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CIO is new driver of business growth

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Under constant pressure to adapt their roles and organisational functions, most South African CIOs believe their responsibilities are evolving faster than the industry norm according to a recent market survey.
This scenario is likely be exacerbated by tough local economic conditions, says Neil Cosser, Gemalto’s identity and data protection manager for Africa. As such, an increased focus on productivity and cost-efficiency can be expected within their organisations – effectively forcing CIOs to become direct drivers of business strategy and growth.
Technology’s latest shift to the “third platform” (as it’s called by the IDC) is built on mobile devices and apps, cloud services, mobile broadband networks, big data analytics and social technologies. The shift is both disruptive and unstoppable, with each of these components affecting organisations across the world in a myriad of ways – something South African CIOs are only too aware of.
“While cloud, virtualisation, BYOD, social networking and mobility have the potential to significantly improve productivity, reduce costs and encourage innovation, CIOs are finding themselves under pressure to manage the corresponding security risk that these new opportunities bring with them,” explains Cosser. “Considering that the average business has over 8 500 mobile device end points to control, IT departments now have to plan, and manage and secure devices and data in very different ways. This means that CIOs can no longer afford to concentrate their efforts predominantly on technical support as was the case a few years ago. They’re now finding themselves directly responsible for driving business strategy and growth.”
That being said, it’s not surprising that South African CIOs have cited business continuity and security as their primary focus areas for 2016. A lack of business discipline in using IT is however, hampering their efforts in many instances – as revealed in Gemalto’s recent research study with Vanson Bourne. Conducted in 10 countries including South Africa, the study it shows that 98% of South African IT departments face significant obstacles to increase user mobility in their organizations, potentially impacting growth as a direct result. “IT management overheads (56%), costs (52%) and security concerns (38%) are understandable given the growing use of cloud applications and mobile devices within organisations, rising threats and the need to reduce costs,” says Cosser.
“With the digitalisation of all functions and technology at the forefront of businesses, CIOs must look for strategies, solutions and technologies that can remedy the Big Data challenge – ensuring they innovate from within using new streamlined processes,” he adds. This in turn is transforming them into key business partners – who must now also meet the growing demand for business-strategic IT platforms in other departments including ERP, CRM, marketing automation and lead generation programmes among others, pushing the boundaries of their original functions. “To succeed in their new roles and deliver on their new set of responsibilities, CIOs must thus strike a balance between security and convenience.”
Because employees are likely to do what it takes to get their job done –  with or without permission – CIOs can anticipate having to scale security to protect as many on-site and cloud applications as possible in the year ahead. “The need for strong authentication and as-a-service delivery will be critical as a result, with CIOs needing to protect the identities of their users without sacrificing productivity or data protection,” maintains Cosser. “Gemalto’s experience has shown that two-factor authentication is providing a viable solution in this space – helping organisations to comply with data protection regulations and pass security audits.”
As mobility continues forcing business to do more with less and better than before, CIOs can expect to find themselves under similar pressure in 2016. “To harness the opportunities mobility allows, CIOs will need to harness the technology that enables mobility,” says Cosser. “As such, we can expect everything from cloud efficiencies and central management to frictionless authentication methods and the ability to centrally manage access to become key factors that IT professionals will spend much of their time focusing on this year,” he concludes.