We have entered a new business world: today’s businesses operate in a world where traditional, rigid structures are being replaced by fluid, rapidly changing models. This is why, more than ever, individuals are needed to inspire new ways of thinking. Those individuals choose to be Agents of Change will power the businesses that succeed as they embrace this new dynamic environment they’re now operating in.
Why JOIN Experience ? Please tell us what JOIN EXPERIENCE does.
JOIN Experience is a Telco 3.0 operator in Europe. Based in Luxembourg it offers innovative mobile telecom and IT Cloud combined services to individuals, with a focus on servicing SOHOs and SMEs. JOIN had the challenge to launch Luxembourg in 2014, Belgium in 2015 and is now expanding rapidly to further countries and other vertical, non-Telco markets like Music or Energy.
How would you define a change agent?
A change agent helps an organization transform itself. It is someone who has the skill and power to stimulate and facilitate organizational change effort. They are individuals who are capable of turning strategy into reality. In the JOIN architecture board I usually that my slideshows with two sentences that I did steal with pride from someone who went on stage in Brussels to talk about security. This very exiting speaker did not invent them on his own, but he quoted a famous author called “Salim Ismael”. 1st: “When you try to innovate within a company its immune system will attack you” – 2nd: “Technology is science – getting people to use it is art”. These are the best statements that are reflecting on change agents.
Why do CIOs need to be change agents today?
The business world is changing – old, rigid structures are being replaced by fluid, rapidly changing models. To be successful, businesses need to be nimble, innovative and responsive. Technology plays a key role in achieving this. Change agent CIOs or CDOs are those that are helping their business rethink their business models and to change the way their business operates by harnessing the transformative power of technology. On the opposite side in a very young and agile company like JOIN it is sometimes that the IT organization continuously has to face the situation that business departments and specifically marketing people like product managers are fully justified empowered to develop their own products in a DevOps approach with external parties running on public cloud services. The CIO’s and CDO’s need in this organizations have to be not only competitive to those external parties but provide based on a digital platform an environment that is more agile then ever. He need to lead, steer and integrate all those parties and services into one converged and consistent platform.
How does technology enable change?
There can be no doubt that technology trends from cloud computing to the Internet of Things are irrevocably changing the way businesses operate. And they usually stimulate growth, innovation and a new wave of companies. The challenge is to exploit these trends successfully – that’s what being a change agent is about.
Explain the change program you have led in your organization.
Building a 3rd generation operator in a green field situation allows and requires to evaluate revolutionary concepts and technologies. Understanding the changing landscape in Telco and IT is one thing but to combine technologies to provide a platform that is profiting from these changes is a different ball game. Getting the people on both sides of the table (business and IT/Telco) onboard and gain their trust that new concepts like DevOps and new technologies like a fully virtualized TelCo platform would be required to cope with the agility and scalability needs of tomorrow was key. The platform that we build in JOIN had to be able to provision and bill in the future any kind of subscription based services like music or energy. To build such a platform a consistent, solid but also flexible and scalable infrastructure layer was at the very bottom of everything. This is very VMware did support JOIN and developed the required building blocks on compute, network, storage and automation layer along the project to make the vision reality.
What has been the easiest thing to change at your organization? What has been the hardest?
The easiest part in JOIN was the technology layer as JOIN did start without legacy even if the different technologies came just in time on the market to combine them to deliver the whole picture. The hardest was to align people in following the same pace. It is absolutely not that this is about IT being faster then Business but often the other way around. On top there are more and less agile people on both sides but it is important to recognize that the faster ones are always defining the pace.
How is change perceived in your industry?
Unlike in the financial sector (and this one of the sectors where Luxembourg is very much known for in this world) TelCo has a very high pace in changes. During the last year that pace did grow exponentially. All IP and virtualization are technical drivers of change in Telco. In 2013 when we did start virtualization was a no GO in a carrier grade world with more than 99.999. Since virtualization in Telco did explode and became one of the key drivers of innovation.
What drives you to lead change?
Of cause, I can point out key drivers like driving profitability and growth or better serving customers. There are plenty of key drivers for change but honestly fact is that I love innovation. IT became almost boring during the end of the last decade now thanks to cloud services and other innovations the possibilities are exploding and with that also the challenges staying on top or inventing something entirely new. Due to the digital age most of the incumbents are becoming legacy in their industries and sometimes their entire industry get replace by something else. We are living in a very exciting time.
How have you inspired change at your company? How are people responding to change?
Probably moderating between business and technical departments is very important – but for me hiring the right people that are able to inspire change tomorrow is the most important thing. The need for young and very good people to drive change was never higher then today. People are always resistant, but change is driven by the best and most innovative profiles. In a world that is not changing these profiles are often seen as enemies but in the fast world we are living in today they are usually welcome to find the required answers for the future.
Who do you draw inspiration from?
Of cause there are some innovators in our industry that are mentors but the main inspiration comes from the younger generation. Innovation even in traditional sectors like retail are driven by young IT guys. This is due to the fact that in rapid changing world everything is allowed and required to stay competitive. If you don’t believe it talk to the young IT boys from Zalando.
What characteristics are required to be a successful agent of change?
Of cause the traditional values like: passion / vision / trustworthy but also new characteristics like agile, open minded, innovative and research oriented.
What three tips can you give other CIOs who want to become change agents?
Not only understand which business challenges their sector will face tomorrow but further which other sectors potentially might take over their traditional business by changing the rules. Only if that is well understood he can focus on strategical and technical solutions to support the business to be faster than the completion of tomorrow. Why should that be the worries ofo the CIO/CDO? Because today these paradigm changes are usually triggered by technologies shifts and how else in a company is better suited then the CIO/CDO to recognize them.