We caught up with Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, Managing Director, Ben Pring, to find out what makes him tick…
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
In 2018, I was invited to talk about the future of work at the 66th Bilderberg Meeting in Italy. With only a small number of speakers selected each year, I felt privileged to receive an invite to such a prestigious event.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
Loving Star Trek as a young kid growing up. Since then, I have tried to emulate the characters’ mission to boldly go where no one has been before. Technology has always been about the frontier and I have always wanted to know what is around the river bend.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I aim to hire good people so I can give them freedom and offer them the opportunity to make their own footprint on the business and wider technology industry. If you hire the wrong person for a role, you spend all of your time ‘managing’ them, which is time-consuming and prevents innovation.
The old adage, ‘measure twice, cut once’ is 100% applicable to hiring and management, but it is remarkably common that companies and individuals hire in an extremely half-hearted way.
What do you think will emerge as the technology trend of 2019 and why?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the great story of our time and is making 2019 a crucial year for CIOs.
The most important thing is that businesses get the architecture and foundations of their AI everywhere strategy right. By doing so, they are setting a course to be ‘fit for the future’. Get this wrong – mostly by thinking that AI is a passing fad – and businesses will realise they are falling further and further behind the competitive pace.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
A lot of money is being invested in AI, but it is mainly on the supply side. On the demand side, more CIOs are realising the need to invest in ‘core modernisation’, part of which means fully embracing cloud-based infrastructure as a key focus in the coming years.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?
I enjoy walking with Zuzu, my golden retriever, following football, rugby and tennis on TV and reading long novels to escape from work. Les Misérables is one of my favourites, maybe because it has a surprising connection to my job; Hugo’s thoughts about the future of work in 1860 are completely relevant to thinking about the future of work in 2019.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
I arrived in San Francisco in 1999, just as the dot.com bubble was bursting and before the web 2.0 balloon inflated, but would have moved there much earlier in hindsight. If I had moved earlier, I could have been Mark Cuban. If I had got there later (but still younger than I did) I could have been Marc Benioff. But je ne regrette rien.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?
Localisation of everything, from language to cultural alignment, continues to be a challenge for large multinational companies in Europe.
A lot of technology is ‘global’ and overrides national borders, but increasingly it has to be sensitive to ‘local’ wants and needs. GDPR is an expression of this new reality. The Internet is now morphing into the ‘Splinternet’ with three different flavours; European, Chinese and the original American Internet. This is a big challenge for CIOs, who will have to manage a growing number of data policy-based environments. This will require extra funding, but there is always a risk that non-technology executives will look at the issue as a ‘more money for nothing’ message from the IT department.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
Non-technology business leaders now know more about technology than ever before. With that knowledge, they have become more demanding – questions such as ‘where’s our Blockchain strategy?’ and ‘why can’t we just use Slack?’ have become all too familiar – and a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Time spent fighting off the ill-informed is time that CIOs could use on more valuable tasks. With greater visibility of technology-driven initiatives, CIOs have to be better politicians than ever, something that they traditionally have not excelled at.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?
Learn to speak ‘business’ as soon as you can by taking as many rotations outside of the IT department as possible and making as many allies outside of IT as you can. Most importantly, show that you love what you do. Being known as a member of the ‘Department of No’ isn’t going to earn you a place in the board room.