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MIT-CIO event explores pandemic's effect on digital ecosystems

Allan Tate, executive chair of the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, lays out the big idea of the 2022 conference and explains how the event itself reflects its relevance.

As companies find their footing in a business environment radically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, their CIOs are taking stock of what happens next with IT.

They are shoring up the systems that were cobbled together to support the abrupt shift to remote work at the start of the pandemic. As CIOs harden these systems, they are exploring possibilities for the next wave of innovation. Sophisticated hyperautomation techniques, new ideas in machine learning and many other forward-looking technologies are propelling companies into new digital ecosystems.

How will IT systems and strategies differ from the IT systems of the pre-pandemic business environment -- or, for that matter, from the great IT reset during the pandemic?

That's essentially the question driving the agenda of the 2022 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, said Allan Tate, executive chair of the event, which returns May 22-23 to the MIT campus in hybrid form after two years of virtual gatherings.

Settling on a theme for the MIT CIO conference is a long process involving discussions among CIOs and other tech leaders, MIT Sloan School of Management faculty, and past attendees, Tate explained.

"We decided that we wanted to focus on digital ecosystems and ... to think about whether this is really reshaping the future of business," he said, underscoring that the title of the event -- Digital Ecosystems: Reshaping the Future of Business? -- is posed as a question.

The pandemic sped up digital transformation, and cloud adoption soared, he said. Different types of devices -- phones, tablets, IoT -- drove creativity and new partnerships.

"We also see CIOs dealing with a lot of unpredictable elements, whether it be the epidemic or war or cyber warfare," Tate said. "So we're going to explore the digital ecosystem."

Digital ecosystems: The good, the bad and the ugly

A digital ecosystem, according to TechTarget's definition of the term, is a group of interconnected IT resources that can function as a unit. Digital ecosystems are made up of suppliers, customers, trading partners, applications, third-party data service providers and all respective technologies.

These ecosystems can range in scope from the assemblage of 20 to 100 partners across multiple industries to vast "super platform" networks encompassing 10 million or more partners across 10 or more industries. Interoperability is crucial to the success of digital ecosystems -- and worth the effort. Well-managed ecosystems enable faster adoption of technology, generate new sources of revenue and can lower costs through better business processes.

But digital ecosystems, if poorly managed, can also inflict major damage on companies or even prove fatal -- especially in times of rapid technological and social change.

Cybersecurity, cloud, AI, technology trends, CIO role in the spotlight

The MIT CIO conference, Tate said, will do a deep dive into the benefits, challenges, pitfalls and trends around digital ecosystems, offering sessions on, for example, the effects of a hyperconnected world on cybersecurity, the future of cloud, the role of AI and machine learning in building successful digital ecosystems, and the ways in which technology will further change the way we work.

The event's traditional focus on IT leadership will also be front and center. The conference kicks off with a discussion of digital leadership -- in particular, how CIOs, chief digital officers and CEOs can collaborate to get the most out of digital technologies. In addition, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, will lead a panel of this year's four nominees for the 2022 CIO Leadership Award.

To learn more about conference logistics this year from Tate, and how the conference itself embodies the theme of this year's show, click on the embedded video: "MIT Sloan CIO Symposium: Digital Ecosystems 2.0."

2022 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

When: May 22-23, 2022

Where: MIT Samberg Conference Center and Wong Auditorium, Cambridge, Mass.

2022 MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award finalists:

  • Vagesh Dave, global vice president and CIO, McDermott International Ltd.
  • Manoj Kumbhat, chief digital officer and global CIO, Kimberly-Clark
  • Wafaa Mamilli, chief information and digital officer, Zoetis
  • James McGlennon, executive vice president and CIO, Liberty Mutual Insurance

Read about the event's Innovation Showcase: MIT Sloan innovation startups pursue AI at scale

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