Toyota CTO Tadao Saito: My IT leadership lessons

At the World CIO Forum late last year, I sat down with the Tadao Saito, CTO of Toyota. The full discussion can be found in the largest management blog, IT Manager Connection,

Tadao Saito is the inventor of digital switching which is the foundation of all communications and the internet. He shared these recommendations:

What are your 5 lessons in leadership from your role as CTO? Information technologies are used in a variety of fields, and branching into so many specialties to realize all the aspects of technology by a small company is impossible. The most important matter is to share our needs and information specialists’ interests.

To have common interests, a sharing of vision among automobile specialists and information specialists, is important. Leadership that creates common interests in a broad range of technical groups is important. Technical talk on a variety of occasions is useful for this purpose. One of my main activities is to share the vision based on presentations in a variety of meetings.

Communication systems were originally for human to human communication. Given the recent tendency towards the global saturation of communication demand, communication specialists are now seeking a new market for non-human communication. This tendency is defined in a variety of ways as ubiquitous communication, machine to machine communication and other terminologies. Recently many of the government-lead research projects are in this field. To have leadership in a new generation network study is important to create common interests for the automobile industry.

For members of my company, I encourage them to have leadership in a variety of interdisciplinary academic activities. From the view point of time needed for development, the development cycle of automobiles is much longer than those of the information technology industry. In many cases, it takes at least three years and sometimes five years to design a car product based on new technology. The long period is needed to confirm safety and a long test period is required for this purpose. It is also needed to have a common understanding among different specialties in terms of the differences of engineering. More generally, what specific technologies should IT practitioners be embracing today and in two years, or five years? Complexity of software will be more and more serious in future IT. Automatic software generation from specifications is now more practical and will be more important. Also, quality assurance of software will attract more interest. Analysis of big data and software for that have already started and will become a more important technology for all organizations in the future. Large sizes of data which can be analyzed practically will increase rapidly and the idea to use big data will expand as the competitive edge for many organizations.

What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession like medicine and law, with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized credentials?

Medical and law professions have a long history, sometimes several thousand years. In every use of professional capability, the activities of medical and legal professionals are related directly to the lives and destinies of individual people. So the problem of ethics is easier to understand from the viewpoint of the general public. On the other hand, in the case of information technology, many of issues of the activities of professionals are related to organizations which use information technology. The problem of ethics will appear indirectly, and is sometimes difficult to be understood by individuals. At the same time, the classes of IT professionals are distributed to many levels, and the scope of responsibility is different class by class. In this sense, the creation of a commonly recognized credential is more difficult compared to medical and legal professionals. Considering that medical and law credentials were established over a long history, further continuous effort is required globally. IP3 [International Professional Practice Partnership] is the start of this kind of important global activity.

Please make predictions for the future, their implications, and how we can best prepare?

Also in the coming future, the cost of energy will be higher and the cost reduction of electricity and energy in general will become more important. Right now the energy issue is focused on global warming and CO2 reduction. But in the near future the energy issue will be discussed on a real economic basis.

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