Last week I attended Gartner’s “SYMPOSIUM ITxpo 2015” at Disney World in Orlando, Florida; 12,000 of us including 4,000 or so CIOs from Sunday the 4th through Thursday the 8th; 400 or so individual presentations with up to 12 going on at the same time with maybe 20 or so on Cybersecurity; comes close to being the best such event in terms of quality and quantity that I’ve attended in fifty years of attending such things; yes – really!

Here are my top five take-aways:

1 – DIGITAL AGE – The best “words of one syllable” definition” of what’s new for CIOs as they move into the “Digital Age” is that they are now going to be expected to use IT to create NEW REVENUE for their companies.  That’s it; all of it. It really is that simple AND it really isn’t all that new! Every single one of the Renaissance CIOs earned their stripes by using IT to create NEW REVENUE – starting way back in the 1970s with Max Hopper and the SABRE System at American Airlines. It might not be “new” but it is – today – hugely more important. Great companies either grow and blossom or they shrivel and die – and now that choice is up to those of you who are CIOs … and the time for that choice is NOW! Never were CIOs more central to corporate success!

2- CYBERSECURITY – Cybersecurity is a very, very hot topic; so much so that almost a 5th of all CEOs surveyed by Gartner rank it as more important than business growth. Too many companies aren’t doing the basics: enforce changing passwords every 90 days; make them long and complex: upper & lower case + digits + symbols and maybe even ten characters long (as is the case at the NSA); educate your employees and renew that every 18-24 months; warn everyone about phishing and check to see if they’re listening by “in house” phishing; identify your most critical files and give them extra protection. Finally, update your Enterprise Architecture to incorporate Cybersecurity in an integrated manner. Whatever you do, don’t “do” cybersecurity in a fragmented manner. Slow down, stop if you must, but think it through and develop a balanced and integrated approach. Don’t do what one company did: 200 tools from 45 vendors!

3 – TALENT – 50% of CEOs and 67% of CIOs believe there is an IT talent crisis. To counter this crisis, CIOs must become obsessed with attracting, retaining, and motivating TALENT. They must learn how to unleash the skills of their existing talent and much better manage that talent. They should get closer to Universities to recruit new talent and new ideas. Finally, they should rotate talented individuals from non-IT areas of their companies … to constantly be bringing in new, creative, innovative ideas. Central to all of this is the unleashing of skills – but that means you must know what skills there are to be unleashed and skill surveys most often do a rotten job of this. IT Leaders (notice the capital “L”) must get to know their people in some depth – and the only way that I’ve ever found that really works is one-on-one in-person hour-long (or sometimes even longer) interviews. You “create” through your people. You must come to know their talents – and not just the obvious ones. Do it! It’s central to your success in “The Digital Age.”

4 – GOVERNANCE – This is probably no one’s favorite topic, certainly not mine. However, in “The Digital Age” the traditional forms of governance can be life-threatening. They too often lack a strategic focus. They too often are change-adverse and – by virtue of that – innovation-adverse at exactly the time when innovation is a prerequisite to corporate survival. Governance imposes innovation-killing “boundaries” that can no longer be tolerated. These “boundaries” and the governance processes and structures that have enshrined them must be thrown away and replaced by “flipping” from an emphasis on compliance to an emphasis on constructive, IT-based, impact … impact in the form of increased revenue (i.e., the definition of “The Digital Age” as outlined in my topic #1 above). The traditional forms of governance are a poor excuse for “Top Tier” IT Leadership … leadership with a clear vision; leadership that is able to execute on its vision; leadership that seeks and achieves positive, enduring, and major impact. The time is Now! Throw away those governance rule books and start leading!

5 – TRUST – The underlying and connecting thread in all of the “How do we manage? How do we lead? sessions with the CEOs of IBM, Pixar, and Zappos, and with Gartner’s top “Leadership” speakers, was one word: Trust! The days of Frederick Taylor’s “The Science of Management” (c. 1913) are over. Start today to build a new company culture based on mutual trust, mutual responsibility, mutual accountability, cross-functional connectedness, and one in which all the members of a team (1) see their role as peer-to-peer, (2) have a vested interest in each other’s success, and (3) give and listen to each other’s ideas openly, freely, easily.

In the above five all-too-short paragraphs, I have just discussed five gargantuan topics: the Digital Age, Cybersecurity, Talent, Governance, and Trust. I look forward to your comments.