Data resilience: Why CEOs and CFOs need to understand the CIO agenda

In the PWC 2015 CEO insights, Raymund Chao stated that ‘No less than 86 per cent of the CEOs we interviewed said that it was important that they, as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), champion the use of digital technologies to help their organisations get the most out of those technologies.’ The survey also disclosed that the same percentage of CEOs believe ‘a clear vision of how digital technologies can help achieve competitive advantage is another key to success.’

Success relies on many phases that exist around a company’s digital assets. They include monetisation and people to mention a couple. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) therefore want to ensure their organisations embrace their agenda, which is about pushing out and transforming the business. However, research suggests there is little evidence in the Chief Financial Officer agenda about anything to do with analysing the impact of digitisation, and how new technology innovations will change their roles. What’s clear is that they will evolve.

This evolution will happen because technologies are emerging that could totally change the whole finical infrastructure of the world commerce as we know it today, and so CFOs need to work in conjunction with the CEO and CIO to understand how these will transform the business. A lack of comprehension of the changing market and technologies could leave their firms with a diminished competitive advantage, as a result of a lack of investment in transformative technologies.

Transform with technology

One of these possible transformative technologies is Blockchain. This technology is beginning to cause a ground swell. You can’t ignore it, because Blockchain is the core technology that underpins the virtual currency Bitcoin. Unfortunately, Bitcoin has been associated with corruption and ransomware in the past. However, these challenges shouldn’t stop CEOs, CFOs and CIOs from embracing the transformational aspect of this technology. It not only has applications in finance, but also in the management of medical heath records, contacts, and the sale and purchase of digital assets - just to name a few. The range of applications for it is widening.

Blockchain is all about peer-to-peer transactions without the middle man, and so has widespread implications for organisations that provide an interface between two transacting parties. This will lead to wide-reaching changes to IT infrastructure because the technology has the ability create vast amounts of data that is encrypted. This data passes around the nodes of the Blockchain at high-speed, and these nodes aren’t necessary within your datacentre, so technologies that can accelerate high-speed encrypted data are key to participating in the Blockchain.

Defend against ransomware

Forbes’ Top Ten Concerns for 2016 include costs, IoT, agility, time to market, and the perennial problem of increasing data volumes and where to store it. This issue brings the cloud into play with a whole set of new risks such as ransomware. For example, a report by The Register on 23rd March 2016, ‘Your Money Or Your Life! Another Hospital Goes Down To Ransomware’, reveals that the records of the Methodist Hospital in Kentucky, USA, were scrambled by ransomware to try to extort money from the organisation. Thankfully it called in the FBI and refused to pay.

The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center also found itself infected by ransomware recently, and paid malware operators $11,900 to get access to their documents. Similar attacks have been reported by hospitals worldwide. Hacking, traditional malware, and viruses still offer a significant threat, but those that create it are constantly changing their tactics to develop new ways to either damage data records, to steal or prevent access to data. So it’s important to invest in security to be data resilient.

Be data resilient

So why is data resilience important? Data is becoming more and more valuable, so like any asset it must be protected. What happens if Uber dies – or loses data? The platform fails! Without a functioning platform, revenue can’t be generated for such companies such as this, and the value that’s intrinsically locked into the data will be rendered valueless. This problem should concern everyone within the C-Suite – and individuals need to realise that the buck stops with them.

Drive change

With peer-to-peer transactions and vast data sets at the heart of Blockchain, business continuity and data resilience are therefore essential. It might even be the Cinderella of the IT department, helping to achieve a key business functional requirement. So how can CEO and CFOs drive change, or should they work collaboratively with CIOs? From a business and technological point of view, change has to increasingly begin with CIOs developing a business case for it. So here are a few tips to consider:

  • Make transformative technologies be part of the organisation’s future strategy. Look how Amazon changed the way we buy, and how Netflix altered how we watch movies, how payment systems are driving cash out of our pockets and into our phones.
  • Gain recognition by using technology to demonstrably drive and create value that can be added to the bottom line, enabling the organisation to expand. By demonstrating value they will gain the support of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and other senior executives. If they are unable to demonstrate value, their ability to innovate will be adversely affected.
  • Encourage and participate in collective responsibility throughout the C-Suite. With the growth of digitalisation, the ransomware incidents at the two hospitals show why every organisation should be concerned with protecting their data. The C-Suite as a whole should therefore prioritise data security and data recovery to ensure that they can retrieve data quickly whenever either a human-created disaster or a natural one threatens the ability of the organisation to continue to operate.
  • Don’t become complacent. It’s quite easy with fault tolerant hardware to become complacent, rather than to recognise that the risks and technologies are ever changing. Networks, for example, remain vulnerable to air gaps and distance issues that create latency and packet loss. The CIO agenda should therefore consider how data is going to be safely transmitted and received, at speed, by mitigating the effects of latency. A service continuity, business continuity and recovery plan is therefore essential.
  • Communicate effectively to enable the C-Suite to fully understand the current CIO agenda and consider what else should be on it can lead to lost time and lost revenue. It should also be borne in mind that Twitter offers a charter for those that wish to complain about an organisation, and it can lead to a rapid dissemination of unfavourably information that could cause a damaged reputation.
  • Remember that data resilience is about protecting your organisation by enabling it to access and exploit data to allow it to prosper. This is why CFOs, CMOs and CEOs should work with CIOs to ensure they have technologies in place.

Don’t forget that driving change is a positive way forward to establishing market competitiveness and differentiation. After all, it’s better to disrupt those that would like to disrupt you, and it’s better to act now to prevent human-made and natural disasters from impeding your business and service continuity. CIOs therefore need to clearly explain their agenda in order to help CEOs and CFOs to understand the importance of investing in data security, in back-up and restore as well as in transformative technologies. With the importance of data increasing, your firm will need them.

David Trossell, CEO of Bridgeworks