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May - 2013 - issue > CIO Insights
The Ever Evolving Enterprise
Anil T. Cheriyan
Corporate EVP & CIO,- SunTrust Banks, Inc.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE: STI and S&P 500 Component) is an American bank holding company that provides deposit, credit, trust and investment services to a broad range of retail, business and institutional clients. Headquartered in Atlanta, the company has a market cap of $ 15.50 billion.

Enterprises have come from guilds to high tech, multi-servicing tech giants as we know them to be today. The inference being, change is the only constant - there are major technology trends that shape all industries. The mega-technology trends are broadly in the areas of big data, social media, mobile, cloud and high security. Each of these will have a significant impact in the way enterprises interact with their clients, manage their teams and partner across their supply chain. In the near future we can expect these technologies to evolve into what we now believe to be advanced futuristic ideas. Enterprises have a long way to go and the upcoming technologies will take us there.

Clefts in the Enterprise
Enterprises have advanced tremendously, both in terms of technology and structural implementation but there are areas which still cause friction in operations. The biggest area that continues to need work is the area of cloud. There are too many definitions of cloud, applications of cloud and instances of so-called cloud success. Cloud has given us so much more ease and accessibility for our operations and with the application of cloud the speed of executions triple; but in a complex business environment that has all the security, confidentiality and regulatory overlays like the financial services industry, cloud is still under serviced by the vendor solutions. Cloud has given us so much and yet there is so much more that we can get from it, we have not juiced out the lime yet.

Overcoming Hurdles
Information technology and its systems have become so important that the CIO has come to be viewed in many organizations as the key contributor in formulating strategic goals for an organization. The role of the CIO is constantly evolving to be closer to the business – especially in the area of revenue generation. As most organizations come through the last few years of recession, their focus is on top line growth. The CIO needs to be an integral part of the executive team, aligned with the business, and looking for innovative ways to drive revenue growth. This requires a close partnership with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) as well as each of the line of business leaders. The best way to create this partnership is to spend a significant amount of time working with LOB leaders on their strategic plans, their operations and their client pain points. Together we come to solutions which lubricate processes and practices supporting the flow of information, as a result accelerating revenue generation.
Some of the biggest issues that we CIOs face today are
a) talent
b) aging technologies / infrastructure
c) innovation
The talent issue is multi-fold as the gap widens in finding the right mix of talent with the industry, functional and technical expertise overlaid onto the project management, business analysis, and architecture competencies. This has become further exacerbated as the technology solutions and vendor capabilities become more specialized and disparate. Aging infrastructure technologies become more significant in organizations that are over 30 years old. There are several legacy environments that are perhaps still in place because they continue to work well but have limited core functionality. As these systems become un-maintainable replacing and decommissioning them becomes a very difficult task. Lastly, innovation is becoming a core part of a CIO's charter. The speed at which the marketplace is changing oftentimes puts an organization in a position where catching up with traditional levers is too time consuming and will almost certainly miss the mark. The CIOs challenge is to foster an environment where innovation becomes an integral part of the way of working.

Instilling Innovation

We are driving innovation in three main levels within the organization. At the broadest level, we hold periodic "jam" sessions online through a collaboration environment where we have an open set of discussions on key challenges and issues. The purpose of these sessions is to engender the free flowing of ideas across all levels of the organization in a more fluid fashion. The second level is to have 30 to 50 teammates from all parts of the organization spend a scheduled time – Innovation Fridays – where they discuss critical issues that they may have self identified in the "jam" sessions or that may have arisen over time. The third level is the “swat team” approach, where a small team of individuals will take on large, gnarly issues that may take several weeks or workshops to solve. We are continuously evolving the nature and scope of these mechanisms and learning from them.

Staying Connected

I stay connected with the Smartphone. I have three now that I am "playing" with. A BlackBerry, an iPhone and a Windows 8 phone. They allow me to be connected to my work and my personal life no matter where I am.
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