting better because I think CEOs recognize that there’s a need for strategic CIOs, that technology is not going anywhere, it’s here to stay and it’s even more fundamental to a business, not just technology of old, you know which is connectivity and ERPs, but things like AIML, right, things like the importance of data. So I think things are getting better, because the CIO has much more.

And anybody with a tech hat by the way has much more of a seat at the table educating the peers in terms of what is needed, right? Then accelerating the role of technology within a company. I think that’s what fundamental is to the extent that we can marry the CIO role to the growth prospects or to the financial prospects and to the customer prospects of a company, that’s what really shines. We’re seeing many, many more CIOs having that role.

Look at the pandemic in terms of vaccine distribution or having access to… In our case we had the South Central Ambulance Service as one of our customers and giving the role of the CIO and the CTO and giving customers the speed that they need. You know in this case to save lives. Technology is really central to all that and I think that’s why it’s getting better, it’s this recognition that without tech and without the CIO and the CTO we’re not going to be as competitive as we need to be as companies.

Mike Vizard: All right so every IT event is a business event and vice versa and you got to start thinking about marrying those two things together.

Ana thanks for being on the show.

Ana Pinczuk: Thank you so much for having me, what a pleasure.

Mike Vizard: All right folks you’ll find this video and along with all our others on, we invite you to check them all out. Thank you for spending some time with us just now.

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