Per Brantsing Karlsson, a CIO Leading Change

Today’s businesses operate in a world where traditional, rigid structures are being replaced by fluid, rapidly changing models. Individuals who inspire new ways of thinking will power the businesses that succeed as they embrace this new dynamic environment.

Smart CIOs are stepping up to the challenge. They are the catalysts for change, harnessing the transformative power of technology to change the way a business operates. VMware’s Agents of Change initiative shines a spotlight on these important contributors.

Here’s the next individual in our Agents of Change series: Per Brantsing Karlsson, CIO at Akademiska Hus.

CIO Per Brantsing Karlsson thinks many of his peers are missing a trick. “The role of the CIO has evolved,” he explains. “We have an overview of the whole company, the ability to connect all the different parts together and then completely change our business processes. The CIO role shouldn’t be considered as supporting the business, but instead as a leadership position. But quite frankly, only a few organisations use their CIOs in this way. And as a result, they’re losing out.”

As CIO of Akademiska Hus, Sweden’s second largest real estate organization, Karlsson is a good example of this new generation of CIOs. With the support of the board of directors, he ensures technological innovation drives the company forward.

Hear from Karlsson in the video below, then read on to learn how his company has transitioned to a mobile workspace, the importance of nurturing a culture of innovation, and Karlsson’s three tips for leading change.

Going Mobile

A recent illustration of this innovation is the creation of a truly mobile workspace for Akademiska Hus employees. The company removed its hundreds of PCs and replaced them with virtual desktops. “It was a big transition, but the impact on employees has been remarkable,” he said. “Field workers out with customers can do a much better job. They have the tools to answer any question now that customers ask—from energy consumption levels of buildings to maintenance services. The experience for employees and our customers is hugely improved.”

However, experience has taught Karlsson that getting people to adopt new working patterns isn’t always easy. “You can have the most brilliant technology, but it doesn’t mean that people will use it. You need to understand what motivates these people to work the way they do. Only when you understand that can you motivate them to do things differently. If you can do this, and gain critical mass, then the technology will work. Otherwise, the technology will fail.”

A Culture of Innovation

The company’s strategy to embrace virtualization has saved it millions of Swedish crowns. “A strong economic case is, of course, essential to convince the board. And showing considerable cost savings will help you get their attention,” remarked Karlsson. “Ultimately, the job of the CIO starts in the boardroom—you need that support. For transformational projects to work, there must be a corporate buy-in, from the very top to the bottom. As a senior management team, this means nurturing a culture of innovation and an understanding that it is critical for the business to succeed.”

Tips for Leading Change

Karlsson shares some advice to other CIOs leading their organisations through change:

  1. Set a long-term strategy. Don’t only look one year ahead; build your case for five years ahead. CIOs should be change predictors, and articulate how the company can adapt. The cycles of innovation and development are speeding up.
  2. Assemble a business case. To get the buy-in of the board, you must present a plan with hard numbers and business value: How can IT help fulfill customer needs in a new way, or create new services so the business can enter a new market?
  3. Be tenacious. Leading change is a tough job and requires tough decisions. Ready yourself for resistance and challenges.