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diginomica 2014 - Jessica's choice

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman December 27, 2014
Jessica Twentyman plays hostess to her very own awards ceremony as she ticks off her top ten diginomica stories of the year.


I love an IT industry awards ceremony: the untrammelled access to free champagne, the moth-eaten tuxedos enjoying an all-too-infrequent outing, and the pained, ‘happy for you’ expressions on the faces of losers.

Living in rural Portugal, I simply don’t get to attend them often enough, so when asked to pick out my personal ‘top ten’ of the IT projects I covered for diginomica this year, I was only too happy to oblige.

So crack open a bottle of post-Christmas fizz and join me to celebrate this year’s glittering ‘Twentymans’. Dress code is casual, mood is tongue-in-cheek and the judge’s decisions are final.

For sheer chutzpah in tackling the IT skills shortage

I’m perfectly happy to be unconventional in how we go about hiring top talent. We’re taking the fight out there, onto the streets.

This year’s award goes to Paul Clarke, chief technology officer of Ocado. In December 2013, he organised to have recruitment messages sprayed on the pavement outside the offices of rival technology employers in the City of London, including UBS, Amazon and Skype.

For ripping up the CIO rulebook

If I get [it] wrong, I’ll be fired. If I get it mostly right, I’ll be a hero.

This year’s award goes to David Jack of Hyperion Insurance Group. When David Jack joined Hyperion in November 2013, he asked himself, “What kind of CIO do I want to be at this company?” The ten answers he came up with aimed to provoke debate, even contention.

For cutting one’s losses with one vendor and risking a new approach with another

The big question for us was, how can we do what we already do today, but at a more competitive price?

This year’s award goes to Jan van der Veen, development manager at Dutch online greetings card company Greetz. When Greetz’s board of directors put their collective foot down over splashing out on yet another Oracle database licence, van der Veen instigated a wholesale migration to open-source MySQL fork, MariaDB.

For making a real difference in children’s lives

We know from experience that, if you invest in a girl’s education, that investment is felt by her whole community. But in order to deliver on our goals effectively, we need to get the right staff in place, to raise funds, to raise awareness, to advise educators and governments, to deliver frontline programmes.

The award here goes to Mark Banbury, chief technology officer at Plan International, where talent management software from SuccessFactors is helping the charity not only to get the best from its 10,000 workforce, but also making the donations it receives stretch that little bit further.

For commitment to queue-cutting and delay-dodging

[Cloud’s] great for us, because it means I can concentrate on the passenger experience, rather than worry about having the staff to cover a lot of the ongoing day-to-day activities.

Here, the award goes to Gatwick Airport CIO, Michael Ibbitson, who says he makes copious notes about his own experience every time he travels through the airport as a passenger. He’s also implemented a range of cloud-based technologies with the explicit goal of cutting queues and reducing delays for the 36 million people who depart from or arrive at LGW each year.

For services to guaranteeing more in-store cheese samples

Our clients constantly challenge us by asking for new ways to show and quantify ROI. We’re out ahead now in our market, but we need to stay there.

Who doesn’t like cheese - or, let’s face it, any food or drink given away for free? Not me. This year’s award goes to Giovanni DeMeo, vice president of global marketing and analysis at San Diego-based experiential marketing firm, Interactions Marketing. If there’s one thing that makes retailers and marketers leery of ‘experiential marketing’, he explained, it’s a lack of clarity on the return on investment (ROI) they can expect to see. Interactions Marketing is using data analytics to set them straight and win them over.

For sheer determination in the face of public-sector compliance mandates

I think most would say that they wouldn’t be without mobile devices now and many have said to me that it’s had a big impact on their work/life balance.

The award goes to Ivor Nicholson, ICT services director at Nottinghamshire County Council, who hasn’t let the onerous standards required for PSN [Public Service Network] compliance - or widespread cost-cutting in UK local government - stand in the way of getting social workers mobile.

For using the cloud to bring scary monsters to life

It blows my mind, if I’m honest, that this sort of stuff is now possible in our business.

A fairly niche award, this one, and there was only one real contender: Jeremy Smith, chief technology officer at Jellyfish Pictures, the special effects company behind a host of characters, from the lovable Neil the Sloth on the Sofaworks TV ads to the menacing Zygons in the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. He’s using Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) to tackle the issues of costs and space that arise when seriously talented artists need access to heavy-duty workstations for computer-generated imagery (CGI).

For impressive frankness in dealing with an IT vendor

We’re going to take your brand new toy and break it.

The award goes to Nancy Hauge, vice president of global human resources at semiconductor company Silicon Image. She and her team took a cloud-based HCM product and entirely reconfigured it to better suit their needs, telling Oracle execs some upfront thoughts.

For giving the judges (me) the opportunity to make numerous smutty asides

Our target consumer is a millennial guy, aged up to 35, primarily. We know that his mobile device is an extension of himself, so it’s in his hand constantly.

This very special award goes to Tom Speight, president and CEO of 2(X)IST, for a mobile campaign that saw men’s underwear company transform billboards around mid-town Manhattan into ‘virtual stores’, where impulsive shoppers can buy their briefs on the spot.

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