CIO dinner: talking the latest tech and a growing appetite for hyper-personalisation


CIO dinner attendees revealed that a move towards hyper-personalisation will take precedence over flash-in-the-pan technologies.

Top IT leaders gathered for an intimate dinner and fine dining experience at Séjour restaurant on 19 March at the Houghton Hotel. It was an opportunity for CIOs to discuss the latest tech trends keeping them awake at night.

A smarter, connected and intelligent world

Three things sat on one guest’s tech menu: a smarter, connected and intelligent world that we’re trending towards from a technology perspective. “When I talk about a smarter world, I’m referring to the multimodal interactions that are already happening,” they said. “Looking forward, it’s actually going to be a given that all the interactions like gestures, voice, text or speech will be very multimodal from a user interaction perspective.”

In terms of the client experience, they continued, that multimodal aspect will slowly become the norm, and standard across industries.

“In a deeply connected environment, I’m referring to the data behind everything: there’s a part about the ambient experience, and those ambient experiences will deepen in the way that we operate. Regardless of whether you’re in the physical world or virtual world [augmented reality], on whatever device you’re on, those experiences will become ambient, meaning that they’ll be interchangeable between any channel, device or reality, and will be a smooth transition from one to the other,” they added. In other words, users can transition from their apps to their laptops or even into the metaverse.

For another guest, the sheer computing power required going forward will require cloud computing, which they believe will exponentially grow in a very integrated technology world.

“There’s even more data required – call it ‘data plus everything else’ – and you need to compute all of that to deliver a personalised experience. I’m mentioning this, because it explains what will be required before we enter a conversation about personalisation, and organisations need to think about how they can set themselves up to take advantage of it – the fundamental building blocks,” they commented.

The trust and security piece

Tech aside, they believed that the trust and security component will become paramount, because a lot of the technologies have become personalised to the extent that if you don’t wrap it around building trust between the organisation and the people or clients, it won’t work – trust is part of the major building blocks around enabling these technologies.

Another guest was of the view that the world will always solve tech and it’s now about figuring out how to embed these disruptive influences into how your business functions. “I fundamentally believe that tech solves itself, there are far too many smart people in the world not to solve tech, but it’s about how you convert technology in a way that it brings value to your people,” he said.

“The trouble is, I’m not landing in a place where the two worlds collide – technology and value-add to the organisation – which is an important thing to solve. It speaks to making fundamental operating model changes and turning them upside down, while also considering that organisations don’t turn on a dime.”

Bringing things a little closer to home, one guest used his own children as an example of how they are already engaging with technology like generative AI, using ChatGPT/GPT4 for their school work, and witnessing how it has changed or influenced behaviours, something the guest is not completely convinced is a good thing.

“What we underestimate is the change in behaviour that’s going to come in both our personal lives and workforces – it’s a total mindset shift that’s transferred from our homes and into the workplace. When you consider how different industries have traditionally done things the same way for a while now, this change is coming at such a force that when it comes, we will be left playing catch-up once more,” they said.

“We’re sitting with tech, but it’s really underutilised,” one CIO commented. “The weakest link sits between the chair and the keyboard. That’s already the case with existing and historical tech – now, what happens with new tech. They haven’t caught up with the old world: how do you expect them to keep up with the new one?”

We need the infrastructure too!

In the gaming and hospitality world, as the IT leader shared, meta-travel is a massive trend, underpinned by a platform called Decentral Land. “For example, the Marriott Hotel launched Moxy Hotels, where you could create an avatar of yourself from the comfort of your home, mixing AR and VR, and recreate the experience of meeting at a hotel bar. The concept was ultimately commercialised,” he explained.

They launched one physical hotel in London and another in the metaverse, and merging these experiences has been a huge thing. “The MGM hotel has even invested $100 million just to explore what the metaverse can bring into the hospitality industry.”

He explained that he and his team pitched the same idea to their board of directors, who were quite keen on exploring this concept here in South Africa. “It’s just a little different in the South African hotel industry, where customers still want that personal (human) experience.

“Hyper-personalisation has become a big thing to the extent that we have moved from a traditional gaming platform to an omni-channel platform, where you can start playing at home on your mobile and continue when you get to one of our casinos by transferring those funds from your phone and onto the slot machine – immersing yourself into the game.”

However, you need the infrastructure in order to support that technology, such as Wi-Fi 6, data and hyper-scales, because if you don’t have those in place, it won’t work, and explaining the aforementioned concepts to non-techies can also be challenging.

Another guest shared those sentiments, saying that things like hotel services, autonomous cars and getting goods delivered by drone are great examples of the day-to-day stuff being complemented by technology going forward. “People just need to step up one level above in respect of delivering the wow factor, because the basics are already there,” he added.

On the opposite side of the table, one guest raised the value proposition question. “There is the wow factor of a robot on one side delivering stuff to you, and a human being on the other doing the same thing – where do you draw the line of doing tech for tech’s sake?

“How do you know if one person is okay with a robot delivering a toothbrush, but another individual prefers a human delivering the toothbrush, because he is wired in a particular way? That’s the hyper-personalisation that you need.”

As the evening drew to a close and all robot butlers, flying parcels, and a personalised experience had been considered, dinner guests took the opportunity to also touch on the elephant in the room – the recent multiple subsea cable breaks that caused internet chaos across the country.

They agreed it was an example of what happens when technology lets you down, but how you respond as a leader is what counts. For them, it highlighted the need for CIOs – who are the first point of contact – to band together in such crises instead of trying to solve them in isolation.

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