What's Next 22 : The annual gathering of Belgium's Digital Leaders

Published by Daniel Eycken
February 02, 2022 @ 1:11 PM

Kick-off of the Year of the Tiger

The CIONET Annual event has become the annual Rendez-Vous, where CIONET's community of digital leaders in Belgium comes together to think about what the coming year will have in store. And 2022 - the year of the tiger - will be a particular year anyway: a year in which the pandemic, global warming and the energy shift (still) make the headlines, next to new hot topics such as Metaverse, NFTs and the great resignation. Seven inspired speakers presented their personal views on these headlines in Ted Talk-style. Concise, powerful and at times quite surprising!

BE20220127 - Annual Event - Main Banner

"It is time to get rid of the IT department", Joe Peppard, author and researcher MIT Sloan.

BE20220127 - Annual Event - Blog visuals (1)Joe Peppard, principal research scientist at MIT Sloan, former professor at the University of Berlin and reputable author of management books on IT and leadership, immediately threw the cat among the pigeons. As in his recent article in the Wall Street Journal, he provoked a discussion on the raison d'être of the IT department. The IT department is still often an island in the organisation and an obstacle to the (digital) development of the company. The real task is to use technology to create value for the company. The IT department can try as hard as it likes and use agile and other methodologies to better serve the business, but according to Peppard, it remains 'fighting the symptoms'. The deeper cause lies in the organisational model. According to Peppard, technology must be disconnected from a team and integrally embedded in groups that realise business objectives. 


"The Internet is shifting towards a universe where there are no boundaries between the physical and virtual world", Vincent Buyssens, Digital Nomad"

BE20220127 - Annual Event - Blog visuals (2)

According to Vincent Buyssens, Digital Nomad, Creative Digital Strategist and lecturer at the University of Antwerp, the Web3.0 is coming at high speed. We are evolving into a world where virtual and physical reality are thoroughly interwoven, empowered by technologies such as Mixed and Virtual Reality. Moreover, the virtual world is gradually given or claiming the same rights and (financial) value as the physical world. Metaverse, NFT and cryptocurrencies are good examples of this. This new reality creates opportunities. What these will look like is still a matter of speculation, both for the individual who seeks social interaction of a different order than the current social networks can offer today and for the business and creative sectors that will have to look for new models. 

The CIO calls for speed, speed, speed, whereas the supply of competencies is more and more lacking behind", Geert Hendrickx, partner S-Square

BE20220127 - Annual Event - Speakers (169)) (3)

Geert Hendrickx explains the (interim) results of the annual partnership benchmark of S-Square, the research organisation focusing on IT sourcing. One thing is clear: the gap between IT talent supply and demand is higher than ever before. And this is mainly due to the pandemic. The 'great resignation' is front-page news. Homeworking has become the norm and inspires employees to be more autonomous and choose the job that offers them the work-life balance they seek. The number of spontaneous dismissals has rarely been so high. Companies, for their part, are looking globally for borderless talents, but offshoring and nearshoring are also facing the same problem and hence cannot deliver at the required rate. Result: an unprecedented war for talent that is gradually becoming a structural problem in the IT sector. 

Moreover, the continued cloudification is also having a major impact on the sourcing landscape. Traditional service providers are struggling to pivot their services into the new. This inertia drives their customers to more transformation focussed providers.  

"Company culture is not something you create. It is something that you are", Elke Laeremans, COO/CIO Torfs.Elke LaeremansElke Laeremans describes Torfs as a unique corporate culture with a strong focus on the well-being of the employees. When people feel at home, valued and secure in the company, this has immediate repercussions, not only on their loyalty to the company but also on the way they deal with customers and do their job. Since the pandemic, 'company - collaborator bonding' has been actively pursued at Torfs; both with co-workers doing homework and with colleagues working in the shops. When organising a "virtual bake-off", a team went on a tour of Belgium to deliver the ingredients to the colleagues' front doors and ... to see each other in person again. Whereas 'Digital Ambassadors' were designated in the shops to ensure IT constantly keeps the finger on the pulse of what is going on in the field.

"Never before has a speaker at a CIONET event received so many job offers on the spot" (seen on the chat during the event). 


Mauro is 13 years old, an inventor and 'maker' of 'cool things'. Like an app to help a friend with diabetes monitor his glycemic values, his robot that encourages children to drink enough, or even a robot that brings you toilet paper when you need it... And Mauro came to speak to an audience of over 150 CIOs from all over Belgium. Du jamais vu. Spontaneous, enthusiastic and passionate, he was immediately nominated by the audience for the best speaker of 2022!

"Imagine a meteor is about to destroy all life on earth, we do have the technology to solve the problem, but a manipulative coalition is obstructing...", Maarten Boudry, philosopher and author.

According to Maarten Boudry, the problem of global warming is similar. Global warming is a fact. The worst-case scenarios speak of a 12-year window to fix it. The remedy is simple: 'Decarbonise all energy sources and then electrify everything'. The problem, however, lies in the low power density and intermittency of renewable sources such as solar panels and wind power.

BE20220127 - Annual Event - Speakers (169)) (4)On the other hand, nuclear power is highly  power-dense, perfectly predictable and reliable, and perfectly suited to meet our energy needs in an environmentally friendly way. Conclusion: we and our policymakers must give the climate crisis the urgency and priority it deserves; we must start thinking globally (20% of the world's population does not even have electricity); and we must acquire new brooms, i.e. give technological innovation every chance to tackle this problem. As usual, humans are the problem but also the solution. 

"Life begins where fear ends", Antonietta Mastroianni, Chief Digital and IT Officer Proximus

As to Antonietta Mastroianni one has to leave their personal comfort zone and let in the ideas and the energy that can feed one's creativity. Since creativity and technology together can do magic! She personally is firmly into art and creativity. Her own collection counts more than two hundred paintings... How does this translate to the work floor? Start by ensuring that the central idea of the mission is clear, realistic and shared as a strategy. Still, motivate your team to bring their own solution and ideas to the table. It empowers the individual and creates buy-in and commitment. On the question on her own role and strategic approach, Antonietta sums up three elements: first fix the foundation, build the architecture and the delivery model, secondly push for innovation for offering the digital-first solutions for the customers and thirdly, create the ecosystems that allow 3rd party services and modules to be smoothly integrated into an intelligent system that can serve society.

And the winner is... Ruben Smolders, of SDWorx, who received the CIONET award for most inspirational speaker of 2021.

The presentation of Ruben Smolders, platform and integration lead at SD Worx, at the CIOFEST in March 2021 on agile management methodologies apparently did not pass unnoticed. On the receiving of this prestigious award, his thank-you speech promoted the idea of Walking-Coaching as a perfect approach for value talks and receiving and giving feedback to team members. Well-deserved award indeed.

Posted in:CIONET Belgium

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think

You May Also Like

These Stories on CIONET Belgium

Subscribe by Email