CIOs Should Be Front and Centre in the Boardroom

CIOs Should Be Front and Centre in the Boardroom

December 17, 2020

Commvault Vice President Sales Engineering Sunil Mahale discusses the evolving role of CIOs in spearheading business agendas and argues that organisations must review how they approach data management for a resilient 2021.

By Sunil Mahale

The global pandemic has changed the way we conduct business and run our operations dynamically this year. One of the biggest changes I have witnessed is how our need for, and consumption of, data has evolved.

IDC predicts that more than 59 zettabytes (ZB) of data will be created, captured, copied, and consumed in the world in 2020 alone. Additionally, we are collaborating more with data, analysing more with data and increasingly leveraging the cloud for data-related initiatives.

In parallel, threats to our data from hackers and ransomware have also risen, as remote work increases the attack surface of nearly every organization. The extended period of business continuance protocols, combined with the widespread adoption of collaboration platforms like Office 365 and other Software-as-a-Service technologies, has strained IT teams.

These changes during the current health crisis have led many businesses to review how they will approach data protection and management in the new year. I believe the following data trends will help drive the next normal in 2021:

CIOs will be front and centre in a boardroom, as their roles continue to evolve in the digital economy.

As many industry experts have found, businesses achieved years’ worth of digital transformation goals in a matter of months during the first phases of the global pandemic. The transition to a highly connected remote workforce has intensified the pressures on CIOs. It is no longer just about data, cloud, collaboration, or security – all four individual components have collided into a mammoth challenge that CIOs have had to tackle in less than a year.

CIOs will need to gain multiple perspectives in the years to come. By looking into ways that businesses can efficiently harness and protect data to keeping the lights on no matter the disruption, CIOs will become the go-to figure in the boardroom.

The IT function will underpin business success amidst uncertainty. CEOs will look to their CIOs to drive their business through the waves of an increasingly digitalized economy in 2021. In fact, IDC predicts that by 2023, global crises will make 75 percent of CIOs integral to business decision making as digital infrastructure becomes the business OS while moving from business continuation to re-conceptualization.

In the year ahead and beyond, we may expect to see CIOs play an increasingly critical role in spearheading businesses in the way forward, with business-driven IT.

Due to growth in cloud adoption, expect to see an increase in automation initiatives.

Businesses investing in hybrid or remote work models will increasingly transition from IaaS to SaaS models.

Businesses looking to enhance employee experience and drive efficiency in the new normal will shift from IaaS to SaaS, allowing employees greater access to data, irrespective of their location. This is particularly important for companies that are investing in a hybrid work models and employee agility.

Governments will also increase cloud adoption because of the pandemic. However, new challenges will arise in the governance of sensitive and non-sensitive data, which will then impact which types of data goes up to the cloud and which stays on premise.

From a skillset perspective, we can expect to see an increase in demand for data scientists, as they are crucial for decisions around categorizing and classifying different types of data.

Businesses will also increasingly adopt automated IT operations practices to support the greater scale required for digitally driven businesses.

Remote working is here to stay.

Hybrid work models will further accelerate cloud adoption. Businesses will have to adjust to a multi-cloud environment. Cybersecurity concerns will continue to dominate.

The impact of the pandemic and related city lockdowns forced employees to work from home and remotely this year. Businesses and governments have had to re-evaluate the efficacy of their current IT infrastructure in view of this new way of working.

Because more data will reside outside a central organization, there will be new challenges around the security of data during its storage and transmission between disparate sources, as well as how to bring it all back into a central location and using that for decision making.

Cloud adoption on the enterprise level will continue, but in selective ways. Mid-market segments will be adopting the cloud fully. These factors, along with the need for more agility, will lead to an increase in companies adopting a multi-cloud environment, which in turn, requires additional data protection measures. As such, we can expect cybersecurity concerns to dominate the agendas of businesses and governments alike.

Businesses in Southeast Asia will continue to strengthen their digital infrastructure

To support a rise in e-commerce and digital economy, businesses as well as the Education sector will need to focus more on data protection management.

The pandemic forced many traditional brick and mortar businesses in Southeast Asia to go online. Traditional e-commerce sector has also seen tremendous growth as people spend more time at home and avoid crowded shopping malls.

We will continue to see an increased focus on initiatives designed to assist the elderly and the underserved communities to help these groups adopt digital tools and get on digital platforms in their everyday live activities.

With the rise of remote work and distance learning due to the global pandemic, many educational institutions too are facing new data and cybersecurity challenges. Educational institutions will need to re-evaluate outdated systems of collecting and storing assignments, and place a higher priority on protecting student data, as well as staff information, research material, etc.

As we move into a new normal, businesses will need to access and make sense of the data that is being generated, captured and analysed. The biggest challenge for many businesses going into the new year will be to successfully integrate disparate data and technologies into a unified platform, while ensuring data integrity and security.

Meanwhile, as digital transformation continues to accelerate, the IT skills gap is only going to widen. Smart businesses will prepare for the smart normal by tapping on smart technologies – including automation and artificial intelligence.

These technologies have the potential to play a critical role in an organization’s data management strategy, especially with data archival, governance, protection and security – areas that expertise will be hard to come by and tough to train.

Data will yet again be a critical asset for businesses in the new year. I like to view data as the new crude oil, because data in its rawest form is essentially useless. However, when the right technologies and tools are applied to data, it becomes businesses’ most valuable asset.

(Ed. Featured image by Photographer Andrea Piacquadio.)

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