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Think Like a Modern CIO: Set the Digital Transformation Agenda. Deliver Business Results (Part 2)

Roland Alston, Appian
March 21, 2019

Georgette Kiser, CIO, Carlyle Group

This is the final installment of our two-part series on the changing role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) withGeorgette Kiser,CIO at The Carlyle Group, a global investment company with over $200 billion of assets under management. Read part 1 here.

CIO magazine recently reported that the role of the CIO has been transformed by the astonishing evolution of digital transformation. But perhaps the biggest conundrum for CIOs is to level up and become a strategy partner, or be replaced by someone who can.

Succeeding as a CIO means measuring up to other C- level executives when it comes to creating value and business impact. Which is a good segue to the final episode of our thought-provoking conversation with Georgette Kiser, CIO of The Carlyle Group.

Hope you enjoy the conversation.

Appian: I want to revisit something you mentioned earlier intelligent automation. This is a very hot topic right now. What do you make of the technologies that make up the intelligent automation spectrum RPA, AI and machine learning? Is it time to get on the intelligent automation bus?

Kiser: It depends. Some of the big manufacturing companies are investing heavily in RPA. But I argue that RPA is about process.

We're a big company but a smaller player in an enormous industry. We have a relatively small number of processes and workflows. So, we're focused on getting our processes straight first, before putting RPA on top of them.

The thing is, different companies are doing automation in different ways. In manufacturing, they're not doing software, they're actually building smart robots, and that's a whole 'nother approach to automation.

Harnessing Data, Essential to Success

Appian:When I think about technologies like RPA and AI, I also think about the enormous role of data. It's the common denominator in intelligent automation. How will new ways to leverage data impact the role of the CIO now and in the future?

Kiser: So, data is king. Many companies are realizing that if they're not storing, harnessing and leveraging their data, they're not going to grow. In the past, this was more art than science. But now it's the other way around.

Appian: Talk about the challenge of overcoming resistance to adopting trends like intelligent automation. What do you see as the biggest barriers to adoption?

Kiser: There's the challenge of change management. That's where you've got to put on your business cap. It's easy to get hung up on the technologies, because that's our background. If you don't evolve beyond that, it can really cause you lots of trouble as a CIO.

You have to really understand the needs of the business. That's huge. It's the most important piece of the puzzle. It's the key to success for a CIO.

Appian: As you look ahead, what are your expectations for 2019 and beyond? Which big trends are on your radar?

Kiser: For me, it's data analytics, where it's going to take us, and how we're going to use it to run our businesses in the future.

Data analytics isn't new, but it keeps evolving with the new technologies that are out there. So, this is an area that I tend to keep my eye on at Carlyle and at all of the smaller portfolio companies that we own.We want to help these companies leverage their data to solve problems and grow value across the company.

I also think low-code (software development) will make it easier for IT, operations, and business to build client-centric workflow and applications faster.

Preparing workers for the future

Appian: Which brings us back to intelligent automation. There's a big debate going on about how intelligent automation will impact the traditional workforce. What should companies do to prepare their workers for the jobs of the future?

Kiser: We talked earlier about the challenges of digital transformation. Retraining your workforce is a big part of that. I'm talking about retraining people in terms of how they think, and how they use the tools they need to do their job.

In terms of academia, we're seeing a shortage of people coming out of school with engineering and computer science degrees. When I talk to my peers, this skill gap frequently comes up.

Technology is a big driver for many organizations. So, from an educational standpoint, we need to do a better job of preparing the next generation of workers with the skills they'll need to do the jobs of the future. That's something I worry about as a CIO. I think good things are happening, but not fast enough. We'll just have to see how it plays out.

On a life-long mission to learn

Appian: In wrapping up, I was fascinated with the arc of your career your journey from aerospace to financial services and now CIO at Carlyle. In retrospect, what's the common denominator that cuts across your career?

Kiser: My life has always been about putting myself in a situation where I'm learning. That's why I focused on computer science and math. Math is about solving problems. There's an answer at the end. We all know that there are multiple ways to solve it. Some harder, some faster. The fun part is figuring out how to get there most efficiently.

If you look at my career starting off in aerospace it was an incredible journey that lead me to a leadership position as CIO at Carlyle.

But at the end of the day, it's all about intellectual curiosity, learning, and providing solutions that add true business value.