Pivoting tips for CIOs

According to Munshi, CIOs should consider doing three things to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic-induced circumstances.

Firstly, reduce the disruptions caused by the pandemic by employing a robust digital strategy to increase business adaptability, accelerate processes and reduce operational costs.

Secondly, he suggested leveraging cloud solutions to empower the workforce, facilitating seamless and secure remote working via a combination of secure virtual desktop solutions and corporate collaboration tools.

Lastly, companies also need to consider employing data analytics to derive optimum value from siloed data to prepare for new digital businesses. “By leveraging data analytics, companies can have access to actionable insights that can help enhance customer value, increase operational efficiency, and reduce costs,” Munshi said.

Another set of tips for CIOs to pivot around the challenges comes from Teo Chin Seng, Fellow, Advanced Computing for Executives, NUS and former Global CIO of DP World, UAE: ICT practitioners should think ‘outside-in’ rather follow the traditional ‘inside-out’ ICT approach to mitigate the risks posed by the pandemic. This means paying attention to three aspects of the operations: 

  • Security architecture: As companies open corporate boundaries to partners and remote staff, the security architecture must change to ward off ransomware attacks, like what happened in the case of the Colonial Pipeline Company in the USA.
  • Cloud: Migrate to a cloud computing model for better service to remote users. The ICT support team can then focus on creating value-added services to support new business processes.
  • Data science: Use data analytics and AI to boost security, and garner more significant insights from customers and employees in a more disconnected world.

Baidya commented on the security imperative for organizations: when businesses shift to a more remote-work/services scenario, ensuring security and network reliability will be critical. “Rapid digital transformation has also dramatically increased the threat surface, which may render companies more susceptible to cyberattacks. It has affected all types of businesses across industry sectors.”

As for the second aspect, James Sivalingam, Research Manager for IDC Asia/Pacific Security and IT Services Research added: “While shifting to a cloud-first strategy does not necessarily increase the risk posture, it does change things a fair bit. Moving data and workload outside (an organization’s) four walls might be perceived as a scary prospect. However, with all the right security tools and controls in place, CISOs and Security Officers everywhere could sleep easy at night. The critical element here is having the right security team or partner that helps them achieve the desired security posture.”

Pay it forward by adopting sustainability

Now is also a good time for organizations to pay attention to the sustainability agenda, especially through education on newly innovated technologies for ICT and data centres (DCs) that will help move to a green, sustainable and DC ecosystem, opined Wong Tew Kiat, Managing Director, Organisation Resilience Management (ORM): “ICT needs to push for innovative technologies such as liquid cooling, immersion technology, and thermal cooling for a green and sustainable DC ecosystem and reduce electrical consumption. DCs and IT professionals need to be educated to adapt to the changing landscape.”

This is due to how the pandemic also impacted data centers. In Singapore, a “temporary pause” on the construction of new data centers was needed because DCs need an enormous amount of electricity. According to one report, Singapore DCs accounted for about 7% of the country’s total electricity consumption in 2020, compared to 1.8% in the US. 

Increased pace of digital transformation

Amid the crisis, the good news is that the overall pace of digital transformation has quickened in the region. Said Baidya: “IT and safety issues that have emerged from the pandemic prevent some companies from investing in transformative technologies, yet COVID-19 challenges have compelled more companies to accelerate investments instead of slowing down. This will have a positive impact on the IT sector as a whole.”

Sivalingam noted that he is seeing increased investment by organizations in these regions, in technology areas that will enable greater business resilience in the age of pandemic: “These include: cloud technology in the form of SaaS, IaaS, PaaS; cloud security tools and services such as data loss prevention tools, data privacy tools, secure access tools; and networking tools such as SD-WAN for availability and overcome latency issues.”