The Forum is the time of the year when we bring together some of the best and brightest throughout the tech and business world to share ideas and discuss innovation. Innovators are pushing the boundaries of tomorrow. At its core, the Forum focuses on bridging connections and ideas throughout the technology ecosystem. The Forum provides a unique and intimate opportunity for top business and technology minds to come together. Participants can step outside their company walls and engage in discussions with other innovators pushing the boundaries of tomorrow – all while gaining new perspectives on current topics they may not have considered before.
Our guests include founders of cutting-edge startups, executives leading Fortune 500 companies, venture capital partners cultivating what's next, global distributors driving technology, and everyone in between. Vation Ventures hosted seven events and panels this year featuring incredible people and themes. These seven panels included:
Vation Ventures: Vation Ventures' outlook on the upcoming years
Joe O'Callaghan, Managing Partner, Vation Ventures
Jyoti Bansal (Entrepreneur)
Kelly Kramer (Former Cisco Executive VP/CFO; Board Member)
End-Customer Panel: A group of executives who represent the end-customer in the technology ecosystem
Allen Fazio, CIO, Houlihan Lokey
Arram Han, Head of Infrastructure ExodusPoint
Mike Anderson, CDO & CIO, Netskope
Russell Kaurloto, Vice Chancellor & CIO, University of Denver
Distribution Panel: Hosted by the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC)
Frank Vitagliano, CEO, GTDC
Kristin Russel, President - Global Enterprise Computing Solutions, Arrow Electronics
Special thank you to the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC), this year's Forum 2022 Title Sponsor. The GTDC is a worldwide industry association dedicated to highlighting the value of our member distributors in a successful and healthy information technology channel. The Council is comprised of the technology industry's top distributors dedicated to serving "the channel," a network of skilled solution providers, Internet resellers, and retailers focused on providing hardware, software, and services to businesses and consumers around the globe. The GTDC is governed by its Executive Committee and Board of Directors, which consists of senior management representatives of the organization's membership.
GTDC members drive $150 billion in annual worldwide sales of products, services, and solutions through dynamic business channels. We help our members and vendors strengthen their partnerships and address industry-wide issues and opportunities. In addition, the GTDC enables vital industry insight for financial analysts and media looking for a definitive view of actual tech trends and the central role of IT distributors.
Forum 2022 Recap: Resiliency as a driver of disruption
With many external factors creating anxiety, such as geopolitical and economic turmoil, companies today may feel stuck when it comes to innovation. However, the reality is that many successful companies of today were founded during a recession, and embracing a resilient strategy can drive disruption.
You need to ask yourself these two questions:
What does it mean to be resilient?
Does disruption lead to resiliency, or does resiliency create disruptors?
We believe it's the latter. To be a disruptor, you need to have the ability to consistently reach goals, even when they seem overwhelming. Breaking down overwhelming, expansive goals into narrow-focused, visualized goals can become an incredible competitive advantage. Continually participating in this process conditions your mindset and makes you more resilient. Ultimately, this combination of strategizing, visualizing, and conditioning creates the resiliency needed to get you to a state of driving disruption.
Jyoti Bansal's Keynote: Innovation is a verb
Jyoti Bansal is a long-time, award-winning entrepreneur and tech visionary who believes great software is the key to making the world a better place for everyone. Jyoti founded the application intelligence company AppDynamics in 2008, which was sold to Cisco for $3.7 Billion nearly a decade later. He then started his next venture with the startup studio BIG Labs, where he can help co-create the next future-defining software and tech.
Jyoti has also been recognized by some big names such as Forbes, which named him the "Best Cloud CEO to Work For," and San Francisco Business Times, which awarded him as the "Best CEO" at the Annual Tech & Innovation Award. And in 2016, he received the honor of being named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year for Northern California.
His keynote speech was full of passion and expertise, where he explored the current state of technology, innovation, and the importance of positive company culture. Three main themes came from his conversation:
Thefirst theme is that the ongoing technological revolution parallels the architectural or industrial revolutions of the past. By driving innovation in the IT ecosystem, the world can be a better place with the right leaders in place as the drivers.
Thesecond theme follows the idea of driving a business through a downturn and the importance of innovating at full speed. Despite the rising inflation and bearish stock markets, we are in the golden age of IT innovation.
Businesses that thrive through downturns have big ideas and visions yet achieve them by breaking them down into small executions. If you want to achieve greatness, the key is taking incremental but deliberate steps.
You also need to understand that having a good product is not enough. You need two other essential things to be successful: a good go-to-market strategy and a good culture.
And that leads perfectly to the third theme, building an enabling company culture. However, Jyoti also points out that being together physically is not necessary to develop a company culture. You need to define and dictate how you plan to do things clearly. This includes transparency, high accountability, diversity, mutual respect, and an obsession with customer value.
Kelly Kramer's Keynote: What's on the mind of a board member?
During 2015-2020, Kelly Kramer held an executive position at Cisco as the Executive Vice President (VP) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). In this role, she was responsible for all financial functions, corporate development, mergers, acquisitions, integrations, and investor relations. She also held senior and executive posts across GE, such as VP and CFO of GE Healthcare's Healthcare Systems and CFO of GE Healthcare Biosciences. During her long tenure, she's picked up invaluable knowledge involving financial planning and analysis, profit-and-loss leadership, and mergers and acquisitions.
Today, she's a valued board member for incredible and profitable companies, including Gilead Sciences, Snowflake, and Coinbase. At the Forum, she gave a powerful and insightful keynote that focused on the mind of a board member. In her speech, she explored the following three themes:
The first theme centered around learning from amazing leaders. Remember that enterprise executives and entrepreneurs both offer unique, valuable insights. She also delved into what makes a leader great. Afterward, she introduced us to the four E's of leadership: edge, execution, energy, and energize. And the greatest skill a leader can have is the ability to communicate effectively.
The second theme looked at board member expectations. What does the organization expect from the board of directors? And what's expected from each member within? The board needs to understand that its primary directive is to help companies succeed, challenge the company, and ask relevant questions. However, there are also expectations of transparency, togetherness, and self-awareness.
It's also important to keep in mind that there are internal expectations with the board as well. Primarily, each member must add value and stay in tune with the company's goals and mission. But remember, it's not the board's responsibility to manage the company but to guide them to success. This includes helping represent and build the brand, keeping innovation at the core of emerging technologies, figuring out how to navigate through crises, and positioning the company for the long term.
The third and final theme asks these two crucial questions: will your bets have a return & what makes proposals succeed? You're making a significant bet on your company's success, and you will need investors and the board to help drive you there. Effective communication is key to convincing your board and investors to be on board with your company. That's where creating and communicating a strong proposal is essential for getting the support you need. It takes four steps:
Explain why your product and team are a winning bet.
Explain why your product is critical to the market.
Display credibility that proves you can execute.
Beware of presenting a proposal that seems unrealistic, poorly thought out, or misses critical threats.
The Forum Panels
The End-Customer Perspectives Panel
The first began with the End-Customer Perspectives panels. Here's a recap of all the essential themes laid out by our panelists this year:
In times of uncertainty in the market, innovate
Uncertainty and turbulent times call for leadership to get creative with ways to weather the storm. The adage says, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." And that's more relevant today for companies than ever before. Some key points from the panelists were locating and fixing inefficient processes. Next, they said to focus on consolidating and upskilling where possible. Finally, remember to be conservative regarding costs, but innovative in terms of strategies.
How do we keep "digital transformation" from being just a buzzword?
The digital transformation we're going through at the moment isn't just a fad– it's a full-on revolution. However, how do we ensure this remains true in the future? You must tailor what "digital transformation" means for your specific company. While it's possible that some employees or clients may not want digital transformation, the onus is on the CIO to bring in technologies in a way that will be accepted and utilized. However, rebranding the term may be in order, and a better word would be "modernization."
When it comes to innovating, tech isn't the challenge; it's the people
Of course, we all know that people get comfortable with what they're familiar with. That makes people resistant to things they don't understand. However, the key to changing that mindset is to embrace innovation as a challenge because, often, innovation means change. Inside the company, you need to inspire confidence in your employees to innovate. This will give them the ability to perform their duties and allows you to use failures as teachable moments. Remember, innovation is a verb–an action you take– and like swimming or playing a sport, it takes time and patience to develop fully.
Forum 2022 Title Sponsor: The GTDC Distribution Panel
The Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC) was our featured sponsored panel and brought in channel executives to discuss the role of distribution and the channel in the tech industry. Here are the key ideas shared by the panelists:
Distribution has seen decades of progress, and today, the outlook looks encouraging. Panelists pointed out that the digital era is driving tech distribution through cloud XaaS marketplaces, AI/ ML, analytics integration, and other emerging technology solutions. They also noted that supplier relationships are shifting from linear channels to connected ecosystems of data ecosystems, tech and innovation ecosystems, and business ecosystems.
How does distribution fit in the technology industry?
There's one thing they're certain of—the IT industry is clearly growing and taking over. When it comes to new technologies, you need to understand that the first step is to invest so it can grow. Then once you're in the middle, you must keep the end customer in mind.
The panel pointed out that distributors provide a deeper understanding of why solutions fit specific customers. They also think of technology as what solutions are being created.
Digital platform investments
Digital platforms are critical for the orchestration coming from multiple communities. With them, distributors can bring everyone together to solve problems. However, with so many solutions, it's the distributor's job to deliver the proper steps for end customers. Hence, it shows the importance of digital platforms getting the backing and support they need to facilitate these collaborations.
How distribution can help with ESG
ESG is essential for brand reputation and goals, and it's also becoming an essential element to distributors. Distributors can help organizations achieve their ESG goals by offering technologies working in the ESG space. According to a leading distributor's belief, technology should be good for business and the community as a whole. At its core, ESG isn't competitive. Therefore, collaboration, even among competitors, is for the best of everyone.
The CEO Panel
Our CEO panel invited a diverse group of C-suite executives to share ideas and thoughts about innovation and leadership. Here's a brief overview of the two key themes discussed by the panelists:
How to recognize and find innovation
Innovation is closely linked to opportunity: when the moment arises, you need to seize it. However, there are some ways that you can recognize these opportunities and find innovation. For example, you need to have a diverse network of colleagues and business professionals. But don't create an echo chamber; you need to find people who think differently than you. This can be accomplished through global outreach to touch points with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Another point from the panelists on finding innovation is trusting insights. This means looking for what's surprising, what's frustrating, and what's trending with customers. And it's watching for nuances that make you think– since those are what lead to innovation.
They also noted the importance of relying on your staff. For example, you can open the field and give your employees the space to be themselves. With that, they must be comfortable speaking their mind. So, when you talk, be assertive but don't be intimidating, which could make them apprehensive about speaking up with their ideas and thoughts.
And the most important thing you need to remember is that true creativity is rare. When finding creative thinkers, keep them around and learn from them. You also should give them tools and resources to cultivate this invaluable talent.
How to be the leader of leaders within your organization as the CEO
The panel also laid out some valuable information about what to look for when forming a team and looking for leaders. Here are the 10 points from the panelists:
Open to new ideas
Ability to execute
But remember, the CEO is the commander-in-chief, so it's imperative that you always make time to think and make calculated decisions. You also need to be clear in your instructions, focus on the goals and vision, and empower your team to follow through by giving them the support and tools needed to fulfill their duties. It's all about finding the perfect balance between time and effort and prioritizing what's important for the company's success, alongside the success and growth of your team. Luckily, new technologies can help free up your schedule. For example, pre-recorded videos can help you find the balance you need in your day-to-day activities by taking the place of meetings. One company doing this is Qumu, which enables users to use videos to engage with their employees that can be watched whenever, rather than having to schedule a meeting.
Venture Capital Fireside Chat
Finally, the Forum wrapped up with the VC Fireside Chat. It featured a conversation with Insight Partners, where they explored two key concepts: what innovation means for your end-customer and dealing with risk.
Visualize what technology or innovation will do for your customers
The panel gave some invaluable insights that can help any business succeed using tech and innovation. The best emerging techs deeply understand their customers and their problems. However, it's critical to remember that many customers fall into the "do nothing" principle. They're relying on the tech to be mapped out and visualized to close deals and implement change within their organizations.
Calculating & mitigating risk
The first step in avoiding risk is understanding and calculating it. The VC panelists laid out essential requirements for accurately evaluating your risks. They're as follows:
Do your due diligence
Review execution abilities and roadmaps
For early-stage companies, the tech and product will rule
Perfection isn't necessary
Find coachable leaders
Look at use cases and the demonstrated ability to build a customer roadmap
Test out a company's scale by working with partners
Evaluate how messaging is aligned with outcomes
The Forum 2022 Wrap-Up
Innovation is at the core of progress and success. However, there's no denying the complexities and nuances of weaving innovation into the DNA of companies, leaders, and employees. The only thing we know for sure is that innovation is essential for companies to survive the digital transformation and the tech revolution.
The goal of the Forum 2022 was to bring thought leaders across the tech industry to share what they've learned and enable further networking with like-minded individuals with the hopes that this melding of ideas and minds will better prepare all of us for the challenges of tomorrow.
Over the two-day event, we gained invaluable information from speakers, including Jyoti Bansal, Kelly Kramer, and the rest of the panelists. It allowed executives to engage in constructive conversations with other innovators pushing the boundaries of tomorrow. It also gave them access to new and fresh perspectives on the hottest topics and concerns facing today's digital and tech space.
We want to thank all our guests for participating and making the Forum 2022 the best one yet. We hope to see you all and more for next year's event.
Creating and Finding Innovation Opportunities Requires Planning, Patience, and Time
This year's Forum opened the floor for us to come together, share what we've learned in this new era, and network with tech and corporate professionals. We gathered the key thought leaders in the industry to discuss how turbulent moments aren't the time to fold but to stand up and face the storm by getting creative and developing resilience.
If there's one key idea we can take from all of our panels, it's that disruptors are bred from the combination of resiliency and innovation. And those who can't adapt to the changing ecosystem risk falling behind. However, it's important to remember that innovation isn't grown from nothing– like any action or goal we want to achieve, it requires planning, patience, and time. Those companies that cultivate these skills are the ones that last through tough times, geopolitical upturns, and economic turmoil.
We're always here to help any company, from early-stage to enterprise companies, find and enhance innovation opportunities. Get in touch today to see how we can help your business.
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