CIO to-do list

The role of the CIO isn’t getting any easier – spinning the plates while doing more with less, the focus on security and the other obligatory clichés are a reality – so how do you focus down and prioritise? Well, everybody’s business is different – but this list is based on many recent conversations with different CIOs and IT Directors – and is my 2016 CIO communications to-do list.

Security, security, security.

Hardly a surprise inclusion at the top of the list, but high profile attacks on leading brands continue to happen. TalkTalk and JD Wetherspoon will spring to mind from the last quarter of 2015, and in both cases customer data was taken. If we IT professionals are honest with each other, many of our initial reactions were: “There but for the grace of God go I” – but what does this mean in practical terms?

Thinking of the positive side, it is no longer a challenge to get security onto the agenda at a board meeting – and it’s increasingly less of a challenge to get budget for it. But how to use that hard-earned budget effectively?

Developing some security-oriented KPIs is therefore first on the list – developing a system of tracking and reporting against security related projects and systems. The KPIs in and of themselves won’t do anything to keep the bad guys out of your systems, but they will help to prioritise on a basis of risk and to track progress across all projects.

Connectivity: is your Wi-Fi straining at the seams?

Wi-Fi is, according to most adolescents, an unquestionable human right. However, Wi-Fi in corporate environments is coming under increasing strain. It is now the de-facto communication mechanism for laptops, and is also expected to provide connectivity for smartphones and tablets. For many organisations this means that an infrastructure initially designed to support light use on one device per three people is being pushed to support three devices per person. And it’s going to get worse.

Wi-Fi is now increasingly being asked to cope with real-time communication from a number of sources: the softphone on the laptop; the video call from the tablet; the web conference on the PC. These have been on the rise for years, but the final straw could well be Wi-Fi calling or “Voice over Wi-Fi”. As mobile signals struggle to penetrate office buildings, the latest mobiles and the forward-looking networks are supporting Voice over Wi-Fi to ensure coverage is obtained deep into the underbelly of buildings.

So my next action is to get to grips with the traffic and bottlenecks on your networks, and make sure both your wired and wireless LAN infrastructure is fit for the years to come.

Cloud: rightsize your cloud connections.

On a related subject, the relentless march to the cloud is tying up internet bandwidth. A 500-user Office 365 migration with lots of shared mailboxes will hammer your internet links and shifting your CRM hosting into AWS can seriously hamper the speediness of response if the network traffic is not properly managed.

Therefore the IT professional’s third action should be to get cloud connectivity sorted out. That may be simply making sure that internet provision is sufficient but increasing organisations are installing dedicated links to their cloud services providers to ensure that there is not only sufficient capacity but that it is appropriately prioritised and managed.

Unified Communications: what have you got, what’s missing and what do people actually use?

Use of unified communications tools continues to grow, and research shows that where they are deployed they do tend to be adopted by the workforce. Therefore a fourth action would be to look at what collaboration tools your company already offers and ensure your culture allows your employees to use them effectively.

The final step is to see if there is anything missing that you could deploy to aid teams working remotely – be that at home, on the road or in different offices. Established tools such as desktop sharing, IM and presence and softphones are now being joined by desktop to desktop, and desktop to meeting room video, in enabling teams to work well together at a distance.

Customer Experience: keep up with the digital consumer.

Finally it’s time to think about the customer interface. Organisations are not the only things going digital – in many areas consumers are way ahead of the businesses that serve them. With many now viewing the website as a “legacy” way to interact with an organisation – something to use only when the app won’t work – the multi-channel nature of customer interaction is becoming ever more important.

Multi-channel has gone from being about voice and email to being voice, email, chat, SMS, web, mobile app and video in a very short space of time. Customer experience is the buzzword du jour, but it is well accepted that service is a key differentiator in a world where many products are of similar capability and quality. So look at your customer contact channel strategy and check that you are meeting customers where they want to meet, and providing your customer experience teams with the tools they need to do it effectively.