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How executives become CIOs

Technologists can take a number of routes to the C-suite. Whether they’re business experts or long-time technologists, they’ve all been connected to — and influenced by —  technology in some way. 

“My experience, my role — not just as a CIO but in terms of technology —  is really by chance,” said Bizagi CIO Antonio Vazquez, an executive with two decades of experience across industries such as consumer electronics, hospitality and software.

Though his education was primarily in business administration and marketing, throughout his career, Vazquez came into close contact with technology implementations such as enterprise resource planning tools.

“Understanding the business requirements, how the business is changing and how technology can really add value,” has always been part of his role, said Vazquez.

Professionals who become CIOs rely on their experience in the technology space, but the road to the role is not linear. What makes a leader an attractive candidate for the executive role is their ability to connect industry trends to technology use, infuse technology within processes to increase efficiency or respond to market pressures with transformation.

Around 5% of CIOs placed by recruiting firm Harvey Nash come from a pure business background, according to estimates from director Helen Flemming. Another 25% come from areas close to techs, such as operations, change and transformation; the remaining 70% come from a tech background. 

“But even in the case of those from a tech background they will have shown extremely strong business skills, and may well have spent some time in strongly business-facing roles at some point,” said Flemming, in an email.

Tech implementations: a chance to shine

2020 is a year employers will ask about in future job interviews. For CIOs, the go-to question is likely to focus on remote work implementations, or what was the principal obstacle businesses had to overcome.

Tech executive David Edwards joined Enterprise Community Partners in June 2019. Prior to his January 2021 promotion to CIO, he served as vice president, IT infrastructure at the nonprofit. Prior to his promotion, Edwards’ first move was to inventory the technology tools in use at the national housing nonprofit. 

“We had, I would say, a litany of legacy technology,” said Edwards. 

Presciently, Edwards built out a unified communications platform throughout the company, an update that proved useful in a shift to remote operations.

Frequently, CIOs will spend the first part of their tenure “being what we call a ‘services CIO,'” said Stephanie Woerner, research scientist at the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research. This means keeping the lights on, or upholding the critical technology infrastructure that allows a company to function.

This role became more critical as technology became a priority for organizations, and 61% of CIOs agree the pandemic increased the influence of the technology leader, according to data from Harvey Nash. Specific technologies, such as the cloud, have even become C-suite priorities.

“Until the rest of the enterprise really trusts what’s happening through IT, it’s gonna be hard for the CIO to move to what I think are roles where they start to have a lot of impact on the enterprise,” said Woerner. 

For Kara Pelecky, CIO Global Security at Stanley Black & Decker, one component of her ascension to the role was her breadth of achievements across aspects of IT, as well as deep business knowledge in at least one segment of the business.

But once she became CIO, Pelecky found two other aspects were key to her selection: 

“I had experience in an area of IT [enterprise resource planning implementation] that my new company was anticipating to be particularly challenging even across the whole, and I had depth and breadth of references that vouched for my readiness to tackle this step,” said Pelecky in an email.

Business acumen: the tech-whisperer

Executives with business backgrounds can get the call up to the C-suite by proving they can leverage technology to guide their company through change. 

As CIO of LG for over eight years, Vazquez learned this lesson as consumer demand in the smartphone industry quickly changed. He was part of the leadership team in charge of the restructuring in the Iberian region of LG Electronics.

“We approached this change from the technology and processes side in a completely different way,” said Vazquez. “We wanted to use technology in the sense of automating and making more productive all the processes that we had, but we also had to review everything, and rethink the way we do things.” 

That task can mean laying off staffers or communicating to other C-suite leaders how key processes will need to change. 

Being a business influencer is one trait of the evolving scope of the CIO role. During the pandemic, three-quarters of CIOs educated CEOs and other company leaders, according to Gartner data.

“We are seeing an increase in people becoming CIOs from marketing/sales backgrounds,” said Flemming. “These functions are increasingly technology driven, and with their customer focus, often give the leader the right DNA to make it as a CIO.”

As executives are elevated to a C-suite function, they’ll be tasked with delivering strategy, said Woerner. They’ll be in charge of proposing to colleagues “what digital can do to really create a step change in performance.”

“Ultimately though, no matter what their background, the CIO needs to understand and be fascinated by tech,” said Flemming. “They need to be the first person to understand new technologies, like blockchain, or quantum computing, or Edge computing and understand the business implications for their company. This is their [unique selling proposition] in an exec team that is becoming increasingly digitally literate.”

CloudTweaks | 5 Popular Telemedicine Software Services

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, telemedicine software services have become extremely popular, and every day more people are using this service instead of going to hospitals and emergency departments as they faced lockdowns and became more hesitant to do in-person doctor’s appointments. Telemedicine is an accessible option since it’s available 24/7 and can be easily done by everyone looking for immediate care.

Telemedicine is, according to The World Health Organization (WHO) is “healing from a distance“, as doctors can conduct live chats or video chats with patients, ask questions, answer their questions and possible concerns, and diagnose them.

(Infographic source:

But although the pandemic made the telemedicine platforms and software gain popularity, this practice is not new and cities with a big population living in rural areas with difficult access to hospitals have been being treated like for many years, as the doctors can check-up on the population health and take care of those with pre-existing conditions while they stay at home.

The Benefits of Telemedicine Software

Telemedicine technology was first used in the 19th century as doctors could help with injuries and prescribe treatments for the ones injured in the war – this was done by the telephone and radio.

Since then, the practice has improved and is now a viable option and most of the time preferred by the patients. And the best benefit from telemedicine is how low cost it is, making it accessible to the biggest part of the population.

Telemedicine software is used by doctors, nurses, physicians, clinical nurses, clinical psychologists, and nutrition professionals, so a wide range of medical situations can be done through it.

From the doctor’s perspective, the benefits include being able to increase the number of patients treated in one day, providing a service that is more affordable, and the reduction on the number of no-shows that happens a lot in in-person appointments

From the patient’s perspective, telemedicine doesn’t require long-distance travel to see the doctor, it’s more affordable, much faster, and easier to get a treatment from home and the possibility of doing it at any time.

Telemedicine Software Services

When looking for telemedicine software that suits your needs, it’s important to keep in mind some features that ensure good treatment and support. The most complete ones offer an appointment calendar, so you can keep track of the appointments scheduled. Video sessions for a better understanding of the symptoms, intuitive information, technical support for any problems involving the software, easy payment processing, and a good privacy policy that will ensure that any personal data is encrypted and stored safely.

With that in mind, the five most complete telemedicine software of 2021 are:

  1. Mend: It’s super easy to use, the forms can be effortlessly filled, and doesn’t let the patient forget the scheduled appointments by sending SMS reminders. It’s possible to make a self-scheduling appointment and all the video conferencing between patients and doctors are high-quality.
  2. Doxy Me: It has a free trial period and runs on any browser – no need to download and configure apps as everything runs on their website. It offers messages, voice, and video communications on the website.
  3. Intelehealth: It’s an open-source telemedicine software that was designed to help health workers taking care of rural workers in communities. It has a knowledge-enabled expert system that gives support to the healthcare workers when taking a decision on the patient’s treatment. The video, audio, and all medical data can be transmitted and stored even when the connection is low. It also has videos to educate the patients.
  4. Borboleta: Borboleta is a free and open-source telemedicine software. This software safely stores the patient data like name, address, address, and date of birth, and this data can be easily accessed by the doctor. It also provides information on the patient’s relatives and their socioeconomic data.
  5. AMC Health: with more than 17 years of experience, AMC Health provides real-time and multiple peer-review of the patient’s data to ensure the best treatment. The patient can self-report information with clarity and the software facilitates remote monitoring.

Possible Concerns of Telemedicine Software

But as telemedicine software is becoming more popular the concerns about this service are also increasing. Some of them are related to software privacy, as they handle sensitive information on the patients and doctors.

Some patients show concerns about the software payment methods and reimbursement processes. Doctors are more concerned about the lack of previous data from patients, making it difficult for them to understand any chronic diseases and to keep continuous care while worrying about the lack of technical skills from the patients to use the service.

Before choosing the best telemedicine software it’s important to address all possible concerns and go for the one that provides a complete service.

By Gary Bernstein

Companies wary of unexpected outcomes in AI adoption

Dive Brief:

  • Half (52%) of companies with mature AI implementations say they check the fairness, bias and ethics of their AI platforms, according to the O’Reilly 2021 AI Adoption in the Enterprise report, released Monday. 

  • Other risks to AI adoption ranked higher on the checklist, such as unexpected outcomes or predictions (71%) and model interpretability and transparency. The company surveyed 3,574 recipients of its data and AI newsletters, 3,099 of whom work with AI in some capacity. 

  • Many companies and organizations haven’t thought through the consequences AI products can carry, said Rachel Roumeliotis, VP of content strategy at O’Reilly. “It seems like this is akin to security, where companies don’t care about it until something bad happens.”

Dive Insight:

Despite AI’s potential to do harm when deployed at scale — especially when making decisions regarding customer outcomes — the ethical, fairness and bias dimensions of AI don’t rank atop the executive priority list. 

One factor shaping executive’s view on the ethical risks of AI is that models haven’t yet hit scale across the enterprise. 

Companies often overestimate their level of maturity when it comes to responsible AI implementation, according to data from BCG GAMMA, a research group within Boston Consulting Group. While 26% of companies say they’ve hit scale in their AI deployment, only 12% include a responsible AI program as part of their work.

Gartner expects AI implementation at scale will take place at three-quarters of companies in the next three years. But AI implementation won’t hit maturity “until ethics, safety, privacy, and security are primary rather than secondary concerns,” according to the O’Reilly report.

Optional Caption

Roberto Torres / CIO Dive, with data from O’Reilly 

Talent shortages in the high-demand AI space can further hinder companies from reaching AI maturity. Jobs in the emerging technologies category represented nearly one-third of new tech job posts as the year began.

Lack of skilled people and difficulty in hiring was cited by 19% of respondents as the top bottleneck toward AI adoption.

To support AI maturity, teams can benefit from reviewing case studies in how other organizations have managed AI implementation. “I think it’s really important, because you’re seeing how people did things and their consequences,” said Roumeliotis.

For some companies, the ethical dimension of AI implementation hasn’t been fully thought through because they have yet to deploy at scale and reach full maturity, according to Roumeliotis. 

Bias can seep into AI products at multiple points in the creation process from the data fueling decisions to the algorithmic training and final review stage. 

“What’s in the datasets and the algorithms are a reflection of the team,” said Roumeliotis, which means companies gain an advantaged position by having “a more diverse team to start with.”

Video conferencing can hurt collaboration. IT has a role in fixing it

The accessibility of video conferencing sustains remote work — but leadership’s inability to set ground rules on its use undermines the tech tool’s power.

Video conferencing can inhibit the ideas that grow from group collaboration, dubbed collective intelligence, as it disrupts audio cues and causes unequal contribution from all stakeholders, according to a study published in March

As humans work together, they tend to mimic each other’s way of speaking as a way to show they’re attuned to what the other says. Prosodic synchrony captures elements of voice such as pitch, pace and tone that people use to communicate. 

Despite videoconferencing nearly every day over the last year, IT departments and managers have the opportunity to improve best practices and enable better collaboration across the enterprise. 

In most meetings, only 20% of employees actively listen and provide feedback in real time, 27% do other stuff only listening for their name and 26% try to pay attention but often zone out, according to an anonymous Blind survey of 4,600 users

Difficulties paying attention while videoconferencing can cause the lack of synchronization that diminishes the quality of collaboration, according to Anita Williams Woolley, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University. For example, notifications popping up in the corner of the screen during a conversation can distract a participant from the meeting at hand. 

The tech itself can also interfere with users’ ability to collaborate. Delays in the audio or misconfiguration of audio with video “are drawing attention away from just focusing on the content and the expression that the other person is trying to convey,” Williams Woolley said.

Bad audio quality can make the speaker sound less intelligent, competent and likable as participants judge the content as better and more important when it comes from a platform with high audio quality. 

Fortunately, there can be a simple fix to some of the technical difficulties. Williams Woolley recommends shutting off video and using only audio if strained bandwidth causes glitchy audio. Plus, not every meeting needs to be on video. 

Getting the most out of available tools

Using remote work tools effectively is about shifting the mindset of individuals to embrace the technology available and setting good meeting best practices, according to Ronda Cilsick, Group VP and CIO at Deltek. 

There’s no reason to announce who’s in attendance at a meeting when a list of participants is on the screen, Cilsick said, as an example. And virtual meetings can hinder collaboration because it takes longer to accomplish tasks. 

Crafting an agenda, taking notes and only inviting those necessary to the meeting are all ways leaders can “have that alignment as you’re going through the meeting, rather than getting to the end and realizing we didn’t really come to any conclusions,” Cilsick said. 

Cilsick recommended several best practices for making virtual meetings run more smoothly: 

  • Leveraging “do not disturb” mode to turn off notifications

  • Slotting in a virtual background

  • Disabling waiting rooms to encourage organic conversation

  • Toggling gallery or speaker view depending on what serves the meeting better

If disruption occurs in the midst of a meeting, team members can rectify the situation by reengaging coworkers cut off by technical difficulties, Williams Woolley said. Rewind and revisit the topic so that everyone in the call has a chance to hear and share ideas to improve collective intelligence. 

“Even a fairly short, but somewhat structured approach to getting everybody talking and making sure everybody knows what the other team members bring to the table can set the tone and the ground rules for interacting so that it’s not dominated by one or a few people,” Williams Woolley said.

Establishing these ground rules and norms usually falls on the manager to engage every member of the conversation in the moment.

Streamlining the tech to minimize difficulties

IT teams can help by acquiring the tools for successful video conferencing. Built-in microphones can come with poor audio quality, for example, and IT can supply external microphones and speakers for added clarity, Williams Woolley said. 

To minimize disruption, default settings can be set to snooze incoming notifications as soon as a meeting begins. 

One way to overcome the cognitive intelligence hiccups associated with video meetings is to get rid of them all together. With so many asynchronous ways to connect — instant messaging, emails and more — the call isn’t always necessary. 

“I’ve seen an uptick, at least in our organization, of leveraging those asynchronous technologies to be able to collaborate offline, and then maybe accomplish something faster or with fewer meetings,” Cilsick said. 

Asynchronous feedback can help teams address further pain points and check-in on how the meeting format serves the group, according to Ian Tien, CEO at Mattermost. Everyone has the chance to submit insights, whether it’s on agenda items from the meeting or the quality of the audio, “to catch any blind spots and catch anyone who’s maybe not being fully served by that meeting.”

IT’s role in facilitating better collaboration is to ensure that employees have all the tools available for different forms of virtual communication. “It’s our job to make sure that not only that we find the right tools [and] we implement them, but also help the organization with the training, the change management around these tools,” Cilsick said. 

But IT isn’t in every meeting observing frustrations. Implementing change agents throughout business units to report back to IT on what needs improvement and incentivizing employees to report collaboration issues can help IT enable effective tools, according to Cilsick. 

As companies consider fostering a hybrid work environment post-pandemic, in-person and virtual collaboration could become trickier. 

“When you have people in a meeting some of them are in the room and some that are outside the room, it doesn’t work,” Tien said of the Mattermost’s experience with hybrid work. Facial expressions, side conversations and other aspects of collaboration can’t be fully captured, leaving some members of the team at a disadvantage. 

For businesses trying to make hybrid work happen, Tien recommends asking everyone to take meetings remotely. Instead of half in-person and half remote, everyone should go digital to foster an accessible meeting for all.

IT outsourcing to surge in 2021

As COVID-19 brought the worldwide economy to a sudden and screeching halt, businesses of all shapes and sizes found themselves adrift in uncharted waters. To stay afloat, most businesses dramatically accelerated their digital transformation efforts. 

In typical times, this also would have led to an increased reliance on IT outsourcers, according to a survey by the Boston Consulting Group of 200 selected companies across industries. 

“Many companies were forced to take unprecedented steps to survive: 79% said that they asked service providers for help in some form, such as longer payment terms (47%), price reductions (45%), or free support for more processes or additional services (41%),” the survey authors said in a blog post about the survey.

But, like most everything else in 2020, what one would expect to happen, did not. Because of the fear, uncertainty and doubt sowed by the pandemic, businesses began hoarding cash, while cutting expenses to the bare minimum. These efforts were not uniform, however. 

To manage the transition to remote work and online customer engagement and order fulfillment, many businesses increased spending on cloud, particularly software as a service (SaaS). (The now-familiar headlines of video conferencing provider Zoom growing by 300% almost overnight were hard to miss.) 

This continued through the first three quarters of 2020 but began to turnaround late last year, as the global economy became more predictable, said Kevin Parikh, CEO of Avasant, an outsourcing advisory and management consulting firm.

“Shock and awe and fear happened in [first three] quarters of 2020. And then there was a recognition that big investments were needed in the fourth quarter to transform, to survive. I have one client who told me they went from zero to 50,000 global video calls a day — 50,000 a day — by flipping a switch,” he said.

Cuts in IT outsourcing spend due to the pandemic eased from $83 billion in the spring to $31 billion at the end of 2020, said Gunjan Gupta, a principal research analyst at Gartner.

“Some of the service providers, they are reporting even double-digit growth,” she said. “I think the acceleration is going to continue for the rest of 2021 and 2022.”

Global IT spending on end-user services is forecast to grow 4.4% to $1.19 billion in 2021, according to Gupta. This is compared to a spending reduction of 2.6% in 2020. That is just the tip of a very big iceberg. 

After contracting 4.6% in 2020 to $490 million, worldwide IT spending on consulting and implementation services are predicted to experience a 4.5% CAGR through 2024. While worldwide spending on IT-centric managed services, infrastructure, and application support, which decreased 1.1% in 2020 to $475 million, will see a CAGR of 5.3% through 2024. 

Higher value-add

The pandemic also changed what companies want from their outsourcing providers, said Brett Sparks, senior director analyst, Sourcing, Procurement & Vendor Management at Gartner. Pre-pandemic, companies were often narrowly focused on outsourcing specific services (such as helpdesk), infrastructure and storage, or tasks such as network monitoring and management.

Now, with digital transformation efforts still very much top-of-mind and existential, organizations are looking for more than just five-nines of uptime or to save money on labor costs.

“It’s outcomes from two different perspectives,” he said. “It’s a cost avoidance … and it’s also getting a business to truly sit down [and answer the question], ‘What does digital transformation mean to you?'”

Because digital transformation means different things to different people and morphs industry to industry and company to company, most CEOs and even CIOs struggle to summarize it for their organizations, he said. 

“Larger firms that have full-time staff devoted to … IT operations are more keen to bring in technology consultants and advisors for strategic guidance, and large project execution,” said Fred Chagnon, a principal research director with Info-Tech Research Group. 

Near-shoring in high demand

Leaning on outsourcers for more than just a fixed set of pre-defined deliverables is necessitating the need for real-time collaboration, said Gupta. Organizations are now looking for providers in similar time zones so they can engage in co-creation.

In co-creation, instead of sending out an RFP, a company works with a group of outsourcers from the outset to brainstorm ideas and develop solutions. 

As a result, outsourcers are opening offices in lower-cost countries south of the U.S., including Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia. For outsourcers focused on the European market, Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic serve similar roles. 

Here to stay

The move to near-shore delivery based on time-zones is likely a long-term trend as newer paradigm shifting technologies like 5G, mixed reality, AI/ML, robotic process automation (RPA) and host of others become commonplace.

And, since waiting to catch the digital transformation bus has proven, for many companies, to be a costly mistake exposed by the pandemic, businesses will need all the help they can get integrating these technologies into their day-to-day operations. 

“What are [companies] doing now?”, said Avasant’s Parikh. “Well, the change is really happening in 2021. We’re still outsourcing all that traditional stuff that we’ve been outsourcing since 2000-2002. It’s still happening the old way, but now we’re putting a layer of transformation on top of it that’s getting us access to new technology, new platforms and ways of connecting with our clients and customers in a different way.”

When gauging the ROI of AI, balance moonshots with quick wins

When thinking through enterprise AI deployments, businesses don’t need to choose between moonshot projects or stick to the applications that quickly yield return on investment.

Executives turn to AI as a way to one-up the competition and enhance operations. It’s seen as a transformative technology that’s expected to reach scale at three-quarters of enterprises by 2024, according to Gartner estimates. 

But businesses seek clarity on ROI before greenlighting resources to deploy projects at scale. Gartner data suggests 39% of companies successful at deploying AI projects had run financial analysis on risk factors, or conducted ROI analysis.

In assessing AI deployments, executives should begin by taking into account the technology’s potential for long-term impact, according to Ricardo Forcano, former CIO and CHRO at BBVA.

“When a new technology comes, you cannot be asking the very first day ‘what’s the ROI,’ because if you ask for that you’re going to get nothing,” said Forcano, speaking Wednesday at MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. 

In the pandemic, AI helped manage added pressures on customer support systems. The experience exposed AI’s practical applications to bigger swaths of consumers

Understanding the impact AI applications will have on customers is critical to assessing the ROI of AI applications, according to Gianni Giacomelli, CIO and leader at Genpact, and head of innovation design at MIT Collective Intelligence Design Lab. 

“You want the customer to feel that the experience they have of you as a counterpart is awesome,” said Giacomelli. “The moment you start putting people into little silos, into workflows, it’s obvious that you’re going to degrade the experience for the user.”

The operational draw for investing in AI, and where the ROI frequently comes in, occurs in augmenting the work of the human workforce with AI-enabled tools. 

In our case, in the bank, I would say I think the ROI up to now has been mainly coming from cost reduction and efficiency more than revenue generation,” said Forcano.

Making tough decisions

The generation of leaders that weathered financial and operational disruption in the COVID-19 era hit pause or deferred major tech investments as they waited for the dust to settle. For AI, the upside was its ability to sustain operations as workforces shrunk

Gauging the overall ROI of AI deployments in the organizations is very difficult to determine, but there are merits to letting go of projects without a clear benefit, said Craig Mackereth, SVP, Global Support, Rimini Street. 

Business leaders should “cut out everything that isn’t going to be paying itself off in the first year,” said Mackereth. The focus on AI should be aimed at the projects that will yield a return, especially amid a pandemic. 

“You’ve got to identify projects you think are going to return investment really quickly — get going and along the way you’ll discover a lot more on that journey,” said Mackereth.

For Giacomelli, there needs to be a split in energy and resources. “As an innovation person, I tend to invest 70% of my time and energy on things that … have clear deliverables, you know what they’re going to patch, where the process is going to improve, the impact on the bottom line, risk reduction and client experience.”

Aside from that ROI-focused effort, now is a good time for companies that can afford innovation to direct part of their time and money on “things that push the boundary,” said Giacomelli.

Amid digital advertising upheaval, CIOs will lead business transformation

An earthquake is about to hit your company’s marketing department. The digital advertising framework they depend on is set to take a major hit with Apple now requiring explicit consumer consent on its Identification for Advertisers (IDFA), which marketers heavily rely on for targeting, personalizing, and measuring digital ads and communications. With 80% of consumers expected to opt out, it’s the coup de grâce following a series of blows to big tech’s advertising ecosystems.

Consumers — and governments — are ramping up their demands that big tech (and the advertisers that leverage them) prioritize privacy over rampant mass surveillance. As a result, the third party data and third party platforms that have powered your company’s customer marketing will be kneecapped. The impacts will span every area of the organization from executives and marketers to IT and martech teams:

  • Leadership will need to devise strategies to overcome a near term hit to their ability to drive and predict revenue
  • Business won’t have the same data, won’t be able to sell or market in the same way and won’t be able to use some of the tools they’ve come to depend on
  • Analytics teams will no longer have access to the same data they’ve counted on in the past, forcing them to rethink how they measure and predict customer behaviors
  • IT will need to revisit the marketing stack as elements of it will become obsolete, and support business teams by bringing in-house new data sources and processes

What will replace the third-party ecosystem as drivers of business growth? Your own first-party data and channels. Which means your organization’s CMO and CX leaders (among others) will undoubtedly turn to you, the CIO, for solutions to shore up the customer insights, customer targeting and CX activation gaps. It is the data strategies and technology stacks you own that can position marketing and CX for success in the future, placing in your hands a significant portion of your organization’s fate in the face of these challenges.

The CIOs who will emerge from these challenges most successfully are already putting robust strategies in place to bring their organization out the other side of the digital ad tech apocalypse stronger — but if you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late. Let’s examine some key elements to consider for surviving and thriving in the coming months and years.

The Foundation: Data Collection

Succeeding in this new era of privacy means taking back ownership of your relationships with prospects and customers. According to an Epsilon study, 80% of today’s marketers are moderately or very reliant on 3rd party cookies—meaning prospect and customer data also resides with 3rd parties.

By investing more in first-party data, you can provide marketing and CX with a better alternative for the data they need to deliver personalized experiences for prospects and customers. Your organization will own the data as a unique asset—rather than having to reach consumers by competing to be the highest bidder on the expensive open market.

“Leaders in the coming years will build and own a sustainable universe of first-party identifiers and data resolved to personally identifiable information (PII),” according to Merkle’s 2021 Customer Experience Imperatives report. “This is how companies like Amazon in retail, Netflix in entertainment, and ATT/Warner Media in media have gained competitive advantage.” 

Bringing it All Together: Data Connection and Democratization

With robust data collection, you now need to connect your data. Firstly, data must be connected with itself, because each one of your systems or customer touchpoints that generate data contains only a sliver of the information that makes up the total picture of your prospect or customer. Through unification and identity resolution, you’ll connect that data together so you have a comprehensive view of every prospect and customer.

Next, your data must be connected directly with your users, making it accessible to the business and getting IT out of the usage path. Democratizing data across business and analytics teams enables them to approach new use cases with agility — reacting to constant change with an iterative test-and-learn approach. With the business enabled, IT spends less time replying to tickets and more time pushing ahead on strategic initiatives.

Realizing Your Strategies with People, Process and Technology

Much of what you’ll need to deliver in the new privacy-focused economy will need to be effected within and around your marketing and CX stacks. What’s the best approach to implementing change? Of course, every enterprise’s stack is different. But here are some key priorities and principles to consider in rationalizing your stack and readying it for the impending privacy economy:

  1. Leverage existing investments. Look for opportunities to add value to existing investments as resetting a complete stack altogether is rarely successful.
  2. Focus on integrations. Ensure that you are building an integrated stack, with flexibility to swap elements in and out as strategies, needs and budget change.
  3. Think cost control. Reduce capability duplication across your stack and consider swapping out components driving high cost but delivering low value.
  4. Lean on data partners. For brands with limited access to first party data, building a strong data partnership ecosystem will be critical to help you transition to the privacy-first economy.
  5. Consider change management and operations. Bringing in-house new data and new processes & operations will necessitate change within the org. Take a proactive approach to change management.

The Time is Now

In the face of the oncoming digital advertising upheaval, CIOs are in a unique position to help win the day for their brands. While the challenges can seem overwhelming, they also present an exciting opportunity for tech teams to bring a new level of business value and organizational leadership through technology. Designing and beginning to implement your strategy today is the best way to position yourself and your enterprise for success.

How to perform a security assessment for hybrid work in 3 steps

Hybrid work is in high demand. A recent return to the workplace survey by Envoy and Wakefield Research shows that nearly half of employees (48%) want to be able to work in and out of the office. With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout underway in the US, companies need to work quickly to secure a flexible work environment.

Right now, you have an opportunity—and the executive buy-in—to make improvements to your programs at scale. Conducting a security assessment will give you a big-picture view of your company’s preparedness for hybrid work. It’ll reveal security gaps and help you prioritize improvements to mitigate risks. Armed with a framework, you can perform an assessment in three straightforward steps.

Step 1: Identify stakeholders and involve them early

Working closely with cross-functional partners will help you get important points of view before, during, and after the assessment. These folks will ensure you have access to the people and technical resources you need for the assessment.

You may need to include people in:

  • Compliance
  • Workplace
  • Facilities
  • HR
  • IT
  • Executive leadership

Consider hosting a kickoff meeting with stakeholders before you start the security assessment. Get people together to chat about roles, responsibilities, and timelines. Aim to paint a clear picture of the goals you want to accomplish and how each stakeholder can help.

Step 2: Create a scoring system

A security assessment requires you to evaluate your security across pillars and workplaces. To do that, you need to develop a scoring system. Let’s take a look at what you need to do to create one.

Part 1 – Identify threats

Establish a list of security threats that fall under each pillar, starting with physical security. Then move on to people security, data security, and so on. Make sure each list includes threats specific to hybrid work.

Answering the question, “what’s the worst that can happen under this pillar?” will help you identify the most significant threats. Don’t forget to get stakeholder feedback, so other opinions are represented.

Part 2 – Develop a scoring system

A scoring system is a tool you’ll use to grade your hybrid work security. It’ll categorize workplace security risks by likelihood and severity. If you don’t want to create a custom system, you can use the one below.

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Step 3: Do the security assessment

Now that you’ve identified threats for each pillar and created a scoring system, you can complete the security assessment matrix. Below is an example of how a completed matrix might look. Check out this guide for step-by-step instructions on how to conduct the assessment.

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Understanding the results

Once you’ve filled out the matrix, the results of the assessment should show:

  1. The strengths and weaknesses of your security for each hub

  2. The strengths and weaknesses of each security pillar across all hubs

Here, “hub” refers to a hybrid landscape that includes a physical workplace as well as remote locations near it where employees do work.

Say Hub 1 scores well for infrastructure security. You can use this hub as a model to scale this pillar’s security programs to other hubs. Poor scores across a single pillar could reveal a systemic issue. For example, you may be missing critical training programs that teach employees how to identify and mitigate cybersecurity threats. 

How to prioritize improvements

You won’t be able to address every threat at once, so you should have a plan of action to guide your team’s focus. You might consider listing out the work you need to do in order of priority. For example:

  • 1st priority: Intolerable Risks – These are the risks you can’t put off. Failing to address them could put business continuity at stake.

  • 2nd priority: High Risks, Critical Risks – These risks are important to address. They may have a serious and lasting impact on your company.

  • 3rd priority: Moderate Risks – These risks may impact business operations but they won’t cause lasting damage.

Alternatively, you could focus on a particular hub or pillar. Once the hub scores well across pillars you can scale its security programs to other hubs.

Conducting an assessment is an essential step to strengthening your security in the era of hybrid work. Using the framework above will help you identify and prioritize critical improvements. Just as important, it’ll align your cross-functional team on the work it needs to do to keep your company safe and secure. 

Envoy can help you keep your company safe and secure in a hybrid work environment. Get in touch to learn more.

The Water Cooler: 5 IT leaders praise their go-to work confidants

Editor’s note: This article is part of The Water Cooler, a recurring column for technology executives to digest, discuss and debate. Next up: What’s the oldest IT system you’ve encountered in your career? Email us here.

Work spouse. Partner in crime. Office best friend. Whatever it’s called, most people have a go-to colleague to call up to vent, to help on a project or just to chat with. 

In the remote space, sustaining those relationships has gotten trickier. No more popping by a desk to ask what’s up during mid-afternoon slumps or taking the long route to get coffee together. Replaced by videoconferencing and virtual happy hours, work friendships have changed. 

To show those work acquaintances some appreciation, CIO Dive asked IT executives to highlight a coworker they go to get the job done:

(The comments below have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Chris Bedi, ServiceNow CIO

“Because every major technology investment requires the CFO to be involved, close collaboration between the CIO and CFO is key.” 

Chris Bedi

ServiceNow CIO

One of my work partners in crime is Gina Mastantuono, ServiceNow’s chief financial officer. COVID-19 accelerated the need for digital transformation, and as a result, there isnt a single transformation thats happening within any company that isnt empowered by technology. And because every major technology investment requires the CFO to be involved, close collaboration between the CIO and CFO is key.

Gina and I are in sync on strategic initiatives and are transparent on cost, projected ROI and challenges — this has led to close collaboration between our two teams. Take machine learning, for example. It requires several months to incubate, so we need to be comfortable knowing technology investments wont have the desired outcome right away. Thats where having a completely open relationship with the CFO is key. And by being transparent, we have the room to experiment and explore different areas of innovation to invest in.  

We dont always agree, but there is a lot of healthy debate and trust. Im very proud of the fact that weve been able to build this relationship across the C-suite in a remote environment.

Erika Flora, Beyond20 CEO and co-founder

“When it comes down to it, our allies at work are those that we trust and those that we work to build trust with.” 

Erika Flora

Beyond20 CEO and cofounder

I co-founded Beyond20 with my husband, Brian. Hes my “work spouse,” I suppose, because hes also my actual spouse. Having a business partner has been a fantastic experience as I have someone in the same entrepreneurial “boat” to lean on, collaborate with, and find encouragement (when needed) to keep going. 

The one drawback is that the boundaries between work and home life blur. My husband and I, however, make up only 40% of our five-person leadership team; and I can count on every member of our team to bounce ideas off of and find creative solutions, give me the unvarnished truth I very often need to hear, and push me to think differently and grow as a leader. 

They are immensely talented, and I genuinely enjoy hanging out with them. When it comes down to it, our allies at work are those that we trust and those that we work to build trust with. Trust, at its core, comes from knowing that those around us “have our back” and is absolutely essential for our teams to do great work.

Kelly Walsh, The College of Westchester CIO/CISO

The IT director and I ” share over 70 years of experience and deep knowledge of our institution’s technology, security, and infrastructure requirements, and this puts us in a position to make quick work of new issues…”

Kelly Walsh

The College of Westchester CIO/CISO

My go-to person to help me get things done is my IT director, who happens to also be our director of facilities. A lot of us wear several hats at The College of Westchester. For example, I serve as CIO and CISO. 

When I work with Director of Information Technology and Facilities Management Sean Capossela, we share over 70 years of experience and deep knowledge of our institutions technology, security, and infrastructure requirements, and this puts us in a position to make quick work of new issues and “think around corners” when assessing new business needs. 

I have worked with Sean for about 17 years now and we make a great team — sharing ideas, reviewing and editing each others written work, and looking at challenges from varied angles. I couldnt imagine doing my job without the support of Seans invaluable partnership to help me get things done and see things I might be missing.

Antonio Vazquez, Bizagi CIO

“Not only do we share the same time-zone (which means a lot in today’s remote world), we seamlessly align on the same vision, same priorities.” 

Antonio Vazquez

Bizagi CIO

Being brand new to the company and onboarding during the pandemic has certainly not been the easiest way to get to know your workmates, never mind your partners in crime. Right now, I would say that my partner in crime is my CFO, Nick Taylor. 

From Day One, we seemed to just click. Not only do we share the same time-zone (which means a lot in todays remote world), we seamlessly align on the same vision, same priorities and, deep down, Im a numbers person at heart.

Peter Kress, SVP and CIO at Acts Retirement-Life Communities

“Those relationships are built out of many, many years of collaboration.” 

Peter Kress

SVP and CIO at Acts Retirement-Life Communities

I have a very, very strong relationship with our Senior VP of Community Operations Jonathan D. Grant. We’ve both been in the company for a long time, in fact, he came back into the company through my department, but I also have a very strong relationship with CFO Richard A. Winter. Weve partnered on a lot of initiatives and, again, I brought that person into the company and they moved up through my department before they moved over to finance and control. 

Youll notice that those are business partners, but theyre business partners who, for one reason or another, were associated with my team for a while. Those relationships are built out of many, many years of collaboration and out of our whole senior management team of 14 people in the organization, there are only two of them that have less than 10 years in the organization.

Cloud adoption uptick further strains talent market

Dive Brief:

  • Cloud job postings per million rose 42% since March 2018 on Indeed, according to data provided by the company Tuesday. Indeed calculated the percentage change in the share of cloud job postings for every million posts between March 2018 and March 2021.

  • Cloud engineer, software architect and cloud consultant top the list of most in-demand cloud roles in 2021, according to the company. 

  • “Essentially every meaningful consumer application or service that you can think of today is based on cloud technology,” a trend that has led demand for cloud talent to soar, said Scott Bonneau, VP of global talent attraction at Indeed.

Dive Insight:

Businesses need talent to support their cloud initiatives, as the technology acts as the backbone for modern IT infrastructure. Without a cloud strategy, companies risk giving up the operational and cost upsides of the cloud.

“In the 2010s it became clear that cloud-based solutions can provide the best mix of flexibility, speed, and cost-effectiveness for a huge range of technology solutions, especially mobile and API-based applications,” said Bonneau. Top providers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft “invested heavily in building vast infrastructure and useful services,” in the last decade. 

But with pressure on IT teams to outfit their companies with innovative cloud implementations, over 80% of cloud leaders say a lack of internal skills and knowledge is a key obstacle to their ability to succeed in the cloud, according to a report from A Cloud Guru

“There’s a huge talent war that’s going on,” said Sridhar Karimanal, head of the Health and Life Sciences group at Eagle Hill Consulting. Leaders are struggling to find talent, especially those focused in high-tech areas. 

CompTIA data shows job postings that mention the words “cloud skills” grew 40.5% between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2021. Cloud engineer, cloud architect and senior cloud engineer are the top three roles employers are looking for, according to the IT trade group.

To attract the cloud talent, leaders must assess and identify their talent needs, understand their value proposition as a potential employer, and expand their hiring sources by considering candidates from non-traditional backgrounds, Bonneau previously told CIO Dive.

Cloud training, which some vendors offer at no charge, can help upskill adjacent and entry-level talent, getting workers up to speed to stave off the skills shortage — though vendor lock-in is a concern.

Another tool to gain the upper hand amid the talent fray lies in a successful hybrid work approach. 

In a hybrid work framework, employers are not “constrained by resources or talent that are local to your geography, you can pretty much go anywhere in the U.S., and I’d argue outside of the U.S., and be able to get the talent that you’re looking for,” said Karimanal.