Five Questions With: Joe Devine

With the innovation-fostering group Tech Collective setting up a forum for chief information officers in Rhode Island last year at the request of Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, its work is well underway.

Joe Devine, Tech Collective’s interim executive director, gave Providence Business News an update on the Rhode Island CIO Forum.

PBN: Why did Tech Collective form the RI CIO Forum?

DEVINE: Our mission is to provide the technology industry with demand-driven workforce development, conceptualizing trainings, events and community-building initiatives that address the specific needs of Rhode Island’s technology leaders. We empower leaders to connect, convene and cultivate their skill sets. The CIO Forum is another example of exactly that. After receiving a suggestion last year from Gov. Raimondo … we quickly moved to create the group.

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The CIO Forum creates an environment [in which] CIOs can meet to learn, expand their network and advance information technology thinking within the state … and to vet out future IT programs and decisions.

We meet with our member companies throughout the year to assess their most significant pain points and respond quickly with collaborative events and training opportunities to create a collective statewide solution.

PBN: Has the CIO Forum met yet?

DEVINE: Yes, we have had two major speaker events and several other less-formal monthly coffee meetings. Our early meetings have focused on the need for CIOs to embrace digital transformation. Our last forum featured an interactive presentation from Martha Heller, a best-selling author and CIO executive recruiter, who delivered a keynote address titled “What it Means to be a Transformational IT Leader.”

Today, the most successful CIOs think in terms of products – not projects – and transform their teams from order-takers into co-creators who work in lockstep with their business partners. Transformational IT leaders understand that while they are accountable for systems, the systems alone are not their job … their job is to help create a vision for the company’s future.

Heller [provided] real transformation stories from some of the world’s most successful companies … lending highly relevant lessons learned from the CIOs who led those transformations.

PBN: Will digital transformation continue to be a topic of interest for the CIO Forum?

DEVINE: Yes! We have only just begun to dig into the impact of digital transformation. Our Feb. 13 CIO Forum will feature a keynote on “Building an Innovation Initiative” from Michael Lebovitz, senior vice president of innovation at FM Global.

Building a culture of innovative thinking is critical for companies undergoing digital transformation to encourage out-of-the-box thinking from all employees. He will share how FM Global built its innovation initiative – from creating a mission and vision to creating a governance structure that fits with their corporate direction and organizational culture.

Our CIOs will learn how FM Global targeted opportunities, understood customer needs through design-thinking and ethnographic interviewing and their involvement in the broader, external innovation ecosystem to expand and amplify innovative thinking. We encourage all CIOs to join us at the event.

PBN: What other topics are of concern to CIOs?

DEVINE: There’s a long list of topics and concerns that keep CIOs up at night. In addition to exploring the power of digital transformation and innovation through the CIO Forum, we will dive into cybersecurity, blockchain, data analysis, cloud computing, internet of things, machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality.

PBN: How can the RI CIO Forum advance the information technology ecosystem here?

DEVINE: The CIO Forum will continue to hold three to four CIO forums per year – our Feb. 13 event is the first for 2019. Also, we will keep our more-intimate monthly CIO Coffee Conversations for our state’s CIOs to work and connect.

The CIOs who participate in the forum have also been nominating their senior leaders to sit on Tech Collective steering committees that focus on workforce-development initiatives [such as] cybersecurity, women in technology, computer programming, Agile, diversity and inclusion, and [IT infrastructure library]. Their involvement helps ensure that our workforce-development programs are demand-driven.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.