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How technology leaders can rise to the challenge of the future

How technology leaders can rise to the challenge of the future

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Events have thrown up a host of challenges that CIOs need to build a strategy for. Paul Chapman, CIO at Box, tells us: “Technology leaders need to lead the way in building a strategy to prepare teams for the future way of working and the rapidly evolving security landscape.” 

In recent months, it’s become clear that the future of work will be a hybrid model of office and remote. Like many other companies, we’ve prepared for our team to continue working remotely well into the new year.

This is something we’re welcoming, as both a means of providing greater freedom and flexibility for our employees, and as a driver for increased productivity and an expanded talent pool for us to hire from.

The hybrid office of making work a state of mind, versus one based on location, also means a long-awaited end to the non-flexible ‘9 to 5’ working schedule. This recognizes that some people are at their most productive early in the morning, whereas others might be night owls and work best in the evening.

Forcing employees to work to a set scheduled time when they may be less productive is simply wasteful. While some have philosophical beliefs about remote work and are more resistant to change, for many of us, it is clear that it’s the work that matters. Shifting away from the office-based ‘nine to five’ also means an end to unnecessary commuting, which is a plus for employees’ wellbeing as well as the environment. Most of all the ‘give back’ of time can be re-purposed.

From Business Continuity to business resilience

But for CIOs, the shift to hybrid working has thrown up a host of challenges that need to be reckoned with. To truly make the most of this new increased flexibility, requires fundamental changes to the way we go about business.

Technology leaders need to lead the way in building a strategy and technology platform to prepare teams for the future way of working and the rapidly evolving security landscape.

Today our business models, daily operations, technology architectures and even our company cultures are all being disrupted simultaneously. Most significantly, the dynamic shift to remote work we saw in 2020 presented a huge opportunity for CIOs and tech leaders to accelerate their digital agenda.

If anyone had told me earlier in the year that COVID-19 would be the new champion for the digital agenda, I’d have thought you were crazy. However, this is something we’re seeing across most, if not all, industries, with the rate of change showing little sign of slowing.

As we brace ourselves for what certainly looks set to be an extended period of disruption to our everyday working lives, priorities must shift from ensuring the continuity of business operations to ensuring we are always operating with business resilience. Cloud migration efforts are on hyperdrive, facilitating greater agility and connecting employees and customers around the world.

At the same time companies are looking to automate as many business processes as possible for the purpose of speed and agility and in reducing mundane manual steps, enabling employees to focus on their highest-value work.

Protecting the flow of data and content

Additionally, the shift to remote work has made keeping information secure even more complex. For companies, the attack surface has morphed from a single office location to hundreds or even thousands of home offices, leading to a proliferation of potential entry points needing to be secured.

This reality has been clearly reflected in the dramatic rise in the number of phishing and malware attacks we’ve seen in recent months. Our internal data at Box has shown that, while we previously blocked around 35% of inbound emails due to suspicious content or links, we’ve now seen this rise to around 55% to 70% of emails since COVID-19.

In terms of security strategy, companies must move from an emphasis on protecting the perimeter to protecting the flow of data and content. A large part of this means getting a clear view of the different types of data your organization holds, in terms of security importance, and what harm each could do if compromised. Differentiating what’s critical from what isn’t allows you to pre-empt any nightmare scenarios and maximize return on your security investments.

Where do we go from here?

To successfully adapt strategies for the ‘future normal’ requires flexibility and open mindedness from leadership as well as from employees. Now is definitely time to progress your shallow IT strategy – the antidote to threat-posing shadow solutions. This means thinking outside the box, trialling a variety of different solutions and finding those that can best streamline collaboration and deliver the most value for your business.

Today we have access to lots of best of breed services that maniacally focus on areas of specialty, allowing us as CIOs to bring innovation into our organizations at a faster pace than ever. Making sure we have an interoperable best of breed reference architecture is critical for success here.

It is not just about where we are today but where we are going, and with the future being so uncertain, having a set of services and an architecture that allows for speed, agility and constant innovation is key.

On top of this, it’s essential that we seek to lead with empathy. The only way to build trust is to listen and learn from your employees about what’s working and what isn’t. This is much harder without those high fidelity in person interactions that we previously had. While physically distant from each other, we need to make sure employees remain socially connected and that we can facilitate open and intentional communication with our teams.

At Box we’ve also made an effort to invest more in services like Kudoboard, for posting praise and shout outs to our colleagues, and Headspace to help employees with meditation and mental health.

Aside from the much-needed flexibility remote working brings for employees, we can hope to see businesses themselves emerge from the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic with more resilient, productive teams and more robust security strategies. The future is a blended working model that allows for in-person high fidelity interactions as well as remote work flexibility.

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