Cementing Position in the IT driven World
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Cementing Position in the IT driven World

Mike Anderson, CIO, CROSSMARK

The Age of the Highly Connected Consumer

The speed at which change is occurring in the market driven by digital experiences and a highly connected society is fundamentally changing how companies think, plan, and operate. The age of the highly connected consumer is putting pressure on companies to innovate quickly and reinvent themselves in new, digital ways. To compete, companies need to become more agile and think and act like a startup, which means changing the way that we approach problems and eliminating unnecessary red tape and processes. Leaders need to understand digital and the impact that it will have on business as the next generation of consumers emerge. Companies need to invest in digital innovation with a mindset that not every idea or concept will pan out, as well as speed up the ideation and product development process. In a startup, product ideas evolve quickly due to a lack of formality. Conversely, larger companies can suffer from placing too much formality around new ideas resulting in missed opportunities.

One way we have increased the speed of innovation is by adopting an Agile methodology across the company, whereas many companies view this as purely an “IT” methodology. We have put together Agile training for our business stakeholders that helps us speak the same vernacular and have a common understanding. This training coupled with the Agile process allows us to innovate more quickly than legacy approaches.

Dealing with Cyber Threats

Retailers are naturally concerned about information security. You don’t have to search too far to find examples of large retailers with credit card and personal information breaches. CPG companies have risk in different areas. They’re engaging with and collecting information on millions of consumers. Both industries face significant financial and reputational risk if their information is exposed.

  Innovation in data and technology can challenge and disrupt process definitions and capabilities, but organizations still need to begin with alignment to the company strategy 

We all benefit from the legwork done by industries that are further along the path, such as financial services. It be­gins with classifying and treating data so that we focus on the areas of greatest risk. Educating people on the risk and impact of data breaches is key.

One of the reasons CROSSMARK has adopted cloud technologies is to tap into stronger security than was previously accessible. Leading organizations such as Salesforce, Microsoft and others continue to invest in ensuring secure capabilities in their cloud offerings.

Three key recommendations:

First, we cannot be secure with technology alone. We must educate our users on how to protect and secure not only company information, but their personal information as well. An educated workforce will go a long way in improving a company’s security. At CROSSMARK, we started publishing articles on the home page of our Intranet site about smart security and hosted brown bag lunches.

Second, don’t expect security technology alone to solve all problems. Rather, put process governance in place to help thwart malicious attacks like spear-phishing. Security companies react to new threats, which means companies are subject to attacks before technology will be able to mitigate the threat.

Last, be smart about security, and don’t treat all users and systems the same. All too often companies apply the same security posture to all applications and data, and create an environment that limits digital innovation and makes it harder for users to do their work. Come up with a security posture based upon the type of data that will be housed in an application and the connectivity between that application and other applications within your environment. For example, we look at the type of user and the data they access and put the appropriate security in place, such as the frequency of password resets and the level of authentication required to access data.

Breaking the Silos

With the exception of very small organizations, I believe every company faces siloed structures. It’s a natural result of how peo­ple are organized to address work, and I don’t think that is neces­sarily a bad thing.

What is important is alignment in how we work togeth­er and measure our efforts. This begins with alignment on the company strategy, followed by capabilities and processes. Capability assessments and tools like Kaizen Value Stream Mapping are use­ful in defining these interactions across the organization. The company strat­egy is the North Star that steers all of our efforts.

Innovation in data and technol­ogy can challenge and disrupt process definitions and capabili­ties, but organizations still need to begin with alignment to the company strategy.

Driving Greater Innovation

A couple of ideas come to mind. First, a big challenge is the conflicting need for CIOs to reduce risks and control costs, while simultaneously driving greater innovation. CROSSMARK has identified key partners that we work with to outsource non-core activities, so we can invest in developing our strategic capabilities. Second, growing and developing talent from within versus always looking outside the organization – as enterprises grow talent, it is important to continue to foster innovation and align people around solving problems. One way we are developing our internal talent is by helping them understand their current role and how it may evolve in the future. For example, the role of a database administrator that manages a database running on a local server is transforming into a role that manages data regardless of where it is created or stored. This subtle shift is requiring our database administrators to learn new skills that will help the company and them personally.

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