Ahead of the marcus evans Australian CIO Summit 2022, Steve Sammartino discusses disruptive technologies, the future of the internet, and what CIOs need to plan for.

What CIOs Need to Know about the Future of Technology 

Steve Sammartino | Futurist, Author & Entrepreneur

“The most disruptive technology for CIOs today is digital twins, but many of them do not have a strategy around it. Companies that get better at building digital twins will have a major strategic corporate advantage in the future. CIOs need to be more disciplined about it, and purposefully build a digital twin for the business environment they operate in,” says Steve Sammartino, Futurist, Author & Entrepreneur.

Sammartino is a speaker at the marcus evans Australian CIO Summit 2022.

What disruptive technologies do CIOs need to plan for? 

Digital twins will have a bigger impact than artificial intelligence. With digital twins, the idea is that everything that is physical will have a twin data version, whether it is a house, car, city or factory. The companies that get better at building and having twins that are accessible, so you can change the physical version of something via the twin, and when anything in the physical environment changes the twin automatically gets updated, will have a major advantage. That means CIOs are no longer just managers of infrastructure. They can actually build tomorrow’s infrastructure, which can then become a production and marketing tool for the wider organisation.

Not many CIOs have a plan or strategy around this, and they should not get caught with nothing. The companies that develop digital twins first will be like those that developed the strongest e-commerce platforms. Others will have to use their systems for their own digital twin. Many companies are actually building digital twins without realising it, they have pieces of the puzzle, but not necessarily enough of them. They need to get more pieces of that puzzle so they can actually build a true digital twin.

How can CIOs reinvent value for their organisation?

The number one thing CIOs need to do is stop being seen as a cost centre but a potential revenue stream. They need to make sure the benefits, in terms of efficiency and marketing capability, are well understood throughout the organisation. This is almost an industrial revolution, and goes beyond managing information infrastructure. CIOs need to get very good at communicating the benefits and adding pieces to the puzzle. Digital twins happen once there is a whole set of Internet of Things active in the marketplace. They must think of where they can add information, knowledge and awareness to all the physical things in their business, so the business becomes almost a living organism that breaths, has knowledge, knows what it is, where it is, and what it should do, which then improves decision-making and efficiency. A system that sees problems before they happen. CIOs need to get good at selling the positive benefits to CEOs and Board Members, in order to get the right level of investment and funding.

What tools do CIOs underutilise?

Most businesses are struggling with legacy information systems that are not integrated enough. Different departments and divisions use different systems, so nobody can really see what is happening in other areas of the business and how they all join up. It is difficult to change to new systems but very important. The big tech firms have this as one of their core advantages.

What lessons can you share from your books that CIOs would find valuable?

My second book, The Lessons School Forgot, has two main ideas that are very relevant today. I believe that we have to unlearn the systems that we learned in school, and unlearn the idea of thinking big. We need to think small and prove things on a small scale. That removes the barriers for change. We need to have this entrepreneurial mindset, to test on a small scale and learn how to choose. It is the easiest way to get things done. Large businesses tend to have this habit of, “It’s all or nothing”. We need to start small and then mushroom out as much as we can.

What other changes do you foresee?

We did not get the internet we thought we would. It was supposed to be fair, distributed, available to all, with no barriers to entry and no centralised organisations. But we ended up getting a centralised internet. The big companies have taken a lot of the raw materials of the internet, which is people’s data and personal behaviour patterns, often collected with flimsy permission, and the wider society has not benefited from the internet revolution as much as we thought it would. What we need to do now is to regulate the internet and share the rewards. The internet we deserve is one where it is more equalised. We get a chance now, with Web 3.0, digital twins, virtual reality and some regulation around data, to build a flatter internet. We are at a very important reflection point in the internet’s short history, where we can reframe the internet for good, where data is taken more seriously, and the big organisations that use and control it are regulated.

Another change coming soon will arise from crypto-economics. All governments will move to a crypto version of their own currency, and when that happens, currencies will become programmable, and have smart contracts associated with them. Companies need to understand what the future of their business will look like in this environment.