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5 challenges CIOs face today

Muralidharan Ramachandran, Vice President and Head – Quality Assurance at Syntel Ltd, on the issues CIOs are grappling with now. By Shweta Gandhi

“Initially, the CIO’s role was more about keeping the lights on, managing the data centres, but the role is now evolving significantly,” says Muralidharan Ramachandran, VP and Head – Quality Assurance at Syntel Ltd. “The role is in the midst of a major transition. It’s going to be two-fold in the future. A successful CIO needs to look at all ways of optimisation and reduction in IT cost with budgets being under squeeze, while at the other end leverage new digital technologies and platforms to deliver business transformation.”

With 27 years of industry experience and a proven record of creating IT strategies profitably aligned to business targets, Muralidharan shares the five challeges CIOs face today.

#1 Managing budgets
“This is one of the essential challenges every CIO encounters. Every CIO is the master of technology, but it comes down to simple differentiators—what are you spending on and at the same time how are you ensuring your technology is evolving? There are a lot of new business models today, especially in the services business—if you look at Uber and Airbnb, they own no assets, all their operations are primarily technology based—and this is all because of digital transformation. It’s reducing cost to company, and it’s changing the way a company is reaching out to customers. It all boils down to how a business is conducted, and a CIO must be aware of that, despite budget constraints.”

#2 Data integration and enterprise architecture
“Today, IT organisations have become very lean as bulk of the IT budget has shifted to the user community and hence all CIOs need to play a strategic role in the organisation. They need to look at enterprise architecture and how data will seamlessly integrate into each other. Enterprise architecture is the core of IT and is therefore a very critical component. While startups can leverage the cloud fully, most global organisations have a lot of legacy that cannot be shrugged off easily. Most of the organisations would still have a hybrid architecture. The CIO should be the single point of contact and become the integrator who is able to unify all views and ensure optimum performance. For example, when an organisation moves to the cloud, the CIO has to take on the mantle of implementing the right agile architecture and should be an integral part of the change management and expectation management. CIOs also need to understand the limitations of the technology choices being made as there will most likely not always be 100 per cent fit. The CIO thus needs to also address the risk management aspect of adoption of these technologies.”

#3 IoT and data explosion
“Adoption of IoT is happening rapidly and that’s a good thing as there are many business advantages to this. However, from a CIO’s perspective, this brings us back to the strength of the architecture of the enterprise—IoT is not only about connecting sensors and hooking up data centres. There is an entire architecture that needs to be built that can handle this to support scale and performance. IoT leads to a collection of a lot of data and hence a CIO will have to have a strong focus on effective use of analytics, to derive and deliver meaningful information to the business teams.”

#4 Cyber security
“The biggest threat for the CIO in digital transformation is security. With multiple devices and literally no control over them, these end points could potentially become good targets for cyber hackers to get in, since everything is open. Let’s take a simple case of security for homes . If you have an app through which you can switch your AC on, control your fridge etc., any security loophole could potentially be used by cyber criminals to create a major threat to the building itself. The CIO of a company has to accept the realities of all these risks and will have to find ways to keep business data secure. While a lot of infrastructure can be outsourced to IaaS, PaaS and SaaS vendors, CIOs cannot exonerate the security of data which is still the organisation’s responsibility and not that of the cloud service provider”

#5 Mobile apps
“Mobile phones have not only changed the way we access and interact with business applications, but also the way we work. This, of course, brings about major changes for CIOs and IT leaders. Everything is going the app way now—gen Y is much more comfortable using that. Consumerisation is what’s coming up next, and this includes development of apps and increased security. End user applications will move onto this platform—a bulk of this has already happened—and no one can stop it from happening. Yes, there will be security concerns or regularity constraints, but there will be solutions too. A balance needs to be struck between security and ease of application. It also depends on the type of app. But, finally, it all comes down to the perspective of creating the right user’s experience.” 

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