Dreamforce 2014 CIOs

When they want to do something useful with a smartphone, consumers like to quote Apple and say “there’s an app for that.” According to Vivek Kundra, though, it’s a different story within large bureaucratic organizations, where you’re more likely to hear, “there’s a form for that.”

Kundra, the former CIO of the White House who led the U.S. government’s early foray into cloud computing, is just one of the high-profile IT leaders who has been recruited over the last couple of years by Salesforce. At its recent Dreamforce 2014 conference in San Francisco, the company brought several ex-chief information officers together to discuss its recently-formed Industries Unit and how their peers in financial services, health-care and the public sector are tackling today’s business challenges, and where some of the gaps are.

According to Kundra, for example, a major shift that governments haven’t fully caught up to is the increased visibility with which technology is deployed, and the way citizens can respond to new programs or projects in the public service.

“They can no longer take years to deliver. They can no longer hide behind big desks,” he told a room full of reporters at the Salesforce event. “You can now petition your government, you can tweet your grievances and your aspirations. Politicians are feeling pressure to respond.”

In some ways, it’s not that different in banking and insurance, according to Simon Mulcahy, who was head of technology industries at the World Economic Forum before joining Salesforce, where he is now service vice-president and general manager for financial services. Customers are demanding not only greater visibility into their accounts but a way to do more on their own — and in as easy a way as possible.

“With banks, it’s all about their products, it’s not about the customer,” he said. Though in some cases there is an increased focus in reimagining the banking experiences, “You can’t just make it about improving the tools for the customer, it has to be for the employees handling customers as well. There need to be that unified view to make sure the customer has the right information so they can offer self-service.”

In health care, the focus on customers is a little bit different, because technology offers an opportunity to bring doctors and nurses from the point of care to the “point of need,” Todd Pierce said. The former CIO of Genentech and Roche Pharmaceuticals, Pierce now works as Salesforce’s senior vice-president of health care. He gave examples of how wearable devices can help patients better track their symptoms in real-time, and how analytics tools could speed up the process of research.

“Ideally, we can start to bring together all this information when it needs to be acted on, instead of waiting until things are incredibly acute,” he said. “That can lower the cost, and improve the quality (of care).”

The panelists agreed that no matter what industry they work in, CIOs are facing a delicate balance between giving customers what they want while also recognizing that IT departments will not have control over the entire experience. Instead, it’s more a matter of being as transparent as possible, Kundra said.

“The old model of governance was a physical public square where people would come and conduct commerce and petition the government. Most government officials have built walls to guard their own power. As a result of social, mobile, and other technologies, though, there’s been a big shift in power. Citizens are starting to get that back.”



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