Instead of being viewed as an additional cost to the business, IT is now seen as a proactive business enabler and has consequently propelled the CIO into a major boardroom player. As such, CIOs are at the very centre of the digital transformation that many businesses are currently undergoing. In fact, research from Korn/Ferry found that 83 per cent of top technology officers believe that their role is more strategic than it was three years ago and 67 per cent of them are now on their company’s executive committee – this is a 12 per cent increase from the previous year.
While this data-driven world has provided CIOs with a greater level of responsibility, it has also put them under extreme pressure to deliver successful and innovative digital strategies, as well as ensure that the entire organisation continues to run efficiently without any systems failures. The challenge is that very few organisations can efficiently provide tailored business functions without a modern approach to IT, therefore technology is frequently intertwined with organisational operations and often becomes the deciding factor that underpins business success.
Thus, the CIO must oversee all of these operations and ensure that they continue to ‘keep the lights on’ as well as innovate. However, this is no easy feat. The siloed nature of IT often means that CIOs are unable to gain a unified picture of IT Operations, and everything that feeds into it, in its entirety. Without this insight, a CIO will struggle to implement successful digital strategies and will be unable to identify and mitigate against key threats to continued business operations as well as enterprise security. To achieve this insight, businesses need to unify their IT Operations with other parts of the business. Only by breaking down the barriers between these departments will CIOs be able to gain a comprehensive view into the business and make data-driven decisions.
Time to be strategic: unified IT
Traditionally, IT and cybersecurity operations have been separate within businesses, often due to management decisions to break down overarching goals and assign smaller actions to different parts of the company. However, this approach can lead to a lack of data sharing within an organisation, which can in turn negatively affect decision-making, efficiency and security in the long term as insular departments do not have a complete understanding of what others are undertaking, which can lead to duplicate actions.
A lack of communication between the two departments can even allow security issues to slip between the cracks and for small problems to escalate into major ones. What if your security team discovers a breach, for example, but your IT Operations team is slow to react? Or IT Operations corrects an application failure that is actually a system hack? Security incidents such as data breaches are impossible to prevent 100 per cent of the time but, by making the right tools and processes available to the right people, businesses can greatly minimise risk. For example, the service management teams form the IT frontline and have fantastic visibility over endpoints, which means they may be able to spot the early signs of a co-ordinated attack.
However, security is not the only aspect of a business that can be siloed from IT with damaging consequences. Companies need to be aware that almost anything can be siloed, including identity management practices – typically the responsibility of the HR team. Verizon research states that 34 per cent of breaches occur as a result of insider actors so it’s crucial to ensure that only those employees who need certain accesses and privileges have access to them, and that these rights are revoked when they are no longer necessary. On top of the security risk that siloed identity management poses, it can also cause a loss of efficiency. If there is a disconnect between HR and IT teams, employees may not have access to the resources they need to do their jobs – whether they are a new joiner or recently promoted. This can lead to reduced productivity, which will not only cause the business to lose out on valuable work, but can lead to the employee becoming frustrated and unsatisfied.
Foster a collaborative business environment
Companies striving towards a communicative structure need to turn towards Unified IT to foster a collaborative environment. In order to maximise the business value of IT investments, CIOs must eliminate IT islands and silos. None of the critical IT initiatives – asset management, endpoint management, service management and security – should exist in a vacuum. Through cross pollination of these services, IT professionals will be able to derive the most insight out of their data and systems by breaking down the barriers that have traditionally separated them.
Unified IT also has numerous other benefits – by combining both financial budgets and manpower from all departments, CIOs will be able to better utilise time and resources of staff. In the current climate of frequent high-profile data breaches, focus has shifted in favour of cybersecurity over other IT departments, which may see smaller budgets. The problem is that many IT teams consequently take a reactive approach to technological issues, dealing with them as and when they arise instead of working proactively before they appear. This can lead to long term problems and, in the worst-case scenario, could cause an IT outage if companies operate with legacy technology that is expensive to maintain and costly to update.
As well as this, a siloed business structure can often result in different departments purchasing and implementing a range of operating systems and technology from different vendors that are incompatible with those of other parts of the business. Alternatively, unified reporting would make it far easier for CIOs to make well-informed and effective decisions that support the work of the entire organisation and ensures that excellent customer service is being upheld.
Automate, Automate, Automate
Of course, CIOs and IT professionals are already notoriously spread thin due to an industry wide skills shortage and some staff members may be hesitant to combine and collaborate between departments due to time constraints. The answer here is to implement automation – the more basic tasks that are automated, such as patch management or onboarding and offboarding employees, the easier it is to achieve a unified environment. Automate the basics, and the CIO has time for innovation.
The siloed nature of IT in many organisations will become harder to maintain as more companies migrate to the cloud and employees become more flexible and mobile. Therefore, working towards a unified approach to IT is a worthwhile cause as it can reduce the likelihood of different departments relying on incompatible systems, reducing departmental siloes as well as saving resources by ensuring actions aren’t unknowingly duplicated. Ultimately, by unifying operations a more efficient business environment can be achieved.
Kevin J Smith, Senior Vice President, Ivanti