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How are C-level technology and information leaders navigating increasingly choppy and murky waters?

Is a new playbook emerging for demonstrating top-and-bottom-line benefits from technology investments? And what new paradigms are developing to balance profitability with purpose? To explore how to lead for profit and purpose, Chief Disruptor, in partnership with Cognizant and Google Cloud, hosted the second in a series of C-level community-led activities aiming to unpack the paradigm shifts facing technology and business leaders today. 

We began with a welcome and introduction from Phil Matthews, the Vice President and Sector Head of Retail at Cognizant. Phil highlighted some key ethical and sustainability challenges facing technology and information leaders today. The emphasis, from consumers and society, is now on industry leaders to not only drive sustainable technology innovation and initiatives but also lead and shape the global sustainability agenda itself. Furthermore, organisations must consider the potential ethical implications of information and technology, including unconscious bias, of adopting data-driven or algorithmic models. The scale and complexity of these challenges clearly highlight the many priorities these leaders face in pursuing both profit and purpose.

This brought us to the evening's guest speaker: Professor Ashley George, Co-Founder and President, Tech for Good. Ashley began by reflecting on his own experience of leading organisations when it comes to profit and purpose; once as a CFO, then as a Head of Consumerisation and now at Tech for Good. The key message, in our increasingly connected world, is that collaboration and knowledge sharing will be key to delivering and leading for profit and purpose. Ashley explored a number of ideas and actions that set the scene for a broader discussion later in the evening.

  • Define your purpose. Profit sits with the CFO, that’s always been the case. But an organisation's purpose and who owns it is less clear, especially given the sustainability and ethical challenges previously mentioned. Is it shareholder value? Creating lasting change? A useful starting point might be to consider the legacy your organisation leaves behind.

  • Empower your employees and customers. If purpose is defined as legacy then engaging your employees and customers around this is fundamental. This requires bravery, emotive language, collaboration and, ultimately, external actions.

  • Collaborate creatively. Covid-driven urgency highlighted the value of collaboration. New initiatives such as innovation forums or challenges have helped Tech for Good bring in new ideas, perspectives and strategies from across different industries. Alternatively, now might be the time to explore the strategic partnerships necessary to achieve this.

  • Is technology a friend or foe? Tools like ChatGPT have highlighted the power of combining datasets. However, the ethical implications of these disruptive technologies are not yet fully understood. Furthermore, we can look at the environmental impact of technologies such as cloud computing. Technology will undoubtedly be an enabler of profit and purpose, but with sustainable and ethical business practices in the driving seat.

Cognizant held this event in partnership with Chief Discuptor and Google Cloud.

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