The Ever-Expanding Role of CIOs with Vala Afshar

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Vala Afshar (LinkedIn) is the chief digital evangelist at Salesforce and, as such, he is responsible for staying on top of all the trends in the digital space. Whether he’s looking at survey data from Salesforce customers, or keeping up-to-date with CIOs and tech leaders in the industry, Vala is constantly on the cutting edge of what’s most important in the digital world.

On an episode of IT Visionaries, Vala speaks to host Ian Faison about all the ways technology has impacted him and Salesforce, new and emerging technologies – including AI and machine learning– which he believes will dictate the future of organizations everywhere, and what that means for CIOs and their roles moving forward.

Here are some of his insights.

Turning CIOs into CEOs:

Vala insists that there is no better time for a CIO to move into the role of CEO as well. As technology becomes more a part of a company’s business strategy, the CIO’s role has already expanded so much.

“There is no better time than now for the CIO to be the next CEO, in my opinion,” he says.  “It’s because she has not just the technical skill set, but also the business acumen to really drive transformation.”

But not just any CIO can make the leap. Vala says that those who pay attention are the ones who will go far.

“Trailblazer CIOs and digital savvy CIOs have been watching closely the impact of emerging technologies.”

How A.I. and machine learning will help transform business:

In the fast-paced world of technology and start-ups, VCs are looking to invest in companies that will make a difference – and quickly. In order to do that, you have to process and analyze huge amounts of data. This is where A.I. and machine learning can transform business, because if you have the right algorithms, you can answer the critical questions you need to much quicker.

“You want to be able to mature to a point where you can answer the question: ‘Given what I know tomorrow, what should I be doing right now?’” Vala says. “So you want to prescribe action to your sales, to your service, to your marketing, to a field organization, to your partners and –ultimately – to your customers, so that’s prescriptive use of analytics. This investment in machine learning’s ability to scale at incredible levels and provide insights is going from prescriptive, to diagnostic, to a predictive use of analytics.”

Vala also champions the use of A.I. and says that if you’re not using A.I., you’re not only missing out on opportunities – you could be putting your entire company at risk.

“AI is a superpower and those who ignore it are going to find themselves in jeopardy,” he says. “I like to think about artificial intelligence and really think about the word and the first letter, “A.” To me, it’s augmented intelligence — it’s not that you are going to be replaced by a robot. What you’re most likely to be replaced by is someone else who’s more proficient and comfortable with using AI.”

The core value of your company:

Trust is the most important thing a company has to offer, and oftentimes trust rests on the shoulders of the CIO.

“If the CIO isn’t the main champion driving you toward the north star of trust, radical transparency, empathy and responsiveness, then your company is not going to be successful regardless of what investments you make in technology,” Vala says.

Listen to the entire episode here.

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