2An excellent three days with GDS Summits as Keynote speaker for their 12th Annual CIO Europe Summit held at the Powerscourt Hotel south of Dublin. The byline for GDS Summits is ‘Accelerating Key Conversations’ and more than anything, I learned that they are very good at facilitating this.

My opening experience was straightforward but valuable – meeting Paul the driver at the airport and getting some insights into how these events work plus some background on the fantastic hotel we were staying at, and not least, calming my nerves a little. I was joined in the car by Badreddine Laroussi from TDA Capital Group Limited who gave me my first facts on the role of a CIO – Chief Information Officer. Insights into ‘Big Data’, ‘The Internet of Things’, ‘360 degree view’ of customers and simply making practical sense of the vast ocean of information that is being collected on customers, be they business or consumers.

It gave me the opportunity to ask Badreddine what a ‘win’ would be for him from the conference and his answer was a common one from the people I managed to speak to over the coming three days – he was expecting to have a conversation that would deliver a ‘golden nugget’ of information, technique, ‘top tip’, etc that would make a difference to how things worked for him. Sometimes at these events you get one, sometimes you get a lot and sometimes you have a very useful interaction with the solution providers who essentially want direct contact to show off their products and sell to the delegates.

These opening insights were hugely valuable to me and as I spent the next day and a half scribbling notes I could learn more and tailor my keynote Atlantic Experience talk to a varied audience with a mix of nationalities and agendas with both delegates and solution providers in attendance. Seeing as part of the Summit was about collecting data on customers and enhancing the ‘customer experience’ then this was very apt indeed.

IMG_3458Delegate feedback, Dr Pedro Galdon: ‘Ian is one of the best professional speakers I have ever met, his speech is amazing. I recommend listening to him, you always learn from somebody who has had those fantastic experiences.’

The time spent mixing with all of the attendees and the GDS team was well spent to tailor the evening Keynote Talk to the message of the summit – ‘Is innovation leading the CIO or is the CIO leading innovation.’ The GDS team were outstanding too; personally they put me at my ease and working with Soko, Adam, Sasha, Becky and the team was both a pleasure and a great learning experience that all stood me in good stead for the keynote delivery.

GDS feedback: ‘The feedback from your speech on the second night has been outstanding.’

With attendees ranging from logistics with DHL, finance including Northern Trust and Aldermore Bank, charities such as Save the Children and retail outlets such as O2 Home Services there was a wide range of experiences and sectors on hand to share insights and have the key conversations that can make a difference in business performance. Solution providers were headed up with the Platinum sponsor, Malwarebytes and supported by companies such as Sailpoint and ROC technologies.

Delegate feedback, Pal Kerekfy, University of Applied Sciences: ‘Thank you again for the great story telling at our dinner yesterday, and also for the additional pieces of the story during lunch today. I could have listen to you much longer time…’

The keynote was designed to answer the question posed at the Summit and I used it to demonstrate that it is ordinary people that deliver extra-ordinary things, big goals are achieved in small steps and not least that the only reason we can fail is that we have tried in the first place. Blending my Atlantic story into the key points I picked up from the Summit took time but was time well spent – from the GB Olympic gold medal crew with their ‘CIO’ steering the boat, getting out of our comfort zone, the pivotal moment of putting our boat in the water, taking on big challenges a small step at a time, handling setbacks – the capsize moments and being relentless, finding the will to keep going when the tough times come. All the attendees were handling these things in ‘normal life’.

The conclusion for me is that the CIO role is so different according to the organisation and that innovation is a moving target too – not just innovate and become more complex but innovate to simplify too. The question is therefore only something that can be answered according to the CIO and organisation involved – its a big ocean and everyone has a different experience on it!

Picture1With two different types of attendees, the delegates and the solution providers it was good to see how barriers eroded between everyone with the intense programme run by GDS being instrumental in this. From my perspective, it was clear to me that the delegates were reminiscent of our crew rowing the ocean and the solution providers were the ones there to get us out of trouble or better still help us stop getting into it in the first place! Lessons of the Atlantic really do apply in all situations!

I must have spoken to 30 or 40 individuals during the course of the Summit and every single one of them had something positive to say about the event, they all asserted that they had taken something from it – be it a small gold nugget or a possible significant business opportunity. For me, watching ‘the team’ of disparate people bland and merge into a team pulling together with high energy and commitment was a brilliant experience and a genuine pleasure to see – I trust the attendees saw that too.

And finally, back to the ‘Accelerating Key Conversations’, part of my talk looks at the simple act of doing things because if we do not do anything, then we are stuck in our comfort zone and not much can happen. This conference was well outside my comfort zone, approaching delegates and solution providers to introduce myself to a variety of top businessmen and women was a challenge – I am just a rower after all; but was it worth it? Oh yes! I have made some really fantastic contacts from across Europe, people in high powered positions for global companies driving innovation and customer service forward on a planet wide scale. The numbers are simply astounding –  1.1 billion, 60 billion, 6.1 trillion?! I cannot even write down the correct number of zeroes for any of those numbers, yet the people were all great to talk to, fun to be around, fascinating to listen to and often as not having common hopes and fears.

My conclusion? A group of ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things, good work!

Next GDS Summit…..

I’m looking forward to the next GDS Summit in Berlin in November – The 13th Annual Financial Services Technology Summit Europe and demonstrating that the lessons from the Atlantic apply to all sectors of the business world.

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