Takeaways from the CIO 100 Index 2021 launch event, in association with Equinix

CIO 100, Irish News, IT, Technology | Tue 28 Sep | Author – Business & Finance

The Business & Finance CIO 100 Index 2021, in association with Equinix, launched today, recognising the top 100 Chief Information Officers working across some of the most innovative companies in Ireland.

The CIO 100 Index was launched today at the CIO 100 Index 2021 webinar, where Maurice Mortell, Managing Director of Equinix, spoke about the importance of the CIO 100 Index and moderated an interactive discussion on the theme, ‘Digital Leaders – Driving Transformation’.

Joining the discussion were some of Ireland’s leading IT professionals, including: Ashling Cunningham, CIO, Ervia, Dermot Hennessy, Director of Infrastructure, Flutter Entertainment and Louise O’Conor, Founding Partner, Beta Digital.

The CIO 100 Index is available to read here.


Maurice Mortell, Managing Director of Equinix, Ireland, has over 25 years of experience in the Data Centre Industry. He spoke about the growth and evolution he has witnessed in the sector and shared some of his insights.

Maurice Mortell, Managing Director of Equinix, Ireland, has over 25 years of experience in the Data Centre Industry. He spoke about the growth and evolution he has witnessed in the sector and shared some of his insights. He began by sharing some global data that is shaping the future for digital infrastructure. “One trillion devices connected to the internet by 3032, 299 billion applications downloaded by 2023, 7.2 petabytes of traffic per second, 1.4 billion 5G connections by 2023 and a staggering 175 zettabytes of Data by 2025. These are enormous figures.”

He spoke about the growth of the Equinix brand in Ireland and shared some noteworthy statistics about the company. Equinix has the largest global footprint of data centres in the world with 231 facilities across 29 countries in 56 cities. 

He noted that Equinix had become a Fortune 500 company for the first time in July of this year with over 10,000 employees. He noted that the last published accounts had the company’s annual revenues at 6.5B. This year alone, the company has invested 2B dollars in infrastructure developments all over the world, including one in Dublin. He described how the company was combining physical and virtual IT to give customers an easier ability to consume Equinix services. 

Mr. Mortell said that with leadership came great opportunity. 

In this ever-changing environment we need to do what’s right for our planet. We must embrace inclusion and diversity in our organisations and do what’s right to lead the way.

He congratulated the nominees for this year’s CIO 100 Index


CIOs as Digital Leaders – Driving Transformation webinar

Joining the discussion were some of Ireland’s leading IT professionals, including: Ashling Cunningham, CIO, Ervia, and Dermot Hennessy, Director of Infrastructure, Flutter Entertainment.

Ashling Cunningham, CIO, Ervia, spoke about the multifaceted work undertaken by Ervia across Ireland. The group distributes pipeline natural gas, water services, and dark fibre for broadband. Part of Ms Cunningham’s role as Chief Information Officer is to “consider what technologies are emerging and exploit them for the benefit of the organisation.”

IT infrastructure and planning

Mr Mortell asked her about some of the key shifts she has seen in IT infrastructure and planning over the last 12 months.

“If we look at where we were in the last 12 months, COVID has had a traumatic [impact],” she said. She noted that the hybrid, agile workforce mix was “not one organisations had considered at the time.”

She said there has been an increased focus on collaboration tools, “so our people could continue speaking to each other, working with each other.”

Acceleration of change

Mr. Mortell noted that every business would have experienced an acceleration of change. He asked Dermot Hennessy, Director of Infrastructure, Flutter Entertainment, how he managed and supported the same. 

Mr. Hennessy said that their busiest week of the year was made even more hectic. 

“We had a scenario during our busiest week in Cheltenham in 2020, we were moving thousands of employees to work from home in 5 different countries, a massive activity. We didn’t have a lot of time so it’s a real testament to the agility of the workforce that we have and leadership.”

We’ve all had to get used to the paradigm of working from home, the slightly transactional nature of it. The inability to meet in corridors to discuss something.

He continued: “It’s interesting to think about the pandemic and what the impact might have been – we’ve all had to get used to the paradigm of working from home, the slightly transactional nature of it. The inability to meet in corridors to discuss something.” 

Mr. Hennessy said it had resulted possibly in a challenge to accelerate some of the infrastructural planning because there are conversations you can’t have when working from home.  

He noted that their business was digital anyway so it had not been a seismic shift but that it had completely changed how they look at business continuity, where people do their days’ work from and the implications for the future. 

Cloud adoption goals

Mr. Mortell then referenced a recent report finding that a large percentage of companies will fail to meet company cloud adoption goals. He asked the panelists how that might impact on the skill sets, retention and acquisition of staff. 

Ms Cunningham noted that Ervia’s cloud journey contains a mix of private and public cloud, and that cloud is “becoming more mainstream and understood,” while also stating that it is down to the human element.

“People with the right experience, with tacit knowledge and skill set, come into the organisation and leverage the best of what we already have with the appropriate new technology in order to deliver what it is we need to deliver going forward,” she said.

She then spoke about the importance of retaining talent not just in cloud, but in other parts of the organisation: “Leverage the best of what we already have with the appropriate technology,” she said.

Where possible we partner up, we leverage off third-party providers to deliver niche skill sets.

Cloud services, cloud management and cybersecurity, she noted, are areas in which Ervia find themselves challenged, as these resources are very much in demand: “We work very closely and in collaboration with business and HR in terms of looking at what the capabilities are that we require […] Where possible we partner up, we leverage off third-party providers to deliver niche skill sets.”

“We are conscious as an organisation that maybe there are certain skill sets that we don’t need in-house, that we will always partner up for, because the capability is moving so quickly that it would be impossible to train up our employees.”

Mr. Hennessy picked up on the theme and said there were a number of ways they ensured that their teams have the skills and resources to stay ahead of the innovation. He said: “A bunch of people joined the organisation without ever meeting their colleagues and it’s a challenge to  maintain a sense of contact and to feel part of an organisation. It can be difficult to enter a fast paced business like ours and get up to speed quickly when working remotely, and we have had to respond by making sure that people felt included.”

He noted the extensive outreach that their company engages in with these groups. He said: “We’ve alot of agile ceremonies e.g. stand ups and daily check-ins, to ensure people are feeling included.”

He said there was a requirement to develop people’s skill sets and that the best way is immersion through technology. 

“The key for us is ‘ongoing immersion’. You can’t learn it by training alone. You need to see how it works in real life to know what is needed to change.”

Change and disruption

Mr. Mortell noted that change and disruption had become standard and asked the panelists what evolution they might expect over the next twelve months.

Ms Cunningham said: “We’re looking at 2 things – stability of service, continuity of service in relation to what’s required for our assets, our customers, and obviously, our people and partners, and then the opportunity for growth development, leveraging off emerging technologies out there.

“Our organizations, Irish Water and Gas Networks Ireland,  are of critical importance to the Irish economy for growth and development […] and getting infrastructure out there.”

It’s about leading out in those assets to ensure we have integration, we have intelligence for those assets, we have prediction for those assets, whether it’s forecasting weather events or extreme events, or forecasting where we may need to lay pipe into the ground to facilitate housing development for our customers.

She noted that, for herself as CIO, “it’s about leading out in those assets to ensure we have integration, we have intelligence for those assets, we have prediction for those assets, whether it’s forecasting weather events or extreme events, or forecasting where we may need to lay pipe into the ground to facilitate housing development for our customers.”

She also said Ervia will be looking at their sustainability agenda, and for people and partners it’s all about access to the right information on any device, and exploiting tech out there, enabling operational efficiencies.

Ms Cunningham then stated that all organisations have evolved, a direct result of how fast technology is moving: “We’re connecting so many millions of devices every day. People using social media, customers and employees, people have an expectation of what people want […] I think this will be the norm as we go forward, it’s steady as you go.”

In a world of constant change and disruption, Mr. Hennessy said that “the most important skill to build in the team is resilience so they have the ability to handle the change that will come at them”. He concluded that “change is constant and we’re consistently managing it.”

Cybersecurity

Mr. Mortell noted that cyber security had emerged from a recent tech survey as a primary concern this year. 

Regarding cybersecurity, Ms Cunningham said: “The whole area of cybersecurity and cyber threat … safety is our number one priority, because of the services we provide. Really, having a robust cybersecurity strategy is essential.”

Ms Cunningham spoke about a cybersecurity session she attended recently: “In 2020,” she said, “there was a cyberattack every 31 seconds. So far, in 2021, there’s a cyber attack every 11 seconds.”

She noted that actors out there are very sophisticated and patient, and that every organisation will say it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when you will face an attack.

In 2020 there was a cyberattack every 31 seconds. So far, in 2021, there’s a cyber attack every 11 seconds.

She continued: “As part of our strategy, we’re looking at a number of cybersecurity goals … right across the organisation … this doesn’t just affect your working life, it affects all your life. It’s a multimillion dollar industry. They tailor and target you depending on the organisation you’re in.”

Diversity & Inclusion

Mr. Hennessy spoke about the greatest upcoming opportunity. 

“It feels like there’s a whole host of people out there who  could become involved in digital businesses.”

He said it was part of their D&I agenda to try to scale the influence of a number of leaders and to open up technology as a career to a larger number of people who might otherwise not have been exposed to it. 

Ms Cunningham finished by stating that it is “a great time to be in tech,” and saying to any organisations listening: “The whole area of diversity and inclusion … I’d like to encourage anyone watching to consider it.”


Keynote: ‘Why Successful Digital Transformation Requires a Shift in Mindset.’

The event finished with a keynote talk by Louise O’Conor, Founding Partner, Beta Digital, who gave insight into ‘Why Successful Digital Transformation Requires a Shift in Mindset.’

The event finished with a keynote talk by Louise O’Conor, who gave insight into ‘Why Successful Digital Transformation Requires a Shift in Mindset.’ She said that digital transformation is changing the role of CIO globally. She defines digital transformation as the strategic changes a business can make to survive in the business world.

She noted that the concept of changing businesses is nothing new. However, despite there being discussion on digital transformation for years, a lot of organisations simply lack the know-how when it comes to implementing it.

She continued: “I’ve heard the pandemic being described as a catalyst … in many ways it is … but [digital transformation] has been happening for years,” due partly to changing customer behaviours.

She continued: “Businesses need to take a holistic approach to Digital Transformation which involves taking the time to understand their status quo, analysing and identifying existing gaps and challenges within the business, envisioning where it wants and needs to be in the future and then building the transformation plan, a roadmap to get there.” 

“Only then,” she said, “can, and should, a business decide on what technology can best enable that vision.”

Transforming a business is not just a once-off project, she noted. Nor can it be achieved by one team or person. It is also not a purely technology-based issue. 

Rather, it “is a company-wide effort that requires a complete change of mindset.”

It relies heavily on leadership, people, skills, and know-how, and most importantly, an inclusive culture embedded throughout the organisation […] While tech can enable change, people make it happen

Historically, O’Conor noted, CIOs were responsible for IT systems. However, digital innovation changing customer expectations, data have altered the role. New pressures and expectations have fallen heavily on CIOs as a result.

O’Conor cites a report by IDG on the state of CIOs that said 95% or respondents stated that their role had expanded beyond traditional IT management. 88% also reported convergence between IT and OT.