For Innovation, ‘Imagine If’

In uncharted waters of technological innovation, focusing on the desired outcome can light the path toward practical solutions, according to CTO Dwayne Emerson.

It makes sense that emerging technologies are at the forefront of IT leaders’ minds, especially with the meteoric rise of generative AI, and questions around practical usage and implementation undoubtedly arise. The key to finding solutions? Keep your eye on the prize. So says Dwayne Emerson, CTO of Orange Business in the Americas.

When it comes to streamlining tech stacks, implementing hyper-automation, and meeting customer needs, pinpointing desired outcomes and larger goals clarifies the necessary processes to make it happen.

As CTO in the Americas and leading digital integration for your customers, what challenges do you see when working with multi-IT stacks? 

IT architectures are getting more overextended than ever before with an abundance of OEM technology options, each with their own benefit or function. Piling any number of them together creates a house of cards effect which can disrupt your operations. This can be caused by a lack of interoperability or some unknown X factor that arises when technology A is talking to technology B or C.

Large, complicated IT stacks is a common challenge with multinational organizations. Different offices in different regions will have their own unique IT needs. The responsibility for end-to-end harmony falls on the shoulders of the CIO to ensure some semblance of uniformity across their organization.

There is also the disruptive influence new technologies like generative AI bring to the equation. Some companies may rush to the latest, unproven innovation without considering the risks of introducing it in their IT ecosystem.

The net-net of all this is disruption. That can take many forms. There’s the cost of managing all the different components. There’s the downtime when one piece fails and cascades across your organization. There are the data silos this creates, as well as the security and compliance risks. And finally, there are delays and roadblocks this creates when you need to be agile. 

Reining in these multi-IT stacks requires a trusted partner and digital integrator that can play “traffic cop.” They will have the expertise, partner ecosystem, global scale and interoperability built-in to seamlessly integrate all those different pieces.

When I’m talking with customers about simplifying their IT stacks, I will always emphasize the importance of having a business outcome to what they are doing. What this new piece of tech will do to further the company’s business goals.  If that is mapped out in the beginning of this process, then they are more able to control these stacks from spiraling out of control.

What’s the best way to engage with partners on a common project?  How do you designate roles and coordinate?

When a partner is brought onboard, their roles and responsibilities should be laid out and work in accordance to a project plan with schedules, timing and budgets made explicit. Projects will always change as they go along so it’s necessary to have some flexibility built in to ensure a realistic project plan. Consistent communication and open transparency are vital in that regard.

What are your thoughts on the concept of “hyper-automation?”  

Hyper-automation is the idea that overlapping technologies—generative AI, virtual bots, machine learning—can coalesce together to perform automation on a scale that is smarter and more comprehensive.  

Adopting hyper-automation is not only about technology, but rather about revising, abandoning or creating new processes around it. AI or robotic process automation is just a tool to amplify the scale of connected, now automated, operations with a business outcome attached.

An initial concern customers express when I talk to them about hyper-automation is the fear that if they just automate everything as is, things will break or fail at an accelerated rate. That’s why I stress the importance of getting your business outcomes identified at the start. Post pandemic, it is no longer an aspiration to automate beyond the basics. It’s a necessity and a goal that is now achievable. 

What advice do you have for CTOs who are joining a new company and taking the reins? 

I feel good with where I am after joining the company last June. What helped the acclimation process was proactive listening and not running fast and hot out of the gate to just change things up.

I reached out to people to introduce myself and learn about what they do, what they need or wish they had.  I always ask the question, “Why?” Even if it made perfect sense, the unpacking of how things are done gives me great insight into what could be done. It also reaffirms to those with whom I interact that their opinions do matter to me.

Within my remit of the Americas, I strictly focus on developing new services via digital integration for our customers. I take an “imagine if” approach with our teams and our customers with a lens of innovation to help find new and unique value.

My approach to almost everything I have done in my career is to start with the desired outcome first and then find solutions to meet the needs. What I say about business outcomes when it comes to IT stacks applies to my management style as well.

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