During the February, 2014 United Way CIO Forum in Milwaukee, top tech officers from Northwestern Mutual, GE Healthcare, FIS, Rockwell, and Johnson Controls shared their perspectives on converging technologies, mobile devices, "Big Data", and the strategic deployment of IT solutions.
The event began with the CIO’s agreeing that the rapid evolution of “converging technology” - which refers to the use of mobile devices and applications to perform a wide variety of tasks – is having as dramatic an impact on organizations as did the introduction of personal computers in the 80’s. At that time, the role of the IT department switched from the back office (handling applications running on mainframes) to the front office (with client based applications). Now, with applications more widely distributed than ever, IT departments are shifting to a “front and center client focus,” as described by Tim Schaefer, the CIO of Northwestern Mutual Insurance.
They also commented on the challenges and opportunities related to distributed technology management and mobile devices in the workforce. "Anyone with a credit card is a CIO," noted Jerry Fox, CIO of Rockwell Automation. He spoke about the challenges of employees downloading apps to their workstations and devices because they believe it will help them do their jobs better. "We've shifted from a department of 'no, you can't do that' to an organization of 'yes, this is how you install and use the application properly."
Colin Boyd, CIO of Johnson Controls, further explains this new thinking of the IT department as an enabler for growth and innovation in the firm. "We provide the platforms, advice and guidelines to ensure flexibility, speed and agility to our team. We realize we can't control everything in our IT environment."
That being said, Jerry Fox added, "CIO's do need to ensure the organization meets regulatory compliance, otherwise we must allow people to use IT to its fullest potential."
When discussing the issue of BYOD, Ed Pankowski, the CIO of FIS, said, “it’s a mobile first environment. The knowledge workforce of today needs more laptop and mobile computing power.”
Most of the CIO’s discussed their mobile device management products. “The perimeter of a network is eroding with mobile devices,” said Colin Boyd of Johnson Controls.
The CIO’s listed some of the ways they are trying to protect their data and networks despite this dynamic. Jerry Fox of Rockwell said they tag all the data in their system to make sure some of it does not go past their firewalls and into the cloud. Other firms have implemented data loss prevention products, such as installing software to block the utilization of USB drives. Encryption was also a standard protocol, though they admitted that their systems are better managed on fixed desktops than they are on mobile devices. One CIO said his company is now spending four times more per year on IT security than it did in the last few years.
All CIO’s agreed that they cannot completely lock down their systems. It is therefore absolutely essential to direct the behavior of the users to also properly manage the security of data on their devices and network. One firm said they spend a significant time on training employees about security issues, including quarterly reviews of security policies and best practices. They also are leading efforts to classify the data in their systems and implementing sensitive information policies.
The CIO's also provided examples of how their IT departments can leverage their capabilities and strengths to be proactive in providing a robust IT environment for their users. Tim Schaefer, CIO of Northwestern Mutual, said, "Big Data can be used to better monitor and maintain IT equipment, and thereby reduce downtime. When a sensor on equipment shows that it is getting hot, we can identify the problem and fix it or replace it before it breaks down."