Digital Transformation

Future IT LA: Digital innovation stories from IT leaders

On March 12, 2020, Axway sponsored IDG’s Future of IT LA conference in Huntington Beach, CA. IDG brought together local businesses, organizations and agencies from both the private and public sectors. We shared digital innovation stories from senior IT leaders with a focus on technologies and strategies for the digital enterprise. Attendees from organizations who participated were:

  • Allergan
  • AT&T
  • Centene
  • Century Link
  • Experian
  • City of Corona (Highly progressive story below)
  • Dine Brands Global (IHOP is included)
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • MUFG Union Bank
  • Pfizer
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment

Among many interesting topics, we delivered discussions around the art and science behind building a Culture of Innovation. We shared ways to influence your culture and approaches that worked.

Here are some photos I took a few weeks ago that show a very local conference gathering.

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Thoughts at the Pier

Many of the leaders I talked to felt that they were stuck in a culture of stagnation. Instead of being allowed to discover, experiment, and try new things, they felt fear for their own jobs, the future of their teams, and a general culture of fear.

For example, having to lay off a team when the outcomes aren’t successful further reinforces individuals to do what they might believe is safe. The right thing to do means that you can’t keep doing the same thing if you want to gain market share or achieve new sources of revenue.

Some leaders felt an inability to influence across the company. Leaders, especially middle management, felt the squeeze of only being able to do much within their own business unit even though they needed the entire organization to reach most digital goals.

Even though none of the speakers prepared their talks together, common threads ran throughout all of our talk topics. Our field marketing leader for this event, Annalili Chacon, describes it best when she recaps that driving a culture of innovation begins with purpose.

She also heard themes throughout the sessions and conversations that balancing people, process technology is still not enough for some companies to drive action and prepare for future growth.

It was a delight to learn from and work with Duke Nelson, Director, Strategic Accounts whose career with Axway for over a decade, and as a local CA resource taught all of us as we talked with conference attendees. Duke understands the depth and breadth of both legacy and modernizing technologies that enterprises need today to build their tomorrow.

A Ray of Hope

City of Corona

Chris McMasters, CIO of the City of Corona, opened up the conference with an enlightening and proof-point filled journey of transforming this local government into a story of true transformation in just two years.

Chris took his stunning credentials (Harvard) and experience from the private sector to focus on people to create efficiency, data-driven, and smart city approaches while equipping public services to be proactive and forward-thinking.

  1. Chris started off by pointing to one of his top IT leaders who he trusts to carry out his vision.
  2. Chris also discussed why strong technology partners make all the difference.
  3. To be successful, start small. Very small wins! Trials are visible ways to convince others to try something new and see what is possible.

Annalili’s observation of the public sector’s strong ties to the community and a clear purpose to serve them to overcome any common risk-averse push-back to innovation.

IDG Partners

Darktrace’s Kristina Harris took the stage next. As the LA office Cyber Security Manager, she shared her expertise in cutting-edge AI and autonomous response for email and information governance and analytics platforms for large global companies.

Kristina shared interesting stories about how the wild card factor, people, will not knowingly cause security vulnerabilities to help companies prevent digital intrusions. Kristina talked about how smart detection should be in an organization’s digital business fabric.

Nemertes Research took the main stage and breakout sessions to talk about the future trends of work. Irwin Lazar presented research findings for collaboration tools, workspace optimization and even how to navigate distributed teamwork styles and corresponding tools.

Why Copying the Strategy of Market Leaders Usually Doesn’t Work

In the Culture of Innovation session and lunch break out, I shared my experiences as a leader and how we innovate at Axway. We discussed how leaders can change a culture of stagnation (I use a mud-pit analogy) into a culture that resembles a professional Formula One track. I shared why balancing and providing both autonomy and direction are one of many crucial pieces of scaling innovation at enterprises.

Successful teams are often envied and though they can provide guidance in a Center of Enablement way, the digital maturity of the rest of the organization and the cultural elements will determine the velocity of action.

Many companies want to be lean or agile and copy Spotify’s culture, but find that they need to adjust basic concepts for what makes sense in their environment and for the leadership styles, mission and styles of working.

Best Practices

  1. Prime your culture.
  2. Consistent support from leaders in both words and actions.
  3. Tiny Habits: Micro approach for Macro Results.

Culture is often the toughest part of creating a work environment with attitudes and frameworks to support discovery and new ways to create.

However, if you make your culture a priority, benefits include increased satisfaction of everyone involved, better collaboration and the invisible force that gives your business a true competitive edge.

Here is the full deck for friendly reference. The soundtrack is also below in shorter consumable pieces.


Video Playlist (four vignettes) and pre-recorded version of my Culture of Innovation Talk. The live version was animated, highly interactive with the audience in the room, engaging them to think, ask questions, and interject to share their stories.

  1. What Makes You Stand Out
  2. What We Know
  3. What Don’t Know
  4. Small Steps to Reach Macro Goals

See the full transcript of the videos. Continue this conversation with us by commenting on this blog or on your favorite digital venue such as via:


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