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A new world order for IT

A fitting motto for the modern CIO might be an old adage: “times of great change also bring great opportunity.” Amidst today’s technological upheaval, IT has become even more crucial to the success of an enterprise.

IT leaders are required to support critical business services, and are increasingly expected to take responsibility for organisational goals like sales growth, greater productivity, improved customer experiences, and stepped up efficiency. CIOs now have the opportunity to drive company strategy. In fact, according to Deloitte (opens in new tab), IT leaders now have the opportunity to reach the position of CEO.

But where to start? In reimagining business environments and rethinking business models, CIOs face an abundance of options, from deploying best-of-breed modular platforms to developing home-grown solutions. They can replace traditional, manual processes with software and evolve hardware products into services offerings. What they cannot do, however, is continue business as usual.

From installing, managing and maintaining monolithic on premise systems, to the time of enabling leaders to be more of a service provider to the business and focus on delivering high quality experiences for employees, the IT function has undergone a deep transformation. Now, it’s time for the next phase of IT.

The next phase of IT

The first era of enterprise IT is what most of us consider to be legacy — defined by a handful of monolithic on premise systems that IT had to install, manage, and maintain. In this era, IT was a group of technology managers whose success was measured entirely by the bottom line.

The following phase of IT is where the vast majority of businesses probably sit today (opens in new tab). Enterprises have moved or are moving to cloud-based systems managed and maintained by vendors. As a result, IT is becoming more of a service provider to the business — delivering high quality experiences more than simply managing technology — and is responsible for enabling workforce productivity. One of the most important promises of this phase is that IT will also able to free up time and resources to focus on higher value initiatives.

Now CIOs are being asked to take a significant role in top line initiatives (opens in new tab) — including product development, and customer and partner engagement — and to draw on their expertise to boost revenue streams and enable new models of working. As a result, IT has the opportunity to move to the top line, becoming a revenue producer (opens in new tab) in its own right.

Bringing the next phase of IT to life in the cloud

Cloud and mobile technologies offer the opportunity to transform companies by helping them operate a lot more efficiently. It’s an exciting new era for IT, however as CIOs look to adopt new technology, headlines about costly security breaches are a constant reminder of the duty to protect corporate data and secure application access.

In fact, our partner Accenture’s report (opens in new tab) showed 51 per cent of senior decision makers are concerned about the security challenge when adopting new technologies. IT is constantly forced to make either-or decisions about user experience and security. The challenge for the next phase of IT is turning that “or” between user experience and security into an “and”, so that businesses can become more agile whilst protecting sensitive data.

This requires CIOs to have a complete understanding of their company network and its surroundings, which of course is easier said than done. As enterprises become increasingly mobile, move to the cloud, and embrace services that need to connect to large numbers of devices, traditional identity and device smanagement cannot handle the requirements presented by cloud based applications and these connected devices. Consequently, IT is turning toward integrated identity and mobile device management solutions which enable them to easily and securely connect with users of all kinds, bypassing the challenges posed by legacy identity technologies.

Overcoming new IT challenges

CIOs are taking steps to enable easy and secure interaction in any context. As more employees bring their own devices into the workplace, enterprises need to embrace ways that allow them to manage and audit access to the business and supply chain information. Assigning each user with one identity and giving IT the ability to control their access will offer a way to regain control of their IT security.

To protect against the range of attacks that rely on stealing user credentials, our data shows that an increasing number (opens in new tab) of businesses are implementing multifactor authentication (MFA), a highly secure authentication mechanism involving the use of two or more different types of authentication to ensure users are who they say they are, reducing the risk of unauthorised access. Using single-use, expiring tokens to exchange authentication and authorisation data between a trusted identity provider and an application, MFA eliminates the need for people using the service to remember their usernames and passwords. With MFA in place, even if a user’s password is stolen, the account is safe from unauthorised access.

For decades, IT departments have become used to quietly saving the day. While indispensable, their efforts received little recognition. In the new world order, however, CIOs and IT leaders will not be able to avoid the limelight.

With identity and security at the core, this next phase of IT will enable forward-thinking leaders to quickly and securely adapt to the ever-changing environment, and provide a significant uplift to employee productivity and collaboration. The future of the enterprise now lies in the hands of the CIO.

Phil Turner, VP EMEA, Okta (opens in new tab)

Image source: Shutterstock/solarseven