Calling all IT leaders – do you have the correct priorities?

BrandPost By Alastair Pooley, CIO at Snow Software
Apr 26, 2021
IT LeadershipNetwork SecurityStaff Management

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As I talk to fellow CIOs to try to understand their future strategy, I am struck by the focus on growth and innovation. Organisations are trying to move on from the turbulence and uncertainty of 2020, most are looking to identify future opportunities. The importance organisations place on IT has been enhanced by the pandemic and many CIOs are trying to leverage that new position to deliver more value.

The question remains how do you plan ahead?

This was a question Snow sought to answer with our global survey which included 750 workers and 250 IT leaders in Australia. Our findings suggest there are a number of key initiatives that IT leaders should investigate.

Employee Enablement

One of IT’s key roles is to make it easy for employees to access and benefit from technology. I best think of this as trying to provide guardrails which keep people travelling in the right general direction, but which present an open road ahead of them. IT must avoid being seen as a barrier which has to be overcome as that leads to employees circumventing any controls and introducing rogue IT services into the business.

Everyone has examples of this behaviour. I personally found 50 developers using a 3rd party planning tool which entailed putting all manner of sensitive information into a free service with no contract and no NDA. They just had not thought through the consequences if all that data became publicly available. 

Our survey results told us that 43% of Australian workers reported how access to technology had improved over the last year but it also told us that IT leaders overestimated how easy it was versus the actual experience. This leads us to recommend that IT teams have to look at how they provision and manage access.

I would include reviewing the procurement processes and making sure it is as easy as possible to bring in new technology following IT standards. I take the view that IT had to embrace this citizen led IT (and do not call it shadow IT) as we have to accept that purchasing of technology is moving outside of IT’s control and our aim now should be to find ways to manage that shift.

The survey also indicated a few pain points such as old/outdated technology and the challenge of getting support while working remotely so make sure you are looking broadly at the technology you are asking people to use and that your Service Desk is accessible.

Staying Secure

Given the escalation of attacks online it will not be a surprise that 47% of IT leaders report that security is one of the biggest challenges. The SolarWinds attack follows a pattern of activity by nation state actors but due to its scale, with 18,000 businesses impacted, it has led to far greater awareness of the risk of cyber-attacks. While organisations continue to invest in more cybersecurity, it is critical to understand your full technology estate as you are only as secure as your most vulnerable segment.

Work should be undertaken on building improved visibility of all of your endpoints and servers. The risk of un-managed devices being used by employees working remotely has also been highlighted so it is important to adopt a “people-centric” approach which aims to get staff onboard with the need to maintain security.  

Technology Intelligence

At Snow, we talk a lot about technology intelligence – this is an approach to build confidence that you understand what is running across your IT environment and that you can manage it accordingly.

Using technology intelligence can improve your understanding of your consumption, cost and risk. I was interested to discover from the survey respondents that such a drive also spurs greater levels of innovation. Organisations who had sight of what technology was used vs unused allowed them to make cost savings and reinvest that money in new innovation.

We have heard evidence of customers saving 90% of their licensing bill with Adobe just through tracking actual usage and realizing they had been allocating licenses to people permanently when they were only needed for a project. 

Priorities for 2021

IT leaders need to fund technology which will drive growth and encourage innovation. Our research suggested that there are 3 key areas which should be looked at. First, look at how easy it is for employees to access different tools and technology, work on making IT more accessible to staff. The second requires more focus in improving security and tackling risks facing the business. The third is to adopt a technology intelligence program to assess your current usage of and investigate how you can optimise it to free up budget.

The organisations which have been focusing on these three initiatives have found they are able to drive more innovation and employee empowerment.