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In a previous article, CIOs must understand foreign markets, I discussed the serious challenges CIOs face when working globally. This is critical since international success is a requirement today.

To provide added insight I talked with Hendrik Deckers, the managing director and founder of CIONET, the largest CIO network with presence in the European Union, South America, Asia and looking to grow in North America.

Here are excerpts from the full recorded interview.

You have an interest in Asia as well?
” … We are also building good relationships with the Chinese CIO Union so that we can build a bridge between the European and South American CIOs and the Chinese CIOs….”

What are the top concerns and challenges of IT executives?
“… Number one challenge is digital business transformation … A more classical concern for IT executives that has been on their agenda for many years is the constant challenge of aligning business and IT … A third challenge, how can they organize their IT organization and the IT services in such a way that IT really supports business agility and the company’s need today to be successful … A fourth, also a recurring challenge, is IT cost reduction … There are a number of technological challenges that IT organizations face today — new technologies that on one hand can add a lot of value to a company, but could also destroy a lot of value in the company if not implemented in the right way….”

What do you see as the challenges of 2017?
“… I think that the digital leadership is going to be a main challenge for IT executives in the coming years … Other challenges we just talked about are business/IT alignment, business agility and cost reduction; these will be there for the years to come … Each year we will be seeing new things coming in the market, so the CIOs need to be developing strategies each time to see how they can get the most out of each new cycle of the technological innovations that are coming to the market….”

What do you see as some of the leadership qualities required in 2015 for IT executives?
“… Digital leaders need to accept that technology is going to change business over and over again and so for that they need to stay up-to-date on what’s happening … To see the bigger picture and make a plan to manage the content, data, processes, they have to set the right goals, strategies, find the right outcomes while minimizing risks … Communicating their vision and their plan and doing the marketing of their IT organization and showing the value that they are creating for the organization in the best possible way …”

Do you see any controversies today and their impact on businesses and can you talk about them?
“… IT and especially the governance of IT is too important for the IT department only so I think CEOs and business leaders need to be in tune with the challenges and concerns that IT brings to their organization and need to really understand the opportunities, but also the threats that IT brings to their organization. I see it as the role of the CIOs to teach, inform and educate on an ongoing basis C-level executives about these opportunities and threats … Another controversy that’s been going on for quite some time is the place of the CIO in the organization … The last controversy I find quite fascinating is the old bring your own device discussion…..”

One of the things you are involved with is the World CIO Forum (WCF) which is hosted in China from November 10 – 12 in Xi’an. Can you talk more about it?
“….The World CIO Forum is a global conference for IT executives and hosted by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) and undertaken by the Chinese Institute for Electronics. There will be more than a thousand IT leaders, and decision makers, government officials and so on from around the world will be participating….”

Did you have any recent meetings with the organizers including with the China CIO Union?
“….When I was in Beijing last August we had a great meeting with the people from the Chinese CIO Union. We are building a very strong relationship with them and are looking forward to supporting them and the organization of the World CIO Forum and also inviting our members to join there because I think the topics that are going to be addressed at this conference are really exciting.….”

Some of the largest banks in the world are now Chinese and some of the biggest companies in the world are now Chinese. I guess that would be of interest to executives to say that there is this tide coming from the East and we need to connect with them in some way. I guess that would drive your interest as well.
“….If you have never been there you have no idea of what’s going on, what’s happening there and what is coming our way. We can look at it on television and we can look at the paper, but being there and seeing the amazing rate of development and growth is really an eye opener….What we would like to do is to give more of our members who have never been there and been exposed to the Chinese market the opportunity to see what’s going on there, and to talk to their Chinese counterparts so that they can get prepared for the future when more and more of Chinese organizations, technologies will be coming over to the West….”

You’ve already given an answer to what are some of the leadership qualities that people should have, but looking into your own career are there any other lessons you wish to share that may be helpful to ICT executives in their roles?
“… Think big to create a big vision that is appealing to people, that challenges them and excites them …Work very hard and put systems and processes in place and constantly keep the quality high for everything that you do … Attract very highly driven people who go the extra mile. Build a strong team and give the people a clear framework to work in (within that framework give them a lot of freedom to be creative and to develop the business further)… Have confidence … Be creative and always continue to innovate and reinvent yourself….”

You choose the topic area. What do you see as some of the top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
“….. I think for many of the challenges: world economics, the development of poor countries and green economies and so on, I think to a certain extent technology will be able solve some of these world challenges. The rest of course is up to leadership and making sure that we have wise people leading and that they do the right thing….”

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