Chat with Hendrik Deckers, Managing Director and Founder of CIONET (4400 executives), World-Renowned Top-ranking Executive and ICT Authority
By Stephen Ibaraki, Interviews North America Editor, October 2014

Hendrik Deckers

Hendrik Deckers is the Managing Director and founder of CIONET, the biggest community of IT executives in Europe. In this role he is responsible, together with his team, for expanding CIONET into new markets and for the development of new and existing services.

Bringing together over 4400 CIOs, CTO's and IT directors from wide ranging sectors, cultures, academic backgrounds and generations, CIONET's membership represents an impressive body of expertise in IT management. CIONET's mission is to feed and develop that expertise by providing top-level IT executives with the resources they need to realise their full potential. Represented countries include the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Luxembourg, Poland, the Netherlands and Belgium.

CIONET develops, manages and moderates an integrated array of tools and services from the online CIONET platform — the world's first social network for CIOs — to a range of offline networking events, conferences, workshops and executive education programmes all tailored to top-level management. CIONET also provides exclusive access to the latest research through regular online and offline publications and a number of value-adding partnerships with key players from the academic and corporate worlds.

From 2000 till 2005 Hendrik was Vice President at ExpertEyes and Managing Director at Close Partners; in these roles he developed and delivered sales and marketing programmes that focused on helping IT vendors to launch and expand their commercial activities in Europe.

Hendrik worked at SAS Institute from 1990 till 1999, where he was responsible for the Belux company & product strategy, held positions as head of business development and worked in product management and pre-sales. He has a Masters in science and a postgraduate degree in economics from the K.U.Leuven.

Hendrik (51) is married, has 2 teenage sons and lives in Mechelen, Belgium. In his spare time he enjoys playing the piano and walking his dog.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

PARTIAL EXTRACTS AND QUOTES FROM THE EXTENSIVE DISCUSSIONS:

Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:39: 
What led you to found CIONET? 
"....I've been working in the IT space for about the last 25 years and have always enjoyed bringing people together so that they could exchange insights and experiences from their work in IT and IT management....In 2005 I connected the dots (that I liked IT and bringing people together), and with my new passion for social networking I decided to build CIONET. At the time it was the world's first online-offline community for CIOs and IT executives...."

:01:44: 
Can you get into more detail about the value of CIONET and why should IT executives care? 
"....The role and value of CIONET is to bring IT executives together in a strong and active community that works both online and offline so that they can exchange their experiences and best practices...."

:03:00: 
If I was a CIO in North America and I wanted to join CIONET is there a way I could do it and if so, how would I go about it? 
"....Today we are not active in North America. Our focus currently is in Europe and we are expanding in South America as well...."

:03:35: 
You have an interest in Asia as well? 
"....We are also building good relationships with the Chinese CIO Union so that we can build a bridge between the European and South American CIOs and the Chinese CIOs...."

:03:53: 
If a person is a CIO in Europe and they wanted to join, is there a membership fee of some sort? 
"....The model that we have adopted is to make it as easy as possible for CIOs to join so there is no membership fee...."

:04:33: 
What are your goals for CIONET for 2015? 
"....Over the last 9 years since we started, we've grown our community to over 4400 members in 10 European countries: the UK, France, German, Spain, Italy and so on. Our first goal for the next year is to further expand in new territories in new countries in Europe....also for the first time we will be expanding outside of Europe into South America....Our second goal is basically to expand the range of services that we provide...."

:06:16: 
What are your goals further out, let's say 2017, 18, 19? 
"....Further out our goal is really to establish in every major European and South American country. (To be established as the most valuable community for IT executives where the CIOs and digital leaders turn for support are known as professionals in their challenging jobs)...."

:06:38: 
As this interview is seen in over 100 countries, how can IT executives get involved with CIONET? 
"....At one end we are exclusive and at the other end we are inclusive. We are exclusive in the sense that only IT executives that fit our membership criteria and work in the countries in which we are active can join....But at the same time we are inclusive in the sense that if you fit the criteria we want you as a member and we want you to apply for membership (which we provide free)....If you work in a country where we are not active yet, please get in touch. We are interested to expand into new countries so maybe you can help us to get in contact with the right people to set up CIONET in your country...."

:07:57: 
What are the top concerns and challenges of IT executives? 
"....Number one challenge is digital business transformation....A more classical concern for IT executives that has been on their agenda for many years is the constant challenge of aligning business and IT....A third challenge, how can they organize their IT organization and the IT services in such a way that IT really supports business agility and the company's need today to be successful....A fourth, also a recurring challenge, is IT cost reduction....There are a number of technological challenges that IT organizations face today — new technologies that on one hand can add a lot of value to a company, but could also destroy a lot of value in the company if not implemented in the right way...."

:11:02: 
What do you see as the challenges of 2017? 
"....I think that the digital leadership is going to be a main challenge for IT executives in the coming years....Other challenges we just talked about are business/IT alignment, business agility and cost reduction; these will be there for the years to come.....Each year we will be seeing new things coming in the market, so the CIOs need to be developing strategies each time to see how they can get the most out of each new cycle of the technological innovations that are coming to the market...."

:12:23: 
What do you see as some of the leadership qualities required in 2015 for IT executives? 
"....Digital leaders need to accept that technology is going to change business over and over again and so for that they need to stay up-to-date on what's happening....To see the bigger picture and make a plan to manage the content, data, processes, they have to set the right goals, strategies, find the right outcomes while minimizing risks....Communicating their vision and their plan and doing the marketing of their IT organization and showing the value that they are creating for the organization in the best possible way...."

:14:12: 
We’ve gone through this adoption of mobile, social media, the cloud, cyber-security. Do you see any disruptive things on the horizon that CIO's need to take a look at in terms of technology? 
"....Each day there's new things coming along. I'm very interested to see what the impact is going to be like with the internet of things (everything is going to be connected to each other)...."

:15:07: 
Do you see any controversies today and their impact on businesses and can you talk about them? 
"....IT and especially the governance of IT is too important for the IT department only so I think CEOs and business leaders need to be in tune with the challenges and concerns that IT brings to their organization and need to really understand the opportunities, but also the threats that IT brings to their organization. I see it as the role of the CIOs to teach, inform and educate on an ongoing basis C-level executives about these opportunities and threats....Another controversy that's been going on for quite some time is the place of the CIO in the organization....The last controversy I find quite fascinating is the old bring your own device discussion....."

:17:28: 
One of the things you are involved with is the World CIO Forum (WCF) which is hosted in China from November 10 – 12 2014 in Xi'an, China. Can you talk more about it? http://ccio.cie-info.org.cn/index.html 
"....The World CIO Forum is a global conference for IT executives and hosted by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) and undertaken by the Chinese Institute for Electronics. There will be more than a thousand IT leaders, and decision makers, government officials and so on from around the world will be participating...."

:18:07: 
Did you have any recent meetings with the organizers including with the China CIO Union? 
"....When I was in Beijing last August we had a great meeting with the people from the Chinese CIO Union. We are building a very strong relationship with them and are looking forward to supporting them and the organization of the World CIO Forum and also inviting our members to join there because I think the topics that are going to be addressed at this conference are really exciting.…."

:20:02: 
Some of the largest banks in the world are now Chinese and some of the biggest companies in the world are now Chinese. I guess that would be of interest to executives to say that there is this tide coming from the East and we need to connect with them in some way. I guess that would drive your interest as well. 
"....If you have never been there you have no idea of what's going on, what's happening there and what is coming our way. We can look at it on television and we can look at the paper, but being there and seeing the amazing rate of development and growth is really an eye opener....What we would like to do is to give more of our members who have never been there and been exposed to the Chinese market the opportunity to see what's going on there, and to talk to their Chinese counterparts so that they can get prepared for the future when more and more of Chinese organizations, technologies will be coming over to the West...."

:23:39: 
Can you talk about how CIONET is working with the World CIO Forum? Are you a partner or supporting it as a partner in some way? 
"....We are supporting this conference on two levels: we will help with inviting some top speakers for the Forum, and we will be inviting our members, giving them the opportunity to attend this conference...."

:24:15: 
Can you describe your most significant and influential achievements and the practical outcomes seen today and forecasted into the future? 
".....It's fascinating to me to see how an idea that I developed nine years ago (to build a large community for CIOs), has now turned into an international network of IT executives who on a daily basis, connect with each other, learn from each other and share knowledge with each other. The community is really a living thing...."

:25:04: 
You've already given an answer to what are some of the leadership qualities that people should have, but looking into your own career are there any other lessons you wish to share that may be helpful to ICT executives in their roles? 
"....Think big to create a big vision that is appealing to people, that challenges them and excites them....Work very hard and put systems and processes in place and constantly keep the quality high for everything that you do....Attract very highly driven people who go the extra mile. Build a strong team and give the people a clear framework to work in (within that framework give them a lot of freedom to be creative and to develop the business further)....Have confidence....Be creative and always continue to innovate and reinvent yourself...."

:26:45: 
Past, present, and future, can you name some people who have inspired you and why is this so?
"....It's hard for me to name people, but I'm inspired most by the people around me and first of all I'm very much inspired by my team....Second, our CIOs and IT executives— I've met them and befriended so many of them now....I'm also inspired by my family, people very close to me who stand next to me in good and bad times...."

:27:55: 
You have this great opportunity to have traveled widely because of your amazing career and what you’ve built over the years. Is there anything that surprises you still? 
"....It really is a privilege to live in these exciting times and to witness all the amazing technological revolutions that we live in, so I'm surprised that some people are not excited about technology....I'm very driven by a positive attitude and by a belief system that anything is possible when you put your mind to it and so it's also a surprise that some people think differently and that they don't believe that this attitude is so important in life...."

:28:51: 
Do you see any improvements in policy that should occur in the next few years and can you tell us why? 
"....I'm not really involved in policy-making and I'm afraid I have little to contribute on that level, but what I would like to see on the international level is a global economy that is more stable and more long term thinking...."

:29:35: 
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [Seewww.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council] 
"....I think that the more practical codes, credentials and systems that are put in place the better it is. At the same time computing is a field that is changing so fast and so quickly these systems should be flexible enough so they are not limiting the immense creativity I would say that triumphs this exciting domain of computing and IT in general...."

:30:46: 
Hendrik shares some stories (perhaps something amusing, surprising, unexpected or amazing), from his extensive speaking, travels and work. 
"....The first time I attended an annual conference in Spain (CIONET Spain) was really a fulfilling moment to me because I was there at the conference and there were more than 150 people and they were all talking in Spanish (which I didn't understand). So all of a sudden you see something that you imagined happening in another country and being very successful in another country and you don't understand a thing about what everyone is saying — so that was quite interesting...."

:33:41: 
You choose the topic area. What do you see as some of the top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved? 
"..... I think for many of the challenges: world economics, the development of poor countries and green economies and so on, I think to a certain extent technology will be able solve some of these world challenges. The rest of course is up to leadership and making sure that we have wise people leading and that they do the right thing...."

:35:36: 
If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask and then what would be your answer? 
"....Name one book from the last couple of years that really fascinated you?...."

:37:19: 
Hendrik, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your substantial wisdom with our audience.

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