Why CIOs need to drive digital transformation

CEOs are clearly recognising the benefits of digital transformation – but to truly reap the rewards, they need help implementing these changes.

According to Gartner’s 2018 CEO survey, CIOs need to push executives towards digital change and then support them throughout the digital transformation journey. Indeed, the survey revealed that while 62 percent of executives have a management initiative or transformation programme to make their business more digital, their expectations for technology have changed as the difficulties, costs and realistic benefits have become clearer.

CEOs are clearly recognising the benefits of digital transformation – but to truly reap the rewards, they need help implementing these changes. IT teams are playing a huge role in driving digital developments, which means CIOs and CISOs are fast becoming one of the most important seats at the executive table. To increase their digital footprint, businesses must do more than simply buy a cloud-based system and hope it works; there are many additional steps. Done correctly, such a transformation can significantly impact security, network traffic flows, applications, and user experience.

Addressing user experience and security

The drive to go digital, along with the quickly evolving threat landscape, demands the constant retooling, updating, and maintenance of a complex, sprawling security architecture. Network security appliances working in isolation can make it difficult to get a comprehensive view into threat activity, and the management headaches associated with a multi-vendor security environment just seem to get worse. Users can add to the problem, as they succumb to social engineering attacks or neglect to install the latest updates on their systems, leaving organisations vulnerable to exploits like ransomware and other advanced threats.

Whilst traditional network security made sense when every application was hosted in the data centre and users were connected to the network, as CEOs increasingly give permission for these applications to move to the cloud and as users increasingly embrace mobile, the stacks of appliances sitting in the data centre are becoming more and more irrelevant. This model forces all traffic through the centralised data centre for security and access controls – a complex configuration that often results in a terrible user experience.

The truth of the matter is that not all CEOs are tech-savvy enough to understand what is needed to embark on the digital transformation journey without compromising performance and security. Going forward, we will see the CIO working much closer with the rest of the C-suite to deliver the expertise, guidance and support needed to take this step. For example, rapid cloud adoption and employees’ desire to work more flexibly from any location is eroding the corporate perimeter, thus turning the traditional security model on its head. Visibility across the entire enterprise network, as well as connected device traffic, is now critical in defending corporate assets from hackers.

The CIO is thus instrumental in ensuring there is adequate insight into the cloud environment and that it is always up-to-date with the latest security updates to keep the company protected from rapidly evolving malware. Security controls now need to be built into a unified platform so they can communicate with each other and give CIOs and CISOs a cohesive picture of all the traffic moving across the network. CIOs recognise that through a single interface, they can gain insight into every request — by user, location, and device around the world — in seconds.

Transforming branch office connectivity

One of the biggest, well-known benefits of the cloud and digital transformation is the flexibility and mobility it brings to a business. Users no longer need to be constrained to their desk – they can work where and when they want or need to – which means, when done right, businesses have the freedom to open up branch offices quickly and easily, with little to no impact on business performance.

It’s important, however, that users in branch and regional offices have identical security to those at company headquarters, with inspection for all ports and protocols, including SSL/TLS, and the full stack of security and access services – sandbox, firewall, advanced threat protection, anti-virus, and the rest. It’s important that branches do not rely solely on Unified Threat Management (UTM) or smaller firewall devices, which are inadequate and leave users, and the entire network, at risk. The CIO and CISO will play a significant role in protecting businesses and branch users with comprehensive, cloud-delivered security.

Driving digital transformation in the boardroom

Digital transformation is, without doubt, a powerful business enabler that is compelling business leaders to fundamentally change their technology ecosystems. However, by impacting so many parts of the business, it is no surprise that it’s becoming top-of-mind in C-suites and the boardroom.

CIOs are extremely important in ensuring businesses are taking the necessary precautions and investing in the right tools to protect the enterprise when embarking on this journey. Digital transformation is fast becoming a ‘have to have’ as opposed to a ‘nice to have’, and never will we see CEOs rely on their CIO more heavily than to drive such a strategic change.

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