Confare SWISS #CIOAward Winner 2021 Alec Joannou, ABB: Today’s definition of digital is a game changer.

by Barbara Schweinberger

Alec Joannou has been awarded the Confare Swiss #CIOAward 2021. Congratulations!

Swiss #CIOAward Gewinner Alec Joannou

10 years of Confare Swiss #CIOAward mean appreciation and attention for an entire professional group, but also inspiration and examples of success for the IT community. We look forward to introducing you to the most outstanding nominees and their experiences and views in the blog again this year. Today we introduce Alec Joannou to you.

As part of the 10th Confare #CIOSUMMIT Zurich, you will also have the opportunity to meet our nominees and around 200 other top-class IT managers from top companies in person. Secure your ticket now! 

Confare #CIOSUMMIT Zürich 2021

ABB Group CIO Alec Joannou and his team aim to make a traditional and successful company fit for the digital age. The level of commitment, strategic foresight and success with which this happens makes Alec a very promising candidate for the Confare Swiss #CIOAWARD and the award as #TopCIO of the year in the eyes of the jury.

How is the digital transformation changing your company and what does that mean for IT?

Digital has been around for a long time at ABB and if you think about the simple act of connecting multiple devices through an electronic interface, what we did was to digitize the process which was manual before. With this came industrialization of processes and delivery of efficiencies and in many case effectiveness too. And hence IT became part of the DNA of ABB and every other company.

Today’s definition of Digital is a game changer and can and will provide ABB with a competitive edge. It is no longer just about driving efficiencies and effectiveness but rather delivering real shareholder value. With better integration, connectivity, superior computing power and cloud technologies, to mention a few, we are now able to use data to create automated processes that also learn through AI, to create predictive models and algorithms that save us millions on our and our customers maintenance bills or improve the customer and consumer experience both internally and more importantly externally, by being able to provide a customer centric offering together with remote services required in times of a crises.

Big data now becomes real, and we can share and analyze data together with our employees, customers, competitors at times and partners. Even though IT and digital was always part and parcel of the fabric of our company, it has now become a key strategic differentiator. It has also to be said that must recognize that it’s not as easy as advertised to realize the promised Digital benefits and we certainly have a way to go as a company. The fundamentals of standard processes and access to data that provides a history and the integrity required, is core to everything Digital, and this still must be addressed. We are not a Digital Native company and have years of legacy systems to address before we can get the true value from Digital. We have started the Journey to get there and are very excited about where this will lead us. As the CIO I am especially proud of the role my people and I will play in this Journey.

What is decisive for a future-oriented positioning of IT?

CIOSUMMIT Zürich 21 - Alec JoannouMy answer to this is that we must migrate from being viewed as just another cost centre to a function that not only delivers shareholder value but also becomes a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Modularity and integration in applications, connectivity, systems and data that provides for flexibility and agility. In our current world, operating models are changing constantly, M&A activity is a back in full force, and our customers and employees are demanding more and more from us all the time. Our ability to react quickly will ensure that we deliver benefits to the bottom line and more importantly will prevent the building of shadow IT and the proliferation of the complexity we already have in our environments.

So what is decisive for ma as the CIO in this new Digital world – 3 factors in my opinion.  And in no priority, these are them. One is Enterprise Architecture. This is now more important than ever before if one wants to create an agile and flexible architecture to enable any operating model and being able to respond to your customers’ demands.

Second is to enable and implement a data governance model across ABB, facilitated by systems and processes.

Three, upskill our people and their competencies and capabilities to help enable and feel part of this future. Provide the growth and learning opportunities for people in IT to not only adapt but to thrive in the new world.

And it’s a journey because companies like ours have to digitize their back offices to realize the true benefits of Digital across the value chain and this will take effort, investment and focus. Functions such as HR and Finance have to digitize the backbone of ABB for the full Digital value to be realized whilst building customer facing Digital solutions in parallel.

What is the mission statement of ABB IT?

Future IS

Reliable, competitive IS services, delivered
by inspired people driving simplicity
and business value

Co-created + Digital + Secure + Sustainability

Meet Alec Joannou and 200 other top-class IT managers from top companies at the 10th Confare #CIOSUMMIT Zurich!

Confare #CIOSUMMIT Zürich 2021

What role do sustainability and responsibility play for ABB IT?

Sustainability together with diversity have become key topics across all companies and at ABB we are no different. They have become key focus areas with commitments from the CEO and his leadership team. We have an inspiring ambition to be carbon neutral as a company by 2030 and that we have at least 25% of all of our senior leadership team represented by women. And as IT we have a huge role to play in both of these areas as CIO, I am passionate about both these topics. On the sustainability, we need to implement the technologies, systems, reporting abilities and controls to enable ABB to become carbon neutral by 2030 and we also need to play our part by ensuring that our partners and the data center’s we operate out of play an equally important role to meet our aggressive targets.

On the diversity topic, we have a huge opportunity to contribute to the 25% target and become a key feeder for the broader ABB. Currently, we are tracking at over 30% of all leadership positions in IT are women. From a culture and age diversity perspective, we are truly representative, and our people can be found all over the world.

On the responsibility side, I would like to bring in compliance and highlight the importance of aspects like information security, IT controls and authorizations. Having all the above in place and having these elements embedded into the way IT works at ABB will also ensure sustainability for the function and ABB.

In summary we have got a great tag line for this – Business First, Security and Compliance by Design.

How do you shape the CIO role yourself? Where do you set your priorities?

I would like to drive for sustainable business value through two focus areas – digital transformations and technology modernizations. I will focus on managing the fundamental technology change journey with a very sharp eye on where the real business value is and at the same time never lose sight of the people and overall change agenda. And always making sure the basics are working as we transform across the ABB value chain.

A good CIO cannot really be great without being surrounded by strong people and teams. And to keep those teams and people motivated and focused, I have to set a very clear and simple vision and ensure that I can articulate it and sell it well enough to get buy in from the people on the ground. And create that excitement and space for people to execute against that vision.

What does the Confare CIOAWARD mean for you personally?

It would mean a lot for me but more importantly it would mean the world to my team and the people that helped make this Journey possible. It will also mean a lot to our partners who have been an integral part of the ecosystem that helped in achieving what we did and what we still need to do. This award is not about the CIO but more about the people who work in IT, the partners we have and the key stakeholders and sponsors in the ABB business. It is an endorsement and recognition from an independent body of the great strides forward made in IT at ABB.

On a more personal front, having won a similar award in South Africa, if I were to win, it would confirm that the principles and philosophies of leadership in IT are truly global and repeatable if one remains focused on the right agenda which is always about people and business value.

It would also provide for a great platform for me to promote the importance of the roles of the CIO and CDO and highlight how fundamental IT is to all companies and their ambitions.

And finally, to begin my quest to integrate and network in European IT circles.

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