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Editor’s Question: What one piece of advice would you offer to a CIO if you were talking to them right now?

Editor’s Question: What one piece of advice would you offer to a CIO if you were talking to them right now?

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Over the past few years with all the unpredictability that has shaken up the world of work, the role of the CIO has changed, if not beyond all recognition, then certainly substantially from what we knew just a few years before.

While not so long ago IT was largely regarded as a cost center, now we hear about the need for CIOs to turn their hand to driving revenue.

Such a switch in demands will not come naturally to many especially coming at a time when workforces needed to be urgently equipped to meet the demands of remote working because of the sudden emergence of the pandemic.

This decade has certainly not been a time for CIOs to rest on their laurels – if anything the complete reverse is true.

Adaptability is more key than ever, as is communication with other board members who may have a limited grasp of exactly what IT brings to the business.

Improved communication can only contribute to the understanding of the deep-rooted importance of IT throughout every aspect of the modern enterprise.

We asked three industry experts, what advice they would give to CIOs if they were talking to them, maybe when bumping into them in a lift or by the water cooler.

We hear from Anthony McMahon, Vice President, APJ at GitLab; Graham Pearson, Vice President and Managing Director ANZ at Lacework; and Richard Marr, APAC CIAM Lead at Okta.

Anthony McMahon, Vice President, APJ at GitLab

Anthony McMahon, Vice President, APJ at GitLab

Many CIOs are trying to accelerate the rate at which applications are developed and deployed as part of a larger digital business transformation initiative. Organizations in APAC have been forced to sharpen their focus on productivity and agility as many development, operations and security teams have become highly distributed.

CIOs are leaning on DevOps methodologies to help the business meet market needs. To do so, the DevOps teams must find ways to accelerate the speed of software delivery innovation, reduce security and compliance risks, and increase operational efficiencies. An area that is still highly underrepresented in this shift is that many CIOs remain in the dark about the value they are generating from their total investment in software development and in production.

Having clear measurement of their entire software development lifecycle can allow CIOs to identify gaps and opportunities for greater efficiency and business value. Many CIOs know their total technology spend but that is only one part of the puzzle – it doesn’t tell the business the ROI in terms of business impact and time-to-value.

Leaders need a firm grasp on metrics such as DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) metrics to demonstrate, justify, and realize the tangible value of their DevOps programs to both senior management and other key business stakeholders. The better the ability of the team to measure criteria such as deployment frequency (DF), lead time for changes (LT), mean time to recovery (MTTR), and change failure rate (CFR), the more they can start to focus on ROI.

As the CIO comes under greater pressure to deliver value back to the business, they are hamstrung by the complexity of their development tool-chain, wasting time trying to manually capture useful ROI metrics – time which could be spent on more productive activity.

A fully integrated DevOps platform enables all metrics to be captured automatically in a single data store, helping organizations to understand the velocity, speed, security, overall quality and stability of software development projects.

By applying the right DevOps tooling and measures, APAC CIOs can maximize the ROI of their software investments via greater productivity and collaboration, while strengthening quality and security.

Graham Pearson, Vice President and Managing Director ANZ at Lacework

Graham Pearson, Vice President and Managing Director ANZ at Lacework

My key advice for CIOs right now is to consider security as part of any infrastructure or engineering project and, when doing so, to prioritize both visibility and automation for sustained success.

Ensuring visibility allows CIOs to make smarter decisions, not just on the security itself but on applications, the wider tooling, infrastructure and ID bottlenecks. It also makes it easier to communicate with the broader leadership team (and board) with demonstrable progress and proof points on initiatives such as compliance. As well as supporting internal discussions, improved visibility will also allow you to better support new customers and markets who often require these proof-points.

Automation allows CIOs to take advantage of the next generation of infrastructure without legacy tooling slowing down or exposing modern architectures that are becoming more common.

In today’s skill-short environment, automation also alleviates the pressure of finding the staff required to run and manage manual processes such as policy or rule writing and frees up employees to focus on strategy and business-wide initiatives that will add value. IT professionals want to develop and evolve their careers and to work with the latest technology.

The fastest way to burn out and loose good staff is to have them stuck on mundane tasks like rule writing or combing through alerts all day. So, investing in best-in-class tools will both attract new staff and help retain existing members of the team.

Automation and Machine Learning have evolved and are no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for CIOs. Sophisticated Machine Learning technology can provide accurate and meaningful improvements for your business.

Richard Marr, APAC CIAM Lead at Okta

Richard Marr, APAC CIAM Lead at Okta

Traditionally the CIO position aligned internal business needs to technology solutions like employee Single Sign-On and, with the exception of e-business, IT was defined as a cost center.

However, we’re living at a time when businesses are looking to increase their digital footprint and as businesses are forced to evolve and provide alternate offerings, CIOs are also needing to evolve into revenue drivers. IT is now moving organizations toward their financial goals, not just in e-businesses, but in traditional in-store businesses as well.

For the most part, the CIOs we work with are prioritizing their spending on day-to-day operations and securing their now remote workforces.

However, some more progressive CIOs have started to shift their focus externally, directing spending toward engaging with their new and growing online audiences in a frictionless and secure way. This is no doubt critical for businesses who’ve had to launch new consumer-facing services in light of physical store closings.

Unfortunately, many CIOs believe Digital Transformation must take several years while they update complex, monolithic IT infrastructures built for a specific moment in time.

In reality, we are seeing CIOs achieve quick wins by replacing parts of their legacy technology with ‘componentized’ digital technologies (think building blocks) that can be more easily reused across their infrastructure.

These include services like online payments, messaging and communication and identity management that allow businesses to speed their Digital Transformation and adapt to changing environments, whether that be a pandemic, new cyberthreats, or consumer devices and expectations.

At the root of this is the idea that adaptability is a strategy, not a response. CIOs must prioritize digital technologies, development methodologies and organizational structures that promote adaptability. This doesn’t mean reneging on a long-term strategy, but rather making choices that give them the capacity to switch gears in the short term to meet their goals.

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