The difference between IT and technology leaders, and the alliances they can build

CTOs and CIOs
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People can come to Robert Osborn for two very different, but very complementary, areas of expertise.

As the federal CTO for ServiceNow, Osborn spends part of his time talking to public sector organizations about some of the ways they might be able to transform the citizen experience and the processes within government by making use of technology. Having worked in the U.S. Department of Defence, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, it’s safe to say he has a unique insight into how such organizations operate.

The other area where Osborn can offer guidance, however, stems from the fact that he originally came largely from CIO kinds of roles. That means — for those who don’t have a CTO of their own but need to manage teams of developers and other kinds of talent — he can serve as a sounding board for IT leaders trying to figure out how such roles should be divided.

“The CIO is responsible for business outcomes through the efficient delivery of IT that drives performance in the organization,” Obsorn told B2B News Network during the recent Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Toronto. “The CTO needs to be supportive of the outcomes of the CIO, but more in the technical aspects.”

Osborn said he often talks with ServiceNow clients about the notion of “mission enablement,” where CTOs work on things that bring value to CIOs and beyond. In fact, he suggested that one of the key partners for any CTO is not just the CIO but the head of HR. This is a line of business that crosses every other one, he noted. If technology can be successfully developed to meet various human resource needs, those wins can provide “bridging capabilities” to do more in other parts of an organization.

One example of where CTOs might begin supporting and advising, Osborn suggested, is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) or other forms of advanced automation. There are ongoing questions, he noted, of how much decision-making an organization — particularly one in the federal government space — can delegate to a machine.

“You need to think about what are those inherently human decisions,” he said. “It might be things that could affect a human life. Things that could have a major business impact. Anything that touches on health, safety or security. It could be that you can have 80 per cent confidence in a machine’s ability to make certain decisions but if it’s less than that, you need a human to take a closer look.”

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.