IT automation and the role of the CIO

Trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) are set to exponentially increase the volume of data that businesses have to manage. Certainly IT infrastructure will need to be updated to enable and secure the myriad of new devices wishing to connect.

However, for CIOs, improving IT infrastructure alone is no longer enough. Instead, they need to step up and work with their IT departments to employ effective strategies to analyse and extract value from the data available. This will ensure their business is in the best possible position to both compete and succeed in their relevant markets.

Due to the large volumes of data now in play, the integration of automated processes is necessary to cost-effectively analyse and extract value. Purely collating huge amounts of data is useless for a business if there is no structure in place to analyse it and produce valuable insights. For IT departments to maintain relevancy and drive efficiencies, it is important they utilise automation throughout their organisation to deliver value.

In 2014 we saw the IoT enter the wider public consciousness. This year we are seeing many organisations begin to deliver real insights and ROI from the technology. For example, automation is increasingly having a huge impact on the IT service desk. Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications can proactively monitor systems and devices, providing intelligent updates before users notice or report a problem. This leads to a more efficient and pre-emptive service desk, cutting the time and cost of investigating user-reported errors.

As a result, the simpler requests, such as password resets that used to be the ‘bread and butter’ work for tier one support professionals, are now disappearing to be replaced by self-service portals and automated diagnostic tools.

But this hasn’t meant that life is easier for IT professionals. The consumerisation of IT has meant that IT departments’ own services are now being compared against other external suppliers. At the same time, expectations are being set by the support interactions that employees experience in the consumer world. Therefore, if IT departments do not embrace automation, they could find themselves heavily criticised by others through the use of systems that are negatively impacting staff satisfaction levels.

At the same time, we are seeing a shift in responsibilities for the CIO, moving away from the provision and maintenance of physical infrastructure and devices, to being primarily concerned with the management of data, innovation and value creation.

Digitalisation is now centre stage and CIOs are expected to play a leading role in developing this throughout their organisation. This means that CIOs need to flip their focus from IT efficiency, to one that focuses on value creation.

To drive this value, data analytics now takes a key role. As already mentioned, there is now a surplus of data available at the CIO’s fingertips. It is vital that they take the time to understand what is available to them, what it all means and how they can leverage it to make operations run more efficiently across all aspects of the business. For the smart CIO, automation offers an opportunity to elevate their position at the C-suite level, using the data to provide key insights that will drive business goals, and unearth new insight opportunities to provide a competitive market advantage.

Therefore, CIOs must learn to manage the increasing amount of data available to them and implement systems and architectures that can extract key insights and communicate this across the organisation, and to those sat on the board. While we are used to seeing the CIO spending time running the IT shop, those who are high-performing will be spending less time on this, and more time engaging the senior leadership team on their insights. Educating and inspiring are now central tasks for the top CIOs.

However, in order to fulfil this ‘new role’, it is important for the CIO to become the innovator and visionary for the business. Through the use of automation in analysing data, the CIO must enhance his/her position of key strategic business advisor.

With information the key asset for any business, CIOs must provide a clear understanding as to what information is available, what parts of this information is valuable to their organisation, and how this can be used to achieve business goals.

Tim Patrick-Smith is Group CIO, Getronics, and specifies on Mobile Device Management, increased investment in data security and the importance of Cloud computing as a platform for changes to business process.