EP 4: How COVID-19 Changed the CIO Role w/ Tim Crawford

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

As we try to sink into some sense of “normalcy” within the abnormal pandemic conditions we exist in, seasoned CIOs are peering ahead past COVID, and beyond the inevitable economic impacts to position their organizations with strength and agility. 

Tim Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor at AVOA, sits down with Unleash IT host, Claudine Bianchi, to share his thoughts on what that means for CIOs and enterprise architects everywhere.

We talked about four main topics in this episode.  How the CIO role has been impacted by COVID, managing technology risk challenges in remote environments, data security, and compliance across the enterprise, and the role of the enterprise architect in today’s world.

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe to the Unleash IT Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

The reality is that technology and the technology domain is getting incredibly more complicated over time, whether it's the underlying technology or the policies that applied to it or data, all of them are getting more complicated, and so we have to find ways to be able to manage that. Welcome to unleash it, a podcast where we discuss the experiences and ideas behind what's working in enterprise architecture and digital transformation within the IT landscape. Unlock Your Business has digital capabilities. Transform your enterprise architecture. Unleash it. Let's get into the show. Good morning everyone, and welcome to this week's edition of Unleash I T. I'm your host, claudding Bianki, CMO with the IX, and today have a very special guest with us, Tim Crawford. Tim, welcome, why do we get started by you just explaining what it is you do, what your backgrounds like and what your key priorities are? Absolutely so, thanks again for having me on your podcast. It's an honor to join you this morning and talk a little bit about the CIO. So, as you mentioned, I'm Tim Crawford. I'm a CIO and strategic advisor with a BOA and essentially come from a background of serving as a CIO and it leader for almost thirty years, and so then switched gears a little bit and so now these days I work a lot with other CIOS and helping advise them and kind of bringing that boult leadership to the public stage through speaking and writing and other activities of kind of unleashing that thought process, you know, helping people understand how ceios thing, understand how to make that connection, but also helping ceios understand how other cios are doing different things and working through some of these challenges. What are some of those challenges that CEIOS are facing today? And we just went through a pandemic. You were the preparator? You weren't, but it's change. It's also changed the perception of the CIO and their importance within organizations. I was thought that you know that the past decade has been the decade of the CMO and now that's starting to tail off a bit, unfortunately. But now I look at the S and we start the decade off with this pandemic and all of a sudden the CIO is right in the spotlight. How do we go from in office to remote? How we dealing with all the things that we need to do, how we cutting expenses. I mean, I really see the CIO as this being their decade in this time. Are you feeling the same thing or is it just me? Well, I so. Maybe we can unpack a little bit of that. So right now you're absolutely right where in the middle pandemic. I wouldn't say that we've exited it by any start of the imagination. If anything, we're right in that that kind of middle heavy hitting section. And so of course the CIO has been thrust the limelight, not necessarily for the best reasons, but out of necessity. So it's been a situation where, look, we have to move all of our staff, all of our partners, all of our employees online. We have to get them out of the office and into alternative situations, work situations, and so to some degree that's almost brass tax for how an it organization works and things. I mean, getting someone to work remotely is nothing new for us. Right you work remotely, I'll work remotely, others will work remotely, we might be traveling and working remotely, and so the ability to work remotely is nothing new. What's new is doing it at scale for the entire company. And so there's been a monsterable shift there. At the same time, the pandemic has really caused the second issue, and I talked about three issues. The first is the virus crisis, which came on in earnest, about six months ago now or so and right as we turn the year, and then that drove into the economic crisis and then, of course we have the social impact that comes from that. will be feeling that economic crisis for some period of time to come, even beyond the resolution of the virus crisis.

But all of this is based on uncertainty around the virus and so once we get stability around uncertainty of the virus, either through herd immunity or vaccine, most likely, I think realistically, is going to be vaccine, then we can start the rebuilding process. But where the CIO comes into this is, you're absolutely right. How do we get people working from home? How do we start to preserve cash and cut cost cut expenses? But at the same time, the more mature and more forward thinking ceios are also looking at how do I start to accelerate some of those initiatives to put my company on better footing, in a better position as we change the dynamics for our company, and what I mean by that is that the plans that we all had in place, say nine months ago, just to be safe, it's really a hundred eighty days, six months ago, but let's say nine months ago, a year ago, those plans are useless at this point in time. We need to take those plans and just put them to the side. They're no longer applicable. We need a whole new playbook, a whole new game plan, not just to get us through the pandemic, but also beyond the pandemic, once we get past the virus crisis, get through the economic crisis and start thinking about how our lives have changed permanently. And so this is where I think the CIO and arguably even the CMO, really have an opportunity to shine. I would say that the CIOS time absolutely is here and now, and the reason for that is because we have to understand how our customers are changing. That's squarely in the wheelhouse of the CMO, and the CIO is going to be right there to help out with the technology to make that happen. Yeah, absolutely this needs to be and I think we're starting to see better alignment between it and and marking with sales. It used to be an incorrectly if I'm wrong, but even ten years ago I choose very, very project focused. Right, they stand up a CEO is very corporate focus. By network has to be up. And now it's partnering with the lines of business really to how do we drive the business? It's much more product related. So now I can go and I say I need something that's going to help me engage with customers online. I partner with the IT folks and they build any the products. So so the shift is really, you know, get this done and project manage it until the projects finished. To now it seems it's much more of a development environment. Like I go to it for product. I need to solve solutions. I'm looking at them as by solution provider. Is this relevant? Is this a big shift, that that you've seen going from project to product over the past couple of years? Well, I would saying that that shift actually started happening more than a decade ago. So the shift from project to product was something that even I was driving more than a decade ago when I was leading it organizations for large enterprises. And the reason for that is you get out of that start and stop kind of mentality and you start thinking about the evolution of how a product kind of fits into solving a business problem. Today it's really shifted even further in the sense that the CIO really plays a core business role, just like the CEO the CMO might play a similar core business role. What I mean by that is that if you look back on the traditional CIO, they're very much operationally focused, as you mentioned right. How do we cut costs? How do we kind of keep the trains running on time, keep the lights on? When something's broken, go and fix it. This is the really the domain of what I consider to be the traditional CIO. Now we're really kind of shifting gears to be more of a transformational CIO, and the transformational ceeio looks at two other components, and I called this the turning on concept and the turney and concept, for the CIO really looks at three core pieces. You've got that operational efficiency component. How do we run the trains in a very efficient way? But there's a degree of stability and expectation that comes with that. But there are two other pieces that come with it too, and and you'll probably resonate with these as a CMO, but you'll equally resonate with these as a CEO, and that is revenue growth and customer engagement. And so the...

CIO really focuses on those three pieces operational efficiency, revenue growth and customer engagement. Now I would argue that revenue growth is an exhaust metric and so, even though we do use it as a core business metric, it's really the outcome of customer engagement. Think that this way, you go into a coffee shop, when we can go back into coffee shops, but to go into a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee, if you enjoy the experience, you enjoy that Cup of coffee, you enjoy the ambience of the coffee shop and you enjoy the product itself, you're likely to go back and that will have a direct tie to the revenue for that coffee shop. However, the Converse is true too. If you're not happy with the ambience and the experience in the shop or the product itself, you're likely not going to go back. And so customer experience. It's a very simple way to think about it, but customer experience is absolutely critical to focus on here. The CIO needs to be thinking about that as well. They don't need to wait for the CMO to come to them and say, Hey, can you build me something to do this with customer experience? They need to be thinking ahead, they need to be thinking about here are the core business objectives that we all as executives, as chief level executives, are focused on. What is my contribution to be able to address that and how do I start to bring the different pieces together, because maybe the CMO and the crow or the HR executive, maybe they're having to work together and collaborate on different initiatives, and so the CIO can help bring some of those components together, especially when we talk about technology, and also the component we haven't talked about yet, which is data. And so it's incredibly important to think about the CIO as that broader business executive, just like any of the other CEA sweet executives. Yeah, it. It really needs to be that alignment. But it's interesting you brought up data, because data tends to always be versus. It's growing exponentially whatever, and Iot is not stopping that. Certainly I ot is going to expound data, you know, through the roof. Is just growing how much? What are the data concerns today, the macro concerns around data that the CIOS are currently facing involved with? Well, you know, first and foremost, today we just expanded our threat landscape considerably by sending people home, and so now we have corporate data running on networks that we don't manage. Right it's your home net work as my home network, and so these are networks that we don't necessarily manage. And, as I mentioned earlier, this isn't something new. We've had corporate data running on what we call dirty networks, you know, for decades, but now we're doing it at scale. It it's almost the default at this point rather than the exception, and so you have to find more clever ways to be able to protect that. You also might have situations where the system that someone is working on in their home might not be a corporate issued system that is running a corporate image with a secured down operating system. Maybe it's the family computer that the kids are using to do their school work or playing a game on, and so you have other dimensions that come into play here, and so I think it's important to understand the data takes a whole different kind of look and feel today in terms of where it resides. But then we also have to think about, as you mentioned, Iot and edge. There is a phenomenal amount of data that is coming from the edge and if we go back to talking about customer engagement, where is that customer engagement happening? It's happening on mobile devices, it's happening at the edge, and so we have to find ways to get smarter about how to put our arms around that data, how to appropriately use that data, build trust with that data, not use it inappropriately but at the same time provide value to those who are going to be using the data, whether that's the customer or the employee. And so cybersecure curity is a key piece to this. Regulatory Compliance and privacy are also kind of front and Center for every CIO, and these are board level conversations to I mean, let's not forget...

...that risk is a core conversation that happens at a board level and then comes down into the sea suite and therefore to the CIO. So these are all components that the cio today is having to kind of think about and contend with, and it's only getting more complicated. So it's not just the volume, it's the directions that data is coming to us. It's the way that we use data, it's the way that we consume and analyze data. Some of it has to be done at the edge, some of it has to be done in the middle, some of it has to be done at the public cloud stage and everything in between. And so it's no longer just hey, we've got this monolithic corporate data center and all of our data sits in this data center. Now we have to think about how is it spread across this continuum like peanut butter, and how do we manage that, you know, on top of how do we secure it and use the appropriate, you know, means and which to protect it? So there's a lot going on there just from a data perspective. Yeah, and when you think about it, that's where all the regulations and government it's okay, I mean there was Gdpr, which is still a big concern for a lot of CIOS, but now, even especially in the United States, you might be looking at fifty different privacy regulations, one for every state. How does the CIO manage all that? That's a really tough environment to try to be it. If I could tell you how I got every great hair on my head. You know it. It is complicated. You know they're there are a lot of folks, especially in the vendor space, that say the technology is getting simpler over time. The reality is that technology and the technology domain is getting incredibly more complicated over time, whether it's the underlying technology or the policies that apply to it or data, all of them are getting more complicated, and so we have to find ways to be able to manage that when it comes to data. With regards to regulatory compliance and privacy, you're absolutely right. We will most likely end up with fifty different policies depending on which state your data comes from or that you do business in. That will apply in California and New York have led the charge with regards to data and Cybersecurity and privacy policies and in some cases maybe they will become the gold standard that other states will adopt. At this stage, I think within the states themselves, in the current political climate, my guess is that won't happen, which is unfortunate, but I think there is an opportunity and it'll probably get worse before it gets better, but there's an opportunity to come up with some degree of standardization across the states, because otherwise, just like you see internationally, there's no way that you can effectively manage each of the different policies, whether it's GDP are through some of the the EU regions, whether it's the different policies in the states, federal guidelines, and then, let's not forget certain industries have their own guidelines, whether it's healthcare or financial services, for example. And so when you start layering all these different policies on top of each other, you you almost have to declare policy bankruptcy because you realize that you just cannot manage it effectively. And so this is where you come into a risk conversation around, okay, which ones can we manage effectively and how do we appropriately manage it? Because the reality is we can't do it all, and so this is a real challenge. It's a real challenge and there is no clear path. You know, some have touted that. They're oh, yeah, this is this is easy, there is a clear way to do it. I would call hogwash. I don't think that there is a clear path and based on experience, I would say that there even cases where policies contradict each other. So what do you do? Yeah, so it's important to understand and respect that. But this is where I think transparency is incredibly important to understand what your guiding principles are and why you're following those paths. Absolutely, and with all...

...this data too. So there's a lot of hype, and I'd love to get your impressions in this around artificial intelligence machine learning in the IT organization. Is it hypers it actually getting there, because you would think with all this data leaf collected, that we could apply certain machine learning algorithms to understand the trends and went with the data is trying to tell us. Is that really happening? Is a technology there yet, or are we still a little bit ahead of the curve? Well, I think it's a tale of two stories. And so on the whole, I would say there is a incredible amount of height in the industry. I mean everybody does machine learning, everybody does artificial intelligence. The reality is nobody does ml and nobody does ai. But that being said, there are a number and a growing number of cases where companies actually are using, for the most part, it's a form of machine learning. So if you think about the continuum of going from analytics through machine learning and into artificial intelligence, and then you get into things like cognitive behavior and neural networks. Right you know, you can get really sophisticated. The vast majority of people are living in that analytics to machine learning part of the range. Very few have gone beyond that because it does require a different way of thinking. I mean even machine learning requires a different way of thinking. But the reality is, going back to what we're talking about with data, we have long since crossed the threshold where we can just throw more humans at the problem to be able to analyze data. We can't do that. We can't see enough data to be able to analyze it, and so then accuracy and speed come into play too, and so it's important to understand that we have to rely on things like machine learning to be able to analyze and visualize the gobs of data that we're getting and be able to react to it very, very quickly, and so that helps us from a speed perspective, being able to make quick decisions around business processes or business decisions, as well as being able to respond to customers and a timely fashion. But then the other thing is it increases the degree of accuracy to and so machine learning is a reality today. When you get beyond that, that's where it quickly kind of Peter's off of it, although I think over time, as people start to do more and more with machine learning, will start to see more and more enterprises that start to move up that spectrum. Yeah, and tend of that moving up in the spectrum. So it was still stunned a little bit. Gardener came out with some numbers recently about cloud adoption, both the hybrid cloud adoption and, you know, we're still not seeing. You know, I think at one point, maybe you know four or five years ago, they projected that by two thousand and twenty, you know, we'd be looking at eighty percent cloud adoption and by two thousand and twenty five almost ninety percent, and that certainly is now shifted. I don't see that those metrics quite where they were predicted to be. Is there's still a resistance to go to cloud, specifically around the some of the things that we've been talking about between data and security, privacy issues and all of that. Is there's still that fear around moving to a cloud or even a polycloud environment. Yeah, so maybe let's separate a little bit a time frame here. So if I go back a hundred eighty days, yes, there was still a pretty significant resistance to different forms of cloud. In a lot of cases it was due to inertia or cultural hurdles that that prevented the move from happening. Even when you had a situation where there was a good roy around a project to be able to move a given application to cloud, it still may not get the resources or attention because there were other things that were ahead of it or provided greater value to the organization. So it's important not to look at this in a vacuum. But the reality is the CIO and the it or the broader it organization has to look at the bigger picture. They have no choice. They can't just look at it my optically and say, Oh, this application makes sense...

...to go to clouds, so we're just going to move it to cloud. It doesn't work that way in reality. And so a hundred eighty days ago or so, there was still a phenomenal amount of resistance, as well as inertia to go down the traditional path and the way that we've done things in the past, as well as just other projects that were coming up. Fast forward to today. Here we are in the middle of this pandemic, here we are in the middle of this economic crisis. A lot of those cultural norms, a lot of that inertia has been just completely turned on its head, and so now people are moving to cloud. I'm seeing this across enterprises, across industries, where there is a new uptick to showing interest and actually making the move to cloud out of necessity. So it's no longer or a matter of okay, well, we're going to move to cloud or we're not going to move to cloud, because we kind of feel this way or the numbers tell us this. Now it's a matter of we have no choice if we want to survive, we have to move this to cloud or have to move this component to cloud, because it's going to give us the flexibility we need, whether it's our employees being able to interact with systems, whether it is being able to modernize our environment and maybe retire some of that tech dead or it could be something like their supply chain and having to move their supply chain to a more distributed platform across a number of countries. And so the reality is you can't take what you were doing six months ago, just a short six months ago, and apply it to today. The world's totally different, and so what we're seeing is a very significant uptick in the number of folks that are adopting cloud. Many of them are actually kind of ripping off the band aid and saying, you know what, we don't need this custom application anymore. We can use this SASS based alternative and it will do. Maybe it does eighty percent of the job. Just round numbers. That's okay. At least it's with someone else. Someone else is managing it. We don't have to dedicate the resources to do it. Yeah, we're giving up a little bit, but that's okay. The business understands that there are more important things for us to focus on right now. And so, you know, going back to what you were saying earlier around just how do we manage data? How do we scale the data? How do we get more laser focused on the customer? How do we start to think about cyber security? All of these play a role. How do we cut costs? All of these play a role. We can no longer use the same assumptions that we've been using for decades and go through this slow evolutionary change. In a lot of cases, what exists today and some of these more forward thinking it organizations looks totally different than it did six months ago, and the way that these organizations are operating, both within it as well as the broader company, totally different, as their customers have changed, as the business landscape is changed, and it is forever changed for all of us. We have to change too, and that means that things like cloud become front and center, just like Ml yes, so let me thing this because even of interesting point, which is we have to get much more agile and are the way we architect everything. So mean I x, of course, is very much involved in enterprise architecture. We're all about keeping it lean, but has the the role of the enterprise architect now changing, because, you know, used to be a lot of frameworks and Fancy Ivy Tower type of stuff and now we're sort of saying, okay, we need to architecture in the future for the future all the time. This has got to be an iterative process that we're always looking at. Do you see that role of the enterprise architect and you know, shifting? Absolutely, absolutely. I mean we've seen similar changes in things like data warehouse. You know, would we would go back and we would look at data warehouses and we might spend months and months and months just talking about Schema and trying to think ahead as to okay, this is the scheme of that we need for today as well as kind of into the future. And what typically happens is great, you spend all of this time and all of...

...these resources building is beautiful day to warehouse and you finally get to the point where you're implementing it. You implement it and what happens on Day Two? You need a change to it right. The same thing is true with enterprise architecture, and so we saw this earlier in day to warehouses as we started to look at on structured data and rest, which is why I'm using that example. But today, and this has been coming, this is not new. This didn't just show up in the last six months, but the role of the enterprise architect is absolutely shifting as well. It's not this build this huge architecture to be able to cover everything and figure out how everything comes in. It's a continuous process. It's not even something where you have to be using agile. Agile's not even enough anymore. You have to constantly be able to shift and kind of move and Bob as needed, and so that really kind of puts the onus, on the EA, to think very differently and in some cases maybe that gets distributed out into the organization. So instead of having this monolithic process where, okay, you're going to create the engineerings back, here's what we'd like to be able to do, then you're going to bring the EA's in to say, okay, now put the framework around it to ensure that this fits into our bigger picture and then we're going to go and develop it or whatever. You know, different people use different ways to bring those together. Instead of having that kind of structured process, we now have to be incredibly more nimble in the way that we design, in the way that we implement, because time is of the essence. You know, if you think about this, you know we started this process, started a similar type of process, six months ago. Yeah, we still be in that process today, right, but how would we shift gears? How would we be able to accommodate what we have today? And so this is the problem with these huge, kind of large scale processes that we've embedded in our organizations, in our it organizations is they really really hold us back. So what happens if marketing says, Hey, you know what, we're going to go after our new market, we're going to go after a new demographic we need to break things down and truly get to that customer of one? You know, it's personalization on steroids. And so as you start to drive to some of these changes, you start to realize that you don't have the time. You don't have the time to go through these processes. You have to be able to be nimble enough to be able to switch gears and Change Your Business as quickly as possible, because if you don't, your competition will. Yeah, and then it's game over. You're exactly right. And the complexity comes and we're shifting more and more towards micro services, where in the past we might have been dealing with this large organization, several thousand applications. Think of how many micro services we're going to have to be managing moving forward. It's just changes everything, doesn't it? It absolutely does, and this is this is part of the challenge. Right. It's not just the building part, but you've also got the operational component right to that too. And then think of audit. You know, this is something a bridge that early adopters were starting to cross years ago, which is what happens when you get into micro services and you talk about ephemeral services that they spin up, they do a bit of work and then they spin down. Okay, well, that sounds great from an efficiency standpoint, but here's the problem. What happens if you're in a regulated or compliance requiring environment or industry where you need to know where that data traversed and what systems that data touch? Yeah, okay, well, you don't necessarily know. So it's important to talk through these issues and make sure that everyone's on the page. It's not as simple as just solving this through technology. There's a process change, there's an organizational change, there's a cultural change, and it's not just relegated to it, but bringing this full circle, I do think the CIO or the head of it, whoever the senior most person, and it is because we have to appreciate that not everybody has the CIO title, and so even the senior most person and...

...it that doesn't have the CIO title, it's still their responsibility to drive this conversation, to ensure that they're engaging the CMO, the head of audit, the CRA. Make sure that you've got the right players involved in those conversations and that there is that degree of transparency so that now it's not adding more bureaucracy by adding these other people and the conversation, but rather it's actually making you more fluid because you're building trust. You're building trust through transparency and that's going to be incredibly important as we go forward. That's great advice and a great way to end this episode. Thank you so much, Tim for joining us. Is there any way that our listeners can also listen to your podcasts where they find information about that? Yeah, thanks for asking and thanks again for having me on the podcast. You can always follow me on twitter. I'm at t Crawford, TCRAW FO R D, or you can find me on my blog out of boacom a boacom or the two podcasts which are available on all of the major podcast platforms, and those two are the CIO in the know and the C xo in the no terriffect. Thanks for coming to him. Enjoy it. Thank you. You've been listening to unleash. I T to ensure that you never miss an episode subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about enterprise architecture and tools to help unleash your businesses digital capabilities, visit lean ix dotnet. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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