With CIOs, however, the top query is around "the cost agenda".
"It is efficiency," she says. "How do we get more for our money? How do we use technology to make us more efficient? If we spend more on mobile technologies, how do we use that advantage to cut costs in other areas?
How do we use that advantage to cut costs in other areas? How do we become more productive?"
Pickering says she is not surprised by this because she has similar concerns. "As a CTO myself I am always challenged to reduce costs. Networks are growing, the systems are growing, and everyone wants things cheaper. Right? So a big part of our cost space as a telco is the technology running the environment, the systems, the enterprise computing and the network maintenance and support costs. They make up probably half of our cost base."
A major component of her job is "looking at the future" in areas like 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution). "How do we ensure our systems are relevant for our customers? What strategies are we employing to ensure we service the customers through all of our different channels?"
She says being a member of a global company helps -- she gets updated information on emerging trends in other parts of the globe, like Europe, where Vodafone has its headquarters.
Every year, she attends Vodafone's leadership conference, usually a week-long event in Europe, where she meets with around 200 other executives.
Pickering says she also has regular meetings with the other Vodafone CTOs through videoconferencing, as well as collaborating online.
M-commerce is an area she is keeping track of, particularly on near field communications (NFC).
"NFC is starting to make a reality of mobile wallets," she says. "There will be a time in the not too near distant future where people won't need to carry wallets or cards because the mobile wallet will be contained in the mobile device. It is very exciting."
Vodafone has teamed up with Telecom, 2degrees and Paymark (which runs the largest Eftpos switch in New Zealand) for a joint venture that will allow people to pay their bills or collect loyalty points using their mobile phone. Under the joint venture, a Trusted Service Manager (TSM) will provide the infrastructure to enable the use of NFC-enabled handsets as mobile wallets.
"With the cost of infrastructure, it doesn't make sense for everyone to build their own solution because there is no competitive advantage in the infrastructure that you need to run it. The advantage is in what do you package it up with, and how do you differentiate the service that you provide."
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