MHTA’s High Tech, High Touch CIO Panel

Minnesota High Tech Association’s (MHTA) annual CIO panel brought, as promised, a wide-ranging discussion of the year’s top developments, along with challenges and opportunities they see in 2015. The event, held on December 11, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, covered tech perspectives from the sports immersion experience (Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings)) to expanding the social experience to enable a digital workforce (Accenture).

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President and CEO of MHTA (@MAKMinnesota) and moderated by Dee Thibodeau, CEO of Charter Solutions and MHTA Board member, kicked off the event with an overview of MHTA’s ACE Leadership Program. ACE, accepting applications now, is an eight-session program covering public speaking, effective negotiation and adaptive leadership in tech.

MHTA's Oct 2014 WLIT Panel of Fearless #WomeninTech

MHTA’s Oct 2014 WLIT Panel of Fearless #WomeninTech

MHTA does a well-rounded job of covering all types of events throughout the course of the year from their Spring Conference (May, 7, 2015) to membership-building events like golf outings. My first MHTA event was their October 21, 2014, Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) panel, where four top tech women in our local community shared their stories specific to their career paths and overcoming challenges.

The CIO panel offered yet more insight into the Minnesota tech community and drove home that fact that technology is so prominent and integral to any business. Interestingly enough, three of the five panelists were women. Kudos! Panel members’ industries included restaurant, medical, construction and tech services and management consulting. The diverse range of topics and insights covered delivered at least a few nuggets that each of the audience members could walk away with and directly apply to their own business and role.

Buffalo Wild Wings
Karen Bird, VP of Information Technology at BWWings, shared how they’re using tech to drive customer experience in their restaurants with tools like tech at each table enabling games and more. Eventually, you might be able to order your adult beverages with one tap. Emcee Dee, a recent visitor to BWWings, recapped her positive experience.  As a mom who’s brought her two kids (ages 9 and 11) to BWWings for eats and not necessarily a “immersive sports experience,” I can second that. When I visit, I appreciate the atmosphere, service, wings and most especially my Guest Experience Captain, an individual skilled in conversation and catering to your needs who doesn’t need to rush off to wait on 10 other tables. Karen’s leading the tech charge to take their concept internationally with restaurant openings in Dubai and more in 2015.

St. Jude Medical
Mark Murphy, VP and CIP of St. Jude Medical, touched on big data, security, managed services and the cloud, citing the extreme petabytes of information collected hourly from companies like Walmart. A word of caution: the current systems an average business has in place are not going to cut it. One mammoth challenge, also brought up during the end Q&A session, centered around what do do with all of the data companies are collecting. Too many companies are suffering from analysis paralysis. Mark stressed looking at data and building cross partnerships in other industries. This type of approach ensures relevance and deliberate research to support innovative ideas, like St. Jude Medical’s Quadripolar Lead.

MHTA's CIO Panel Forecasting 2015 Tech Trends

MHTA’s CIO Panel Forecasting 2015 Tech Trends

Minnesota Department of Health and Veteran Affairs
Anita Scott, CIO of the Minnesota Department of Health and Veteran Affairs, shared insight on the process of bringing medical marijuana to Minnesotans. The forms and process flow chart she presented for players from facilities to care providers to the individuals was highly complex. Twenty-some companies invested a significant, non-refundable application fee to submit their companies to full the manufacturing and distribution roles statewide. Two were selected. Anita shared the video from Channel 12 TV, highlighting Maple Grove as one of the sites. One of the players happened to have their facility already built. At this news, my new friend next to me leaned over to note how interesting that was. We stifled our laughter.

Mortenson Construction
Robin Brown, VP and CIO of Mortenson Construction, from what I could gather, brought a breath of fresh air to a privately held, exponentially-growing construction firm. Mortenson, a respected name in construction in Minnesota since 1954, to its founders and leadership credit, has sought out expertise not only in construction, but other verticals. Delving into solar and wind power, for example, has helped them build relationships and value with their clients. They’re also using new technology (3D SketchUp) to bridge the gap in remote locations and job sites to bring more onsite manipulation of blueprints, process, materials and scheduling. More adaptable information and its quick dissemination is critical to solve some of their toughest challenges.

Accenture
Andrew Wilson, CIO of Accenture, one of the world’s leading organizations providing management consulting, technology and outsourcing services, with more than 305,000 employees, is British. I mention this because I could listen to his accent no problem, which is made possible by Accenture’s own TV channel with weekly content. What I found most exciting was Andrew’s discussion surrounding how they share internal content through online company communities via software like Lync and Yammer. He said blogging, for him, is obsolete. He places content on their community-driven page and engagement goes through the roof.

Overall, MHTA inspired great tech conversations through this diverse panel and set the stage for programming and content we can look forward to in 2015 with events like Tech.2015, the WLiT quarterly series and the 15 years and running Tekne Awards (Nov 18, 2015). Here’s to heightening the conversation surrounding tech in Minnesota!