A common misconception is that high-powered computing (HPC) and exascale supercomputing are too powerful for traditional businesses — that they’re only designed for mammoth university and government programs that seek to answer humanity’s biggest questions, like how the galaxies are formed or finding solutions for global crises like climate change and hunger.

But the reality is that HPC and exascale also have business-critical use cases across every industry, transforming operations and solving everyday business challenges.

And with the release of the world’s most powerful — and first — public exascale supercomputer, the HPE Cray Frontier, the possibilities become truly infinite.

How HPC and exascale supercomputing accelerate business transformation

Innovations in blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, and other technologies are opening doors to new opportunities and better, faster ways of doing business. Grabbing hold of these opportunities and remaining agile in a constantly evolving world means that every industry must embrace digital transformation.

But without centralized data and insights, it can be hard to be agile and anticipate what’s next — especially for large corporations. That’s where HPC and exascale supercomputing can help. For example, at HPE, we employed HPC to centralize and consolidate multiple ERPs as well as our analytics platforms — something we couldn’t do with traditional servers. This effort transformed our business and positioned us to offer more than 80 products as a service.

And there are plenty of other use cases. Carestream Health uses HPC with AI-as-a-Service and other offerings from HPE to improve medical imaging accuracy, automate processes, and reduce cycle times. NCAR uses HPC to forecast summer rainfall and reservoir inflows for smarter water management. Oil and gas companies use HPC to analyze seismic data and determine new well locations. Healthcare organizations use HPC to accelerate vaccine development. Retailers use HPC to reduce inventory shrinkage. The list goes on.

HPE Cray Frontier: The world’s fastest supercomputer

Developed for the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), HPE Cray Frontier is the world’s fastest supercomputer. Problems that once took months to solve can now be worked out in a matter of days, surfacing answers to questions humans never thought to ask.

With performance at 1.1 exaflops, the HPE Cray Frontier is faster than the world’s seven most powerful supercomputers combined. Powered by 3rd Gen AMD EPYC processors and AMD Instinct MI250x accelerators, Frontier calculates 10x quicker than the world’s top supercomputers, solving problems that are 8x as complex.

It’s also worth noting that the Frontier is a huge IT sustainability win for customers thanks to efficient AMD processing technology and sophisticated liquid-cooling capabilities. Frontier is the most power-efficient supercomputing architecture in the world, topping the Green500 list.

“This technology is going to change the world,” remarks Dr. Thomas Zacharia, ORNL Director, “from medicine to biology to materials to deep space to climate change to energy transitions.” Frontier can predict mutations to combat future pandemics, develop new medical treatments faster, and ultimately save lives.

GE is also using Frontier in their drive to design more powerful, sustainable wind turbines. Frontier allows them to look at physics and flow across an entire farm of wind turbines to study interdependencies and impacts at scale, so they can manufacture more efficient, reliable, and cost-effective turbines.

Discover if HPC supercomputing is right for your business

Are you ready to explore the superpowers of HPC and exascale supercomputing for your business? Together, GDT and HPE can lead you through a free, one-day transformation workshop where we examine your business challenges and priorities and build a digital roadmap. As a leader in space, we apply our expertise and leadership and all the lessons we’ve learned to customize a realistic roadmap that accelerates your business.

To get started with your roadmap, contact the experts at GDT.

Digital Transformation

The PDF is a de facto electronic file format for a wide range of industries, giving organizations a reliable way to present information to others in a format that remains consistent no matter the user’s underlying hardware or software. From financial statements and invoices to purchase orders and healthcare records, PDFs are a fundamental element of day-to-day workflow. It’s no exaggeration to say that without the ability to create and edit PDFs efficiently, many organizations would lose their ability to do business.

As a result, even though legacy PDF editors can be extremely expensive, businesses that depend on PDFs often fear losing functionality or weakening security by moving to a lower cost alternative. It’s an understandable fear. After all, there’s a reason “you get what you pay for” has become such a well-worn cliché. A lower price tag often comes with a pared down, lower-quality product.

But when it comes to PDF editors, a recent study from Forrester Consulting shows that this is not the case. In fact, by switching from a legacy PDF editor to a lower cost alternative, organizations saw a three-year ROI of 284%. In fact, Forrester found that by switching to a lower cost alternative, companies were able to achieve an 84% gross reduction in prior licensing costs and a 70% reduction in annual licensing costs per user.

Of course, lower costs are beside the point if the end result is lower productivity and more limited functionality. However, Forrester found the opposite. Organizations were able to achieve these productivity gains because the lower cost of the alternative product enabled them to afford more powerful features. What’s more, they could also afford to provide these features to a far larger number of employees and not just to power users.

For instance, Kazan Law, a California-based law firm specializing in asbestos litigation, previously used Adobe Acrobat for document redaction, an important capability for their business. Adobe Acrobat did have redaction capability, but the high cost of the software meant that the full version was only available to a limited number of people, so others who were working on documents with a limited set of features had to ask power users to redact documents for them.

This situation created a bottleneck that would lead some users to adopt risky methods of redaction, such as applying sticky notes to the portions they wanted to redact and then rescanning the document The lower cost alternative enabled the firm to provide full functionality to a far wider scope of people, and because everyone now had access to redaction, it lowered their risk of malpractice suits.

Organizations were also able to strengthen security with a lower cost alternative because they could afford to keep up with the latest updates. The law firm, for example, was unable to enable advanced security features with its legacy PDF editor because they would have had to purchase the latest version to deploy them, and the cost of upgrading was prohibitive. With the alternative, upgrades were much more affordable, and vulnerabilities were proactively patched. In fact, security upgrades were so much easier to manage, Forrester found that organizations saved, on average, nearly 3,700 hours annually that were previously spent deploying and managing patches.

Foxit provides a fast, affordable, and secure alternative PDF solution that enables organizations to lower costs, increase productivity, and reduce risk. The company has been in the market for more than two decades, and its solutions are used by more than 485,000 customers and more than 700 million users around the world.

Discover how much more productive your organization could become by getting your own personalized free ROI Report with the Foxit ROI calculator.

Digital Transformation

Data is critical to success for universities. Data provides insights that support the overall strategy of the university. It can also help with specific use cases: from understanding where to invest resources and discovering new ways to engage pupils, to measuring academic outcomes and boosting student performance. Data also lies at the heart of creating a secure, Trusted Research Environment to accelerate and improve research.

Yet most universities struggle to collect, analyse, and activate their data resources. There are many reasons why.

For a start, data is often siloed according to the departments or functions it relates to. That means the various “dots” that join these datasets are missed, along with any potentially valuable insights.

This has not been helped by the fact that universities have traditionally lagged the private sector in terms of cloud adoption, a key technology enabler for effective data storage and analysis. One thing holding universities back has been a reluctance to move away from traditional buying models. Long-term CapEx agreements have helped universities manage costs, but such models are inflexible. In the age of the cloud, what’s needed is a more agile OpEx-based approach that enables universities to upgrade their data infrastructure as and when required.

Finally, the skills gap remains a challenge to the better use of data. Eighty-five percent of education leaders identify data skills as important to their organisation, but they currently lack 19% of skilled professionals required to meet their needs.

How can universities overcome these barriers? The first step is to put in place a robust data strategy. Each strategy will be different according to the unique needs of the university, but at a minimum it should include the following:

Evaluation of current data estate to understand pinch points and siloes so these can start to be tackled.Alignment of organisation strategy with technical requirementsEvaluation of the cloud market and cloud adoption roadmap to enable data transformation and agile, integrated data use.Comprehensive upskilling programme to overcome data skills gaps.

As universities embark on this journey, finding the right partner will be critical. One option is to team up with a company like SoftwareONE, which has extensive experience in enabling data strategies for large organisations.

Significantly, SoftwareONE is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Consulting Partner, which means it can bring to bear the capabilities of one of the world’s leading cloud platforms. SoftwareONE adds value by optimising and automating AWS infrastructure as code, which makes it faster and less expensive for universities to get their cloud data programmes up and running. The company also offers a rapid, cost-effective, and secure path to building trusted cloud-based research environments. 

What’s more, partners like SoftwareONE can help address the skills challenge, and not only through automation. SoftwareONE helps to upskill IT teams at universities and provides a full infrastructure as a managed service. Whatever your organisation’s level of comfort with the cloud, SoftwareONE can help you leverage cloud-based data tools with ease.

For more information about how SoftwareONE can help build your data strategy click here.

Education and Training Software, Education Industry

Momentum had already been building around environmental issues and corporate sustainability efforts, but over the past few years — fueled by pandemic, global conflict, and a greater understanding of the impact of climate change — these initiatives have kicked into high gear. Once considered nice to have, today 90% of companies are adopting ESG solutions, marking a significant increase in corporate interest in environmental, social, and governance concerns, according to a 2022 global study by Capital Group.

“Sustainability has always been important,” says Brian Kirkland, CIO at Choice Hotels International. “The thing that has recently changed is the level of awareness environmental, social, and governance topics have received with everything going on in our world.”

At the heart of these efforts are data and the technologies capable of analyzing large volumes of information to empower companies to understand and better manage their impact. As a result, CIOs are emerging as key figures in sustainability and ESG initiatives.

“Impactful ESG programs require collaboration among both IT and the business, much like any other successful solution,” says Andrew Santacroce, vice president and deputy CIO at Tokio Marine North America Services. “As we look at ESG opportunities, technology leaders may be best positioned to drive the efforts.”

Notably, these IT chiefs aren’t waiting to be recruited to the sustainability front by their bosses or boards — or for readymade solutions to their organization’s sustainability challenges. These are largely self-styled sustainability leaders, sometime banding together, to work out new ways to advance sustainability within the IT function and throughout their businesses.

“We believe that sustainability has been ‘someone else’s problem’ for too long, and it is time for IT leaders to stand together and drive change,” Kirkland says. Earlier this year, for example, a veritable who’s who of CIOs joined new nonprofit SustainableIT.org to work together on defining best practices and standard metrics to increase transparency and progress around sustainability programs. “[We’re] looking to set the standard and north star for IT leaders to follow on their ESG efforts,” says Kirkland, a founding board member.

IT leaders, whether working within SustainableIT.org or beyond, find they share common challenges in advancing their sustainability agendas and recognize clear business value in investing in solutions. To a person, they’re more likely to tell you not about their sustainability problems but about the opportunities they envision for their IT functions, companies, industries, and larger communities.

“When I’ve shared what we’re doing [with other IT leaders], it’s amazing how much positive feedback I’ve gotten — ‘Tell me more,’ ‘How can I get involved,’” says Bryan Muehlberger, CIO at Vuori Clothing, who is also on the board of SustainableIT.org. “There’s an increased appetite for information around sustainability. CIOs see it as an opportunity to drive change.”

Sustainability: A spectrum of opportunity

ESG has been a strategic priority at Morgan Stanley for more than a decade, having been one of the first Wall Street banks to launch a global sustainable finance group in 2009. In recent years, however, urgency around sustainability has increased, says Katherine Wetmur CIO, Technology Risk, Firm Resilience, Cybersecurity, at Morgan Stanley, “especially with weather events across the globe driving home the daunting impact of climate change.”

There are always key variables IT must consider, whether it’s evaluating a modernization effort or delivering a new business system or feature, and sustainability is now a key variable. “We’re seeing more and more how we as CIOs can bring that variable to light by furnishing our business and our functions with crucial data and information as they plan for our future,” says Wetmur.

The opportunities for CIOs to improve sustainability within IT and throughout an enterprise are wide-ranging. That’s “mainly because the CIO has so much control over the technology that underpins sustainability,” says Vuori’s Muehlberger. IT can impact sustainability by how developers write code for an ecommerce platform or how IT operations gathers data more efficiently rather than duplicating it. It also has a foundational role to play in companywide sustainability efforts, from raw materials sourcing to last-mile delivery.

“Having a tech leader that understands all those facets is valuable,” Muehlberger says. At Vuori, sustainability is key in the decision-making calculus when procuring technology and building software. The IT group is also building the infrastructure to collect, analyze, and share data in support of the apparel maker’s sustainability goals around the raw materials it uses, reduction of waste, offsetting 100% of its carbon footprint, social responsibility, and community leadership.

Choice Hotel’s Kirkland likely speaks for most CIOs when he says the biggest challenge that he faces in the sustainability area is time. “There’s not enough time in the day to do everything we want to do,” Kirkland says, “and if you believe the data around ESG happening in companies around the globe, we’re running out of time to reverse our carbon footprint.”

But rather than being paralyzed by the pressure, IT leaders are leveraging the urgency to make progress. Coming together to develop some common frameworks and metrics will help. Just as importantly, says Wetmur, is “picking some things to focus on.”

Let sustainability begin with IT

One of the easiest — and most impactful — areas to begin to address sustainability is IT itself.

“Within my role as CIO, I can have a direct and measurable impact within all technology for the entire enterprise,” says Kirkland. “What we control in IT was where we started because it is important to get that right. It is a huge part of Choice’s impact on sustainability.”

Choice Hotels was the first hotel company to go all in on public cloud, shifting more than 1,000 software applications to Amazon Web Services over a three-year period. “Committing to going all-in with the cloud was an easy decision to make for many reasons,” Kirkland says. “Everything we do in technology needs to tie back to business value; that is why we exist. That decision has had positive impact on business outcomes and sustainability at the same time.”

Running in the cloud results in higher server utilization, which means Choice can run three times the workload with three times more carbon emissions avoidance, according to Kirkland before even calculating the increased energy efficiency of public cloud data centers versus on-premises. “And it’s not just cost avoidance and efficiency,” adds Kirkland. “Running in the cloud has provided countless benefits to the business, especially during the pandemic where reaction speed and ability to pivot quickly were so critical.”

Vuori Clothing, a company some 75 years younger than Choice Hotels, heavily invested in cloud from the start with just two on-premises servers to support tasks such as printing. “Everything else is SaaS and PaaS and IaaS,” says Muehlberger. “As we build APIs and connectivity layers, we’re moving toward a serverless environment so we won’t be wasting any CPUs or environmental resources until they’re actually needed.”

Within most IT functions, cloud migration is often the first order of sustainability business. But infrastructure is only part of the equation when it comes to a true calculation of technology’s carbon footprint. “The question about ‘what else?’ is where it gets more complicated,” says Kirkland who plans to close the company’s final data center in 2023. The focus is shifting to streamlining testing data environments and maximining engineering efficiency while minimizing infrastructure costs. That’s a big area of focus for the CIOs involved in SustainableIT.org.

At Morgan Stanley, IT has focused heavily on driving efficiencies in the data center, re-evaluating refresh rates through an environmental impact lens. In some cases, it may make sense to modernize sooner to take advantage of new equipment offering more computing and a smaller carbon footprint.

“It’s easier to measure the impact of a data center and compute power,” says Wetmur. “The next thing to consider is how to measure the impact of running systems and applications, how to measure the carbon impact further down in the organization and get to a stage where you understand the impact of what you’re building.”

One of Wetmur’s biggest challenges is reducing costs while delivering new, more agile solutions for Morgan Stanley’s business and clients. Being able to integrate sustainable development into IT culture will address that challenge as well. “This will help us address the carbon footprint of our applications as part of the software development lifecycle, improve measurability and transparency, reduce unnecessary or excess cycles, and better leverage our hardware,” says Wetmur. “We’re constantly looking for new solutions and learning more sustainable ways to manage those applications, looking at them from a cost to compute and environmental standpoint.”

Data drives business sustainability progress

Parallel to their internal sustainability efforts, CIOs are working hand-and-hand throughout the business to advance enterprise sustainability goals. Investors, regulators, customers, and supply chain partners are demanding greater transparency into climate and sustainability reporting and results. So, too, are business leaders. They are looking for data quality and accuracy to measure carbon footprint, supply chain optimization, and green revenue in real-time.

At Choice Hotels, the IT organization is partnering with a new vice president of ESG charged with spearheading efforts internally and with franchisees to manage the impact of more than 7,000 hotel properties around the world. “We’ve started with gathering and measuring the data,” says Kirkland.

The company is working with Schneider Electric to install monitors at all hotels to gather data from their utility providers and aggregate it into a dashboard. “Using that data, we can find opportunities to improve profitability for our hotels while at the same time improving sustainability,” says Kirkland. One hotel discovered abnormally high water consumption, ultimately traced back to a leaking pool to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in lost profits and wasted water.

At Morgan Stanley, Wetmur’s IT organization works with the enterprise ESG function to ensure it has the data and applications necessary to achieve the firm’s sustainability goals. IT is also teaming up with Morgan Stanley’s global sustainable finance group, launching a global sustainable finance technology group that partners with business units to meet ESG goals from a technical perspective. As part of their mission, they collaborate with Morgan Stanley’s sustainable insights lab, which provides centralized ESG data and quantitative analysis. The aim is to use data to identify use cases; guide future decision-making and prototyping of sustainable solutions; and offer sustainability advisory services for application and product development. In addition, Morgan Stanley IT is also collaborating with the company’s corporate services group as it architects new buildings to ensure they are integrating sustainable solutions and technology into the company’s expansion efforts. 

One of the biggest challenges in sustainability is “defining the value of this work,” says Lesley Salmon, senior vice president and global CIO at Kellogg. “As an industry we know this needs to be done and it’s important that we show our shareholders how this investment will drive growth, not just mitigate risk.”

Data plays a leading role in that effort at the multinational food manufacturer. “Data management, automation, analytics is critical to reviewing our progress in ESG. As data is a key pillar in IT, we play a significant role in influencing what we can report and how we report it,” says Salmon.

Leveraging data for measuring and managing sustainability in the supply chain, however, can be challenging, Salmon says. “We have a complex supply chain and many farmers particularly smaller local farmers do not have access to technologies for us to truly utilize blockchain or APIs to track,” Salmon explains.

A sustainability platform for the future

Automating more of this work, however, is the way forward. “As you look toward the future, companies are going to start building APIs and exposing information about what they do so that others can consume it, analyze it, and share more broadly,” says Vuori Clothing’s Muehlberger. Part of the mission of SustainableIT.org is to build those frameworks that will define what data should be capture, how it should be captured, and standards for publishing and sharing it. “We want to build a standard and a playbook so CIOs don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” says Muehlberger.

At Vuori Clothing, where the mission is grounded in ethical manufacturing using sustainable materials, being able to automate more of the data collection from suppliers will streamline what is now a labor-intensive process, and it will help and deliver richer insights.

“From a materials acquisition standpoint, we’re already way ahead of any competitor in terms of what we’re doing with our mandates for suppliers,” says Muehlberger. “Automating the reporting and capture of that will enable us to report it on a more consistent basis versus just stating our policies and producing an annual report.” Instead of having suppliers fill out a form indicating how they’ve adhered to Vuori’s requirements, they would write that into exposable APIs so Vuori (or others) can then collect and use that data. Muehlberger envisions a time when he could do this with logistics partners and technology vendors providing carbon emissions data and other sustainability data in an automated, consumable way as well.

While sustainability is core to the mission at Vuori, “this is a problem everywhere, in one, way, shape, or form,” Muehlberger says, “How can we publish and showcase what we’re doing from a sustainability standpoint, whether it’s a central website or something more automatic and native. One of my goals is to see where we can push to create change in that regard.

Cloud Computing, Green IT, IT Leadership, IT Strategy

Education is changing. In part, this shift is driven by students, who increasingly demand virtual and hybrid learning experiences that better match the ways they like to consume content at home. Meanwhile, virtual education has become an essential element of resilience for educational institutions by ensuring that students don’t fall behind during closures.

In the schools and universities of tomorrow, hybrid and virtual learning will play a central role in enabling inclusive education that’s focused on the unique needs of individual students and better able to drive engagement at all levels. As a result, student outcomes will likely improve. Evidence from corporate training programmes suggest that this could be the case, demonstrating that virtual learning boosts retention rates by 25% to 60% compared to 8% to 10% using traditional methods.

However, as schools and universities make the move to virtual and hybrid learning, many are encountering barriers that are slowing progress considerably.

The key challenge is one of complexity. The average number of edtech tools in schools is over 1,400, and IT teams will likely struggle to ensure the efficacy of such a large number of systems.  There are also questions around the impact on students. With no easy way to monitor student engagement there is no clear path to optimising virtual and hybrid experiences. Similarly, a lack of necessary features and capabilities in many of the tools, such as the ability to combine live, real-time, and video functionality,  mean that institutions can struggle to offer a range of learning experiences, necessary if they’re to tailor virtual learning to the needs of different students. 

Overcoming these barriers is crucial for educators, for the simple reason that doing so unlocks a range of benefits. For one, the curriculum is extended to any location, and schools can benefit from a talent pool of educators that includes anywhere with a good broadband connection. Virtual and hybrid learning creates both global and remote learning and delivers accessibility and localisation for learners.

Of course, there are still some people for whom broadband access is still a problem. But if this gap is closed, then the approach unlocks a 24/7 model for learning for all, where content is always available to students, and they can learn in a self-paced asynchronous manner. Additionally, virtual and hybrid learning can support a range of content formats to support self-serve learners, such as video on demand (VoD). This is a much more tailored approach based on providing personalised learning journeys for students. And of course, virtual experiences are available regardless of whether schools and universities are open or not, helping to build resilience.

Thanks to the cloud, the barriers currently holding institutions back can be overcome. Kaltura’s Video Experience Cloud for Education is a case in point. Kaltura is a cloud company focused on providing compelling video capabilities to organisations.

Kaltura Video Cloud for Education powers real-time, live and video on-demand for online development and virtual learning. Its products include virtual classroom, LMS video, video portal, lecture capture, video messaging, virtual event platform, and other video solutions — all designed to create engaging, personalised, and accessible experiences during class and beyond.

Kaltura content, technology, and data is fully interoperable and seamlessly integrates with all major learning management systems, enabling schools to quickly deploy and get started in transforming learning for their students and staff. The Kaltura Video Cloud for Education helps drive interaction, build community, boost creativity, and improve learning outcomes

Built on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud, Kaltura provides an elastic, reliable, performant, and secure platform that can enable schools and universities to accelerate their move to virtual and hybrid learning. 

For more information on how to use video to drive student engagement online click here to discover Kaltura’s Video Cloud Experience.

Education and Training Software, Hybrid Cloud, Virtualization

CIO, the old wisecrack has it, stands for “career is over.” It’s a profession that’s fraught with ways to be forcibly escorted from your prestigious office and down to Human Resources to be walked through your severance package, and from there, after having signed mutual non-disparagement and non-compete agreements, along with a few other bits and pieces of paperwork, out the door to try your hand at a life of enforced leisure.

If this — living a life of leisure, supported by severance checks until they run out — is what you have in mind, here are seven popular ways to turn your employer into the most recent entry in the job-history section of your LinkedIn profile.

Or maybe, just maybe, you don’t want to experience this relaxing fate. Maybe you love your job (or hate looking for the next one) enough that you welcome new ways to stay where you are, to continue earning a living with a salary, not severance checks.

If that’s your goal, familiarize yourself with these job-termination traps so you can keep on keepin’ on.

1. Arguing about … just about anything. Don’t do it.

As CIO you’re responsible for what is, in most companies, the hardest-to-understand business function in the organization. That often means you recognize the need to invest budget and effort into arcana like IT’s integration architecture, platform and application lifecycle management, and AI-based information security, to name three items among many.

Because they’re hard for folks who aren’t steeped in the mysteries of our trade to understand, the executive leadership team (ELT) might be suspicious about these expenditures, calling them “technology for technology’s sake” or some other popular expression of skepticism.

As they are clearly on the wrong side of truth and righteousness, you might find yourself tempted to argue with them. But unlike discussions and conversations, arguments end up with one winner and one loser. Guess which one you get to be. And being perceived as argumentative doesn’t score you any points either.

One more thing: The CFO is the ELT member most likely for the CIO to argue with. Also the most potentially hazardous to a CIO’s career health.

2. Mis-defining or mis-managing the business/IT relationship

Lines-of-business leaders aren’t your customers. They’re your peers and collaborators in creating competitive advantage, or, if times are tough, in avoiding the creation of competitive disadvantages. Stress this as everyone’s shared goal in every conversation you have with your fellow executives. Because if they’re your customers they’ll think they’re always right, which means you can’t fail to disappoint them.

Then make sure everyone who deals with IT finds the experience as pleasant as possible. Because if they don’t like you, they won’t collaborate with you, and might decide it would all be better with someone else at IT’s helm.

3. Failing to keep critical projects on track

Projects are how organizations make tomorrow different from yesterday in an intentional way. IT’s name tends to be on any project that involves information technology, even for projects whose true focus is business change (all of them).

Which means that when projects fail, IT’s name — your name — will probably be on the failure. Failed strategic projects are a great way for CIOs to become ex-CIOs.

And, by the way, if you needed this article to point this out to you, you probably need more guidance on how to succeed as a CIO than you can get from one magazine article.

Just sayin’.

4. Failing to invest in fault-tolerant infrastructure

Every member of the ELT shops on Amazon.com, which means every member of the ELT is frequently exposed to a company whose systems never, so far as they can tell, ever go down. So they know six-sigma levels of system reliability are possible.

If your systems aren’t as reliable, or at least nearly so, buh-bye!

5. Ransomware

Once upon a time, information security failures were merely expensive and embarrassing. No more. They’re now life-threatening — for real if your company is in the healthcare business; metaphorically if not because (do you really need me to explain this?) ransomware attacks can put a company out of business.

Completely securing your systems from ransomware attacks probably isn’t possible. But securing them well, and with what might be termed a “high-recoverability architecture,” is something IT can achieve. Even more important is creating a ransomware response playbook and exercising it on a regular basis.

Because if your company is attacked, your response playbook is what demonstrates that IT knows what it’s doing and that everything is under control.

If instead your response is to panic, everyone panics. After which, buh-bye!

6. Ignoring bad managers

The managers who report to you are the people who deliver the results you get the credit or blame for. This is recursive — they have supervisors who deliver these results to them; supervisors have staff.

Managers at all levels are responsible for organizing how work gets done so it gets done right; they’re responsible for creating the organizational listening mechanisms they need to make sure they know it’s getting done right, and so on.

They’re also responsible for creating the sort of work environment that encourages employees to stay, and, even better, to recommend you to their friends.

Put simply, CIOs who want to keep their jobs create organizations people want to be part of.

Just in case the point isn’t clear: We live in an era in which even well-intentioned conversations can be misunderstood as hostile and harassing speech, and “But they shouldn’t find what my manager said offensive,” isn’t going to gain you much sympathy in HR.

You might think the key letters in “microaggression” are “m i c r o.” But in most organizations, grousing that an aggrieved employee should have a thicker skin and better sense of humor is an excellent way for a CIO to get on the severance gravy train.

7. Failing to keep an eye on your protégé

Having to keep an eye out for bad managers is enough of a challenge. Good managers can be even more of a threat, because not only do they very likely want your job, even worse, they might be qualified for it.

Not only that, they might be in a good position to get it, too, as they’ll be in a perfect situation to take credit for your shared successes while keeping any of the other missteps and blame storms squarely on your desk.

Seven steps to heaven?

As CIO you have one more thing to look out for, and it just might be the most promising one: Get yourself promoted. Yes, yes, yes, in principle all members of the ELT are created equal, and a CIO isn’t likely to be the next CEO.

But COO? CIOs have lots of opportunity to prepare themselves for running a business’s operations. Even better, having a highly competent protégé stops being a fraught and becomes one more way you’re the right person for the job when it becomes available.

CIO, IT Leadership

Enterprise CIOs are gobbling up a vast buffet of advanced cloud services in the post-pandemic era.

In the aftermath of that unprecedented time, the cloud has evolved from a single-purpose compute and storage IaaS that saved business from global collapse into a far more complex platform capable of supporting a new class of advanced applications and dubbed by CIOs as the next-generation engine of innovation.

“Historically, the cloud has been deployed by organizations in a tactical manner, such as through data center consolidation. However, organizations of today view cloud as a highly strategic platform for their digital transformation needs,” says Sid Nag, a vice president and analyst at Gartner, noting that the cloud is now the foundation to all digital transformations.

In this post-pandemic era, CIOs, CTOs, and data scientists have tapped into so many layers of the cloud that it’s clear no three-point checklist will convey the abundance of business benefits gained. Following are several examples of how companies from a range of industries are making the most of the cloud today.  

McDermott cloud platform fuels new revenue streams

When a giant contractor of offshore oil rigs and liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities invests heavily in building sustainable, low carbon-footprint structures and products, it’s a sea change.

For oil rig constructor McDermott International, that transformation has been fueled by its adoption of the cloud, where massive data and analytics services have not only enabled the company to build its rigs and LNGs more sustainably and efficiently, they have enabled McDermott to productize these blueprint for partners, adding new business opportunities for the company.  

Cloud Computing, IT Leadership, IT Strategy

Enterprise CIOs are gobbling up a vast buffet of advanced cloud services in the post-pandemic era.

In the aftermath of that unprecedented time, the cloud has evolved from a single-purpose compute and storage IaaS that saved business from global collapse into a far more complex platform capable of supporting a new class of advanced applications and dubbed by CIOs as the next-generation engine of innovation.

“Historically, the cloud has been deployed by organizations in a tactical manner, such as through data center consolidation. However, organizations of today view cloud as a highly strategic platform for their digital transformation needs,” says Sid Nag, a vice president and analyst at Gartner, noting that the cloud is now the foundation to all digital transformations.

In this post-pandemic era, CIOs, CTOs, and data scientists have tapped into so many layers of the cloud that it’s clear no three-point checklist will convey the abundance of business benefits gained. Following are several examples of how companies from a range of industries are making the most of the cloud today.  

McDermott cloud platform fuels new revenue streams

When a giant contractor of offshore oil rigs and liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities invests heavily in building sustainable, low carbon-footprint structures and products, it’s a sea change.

For oil rig constructor McDermott International, that transformation has been fueled by its adoption of the cloud, where massive data and analytics services have not only enabled the company to build its rigs and LNGs more sustainably and efficiently, they have enabled McDermott to productize these blueprint for partners, adding new business opportunities for the company.  

“These were products built for internal use but now software customers are asking for it so that has become a revenue stream for us,” says McDermott CIO Vagesh Dave, noting this internal shift to sustainability is enabling his customers to move away from gasoline. “Now, when engineers are designing an oil platform or LNG facility, they can actually pick one with lower carbon content.”

Dave says IT advancements in the cloud and related services have transformed McDermott — and its industry — into innovation engines. Moreover, analytics on McDermott’s cloud-based data platform provide the company with key insights about business trends and real-time shifts in its supply chain.

“Suppose we’re looking at a large shipment from Italy, and you’re looking at supply chain dependencies, the data predicts there may be a spike there,” Dave says, adding that this information is very valuable to McDermott’s customers.

McDermott is also using AI and visual analytics to detect incorrect configurations or defects in its designs, and it is training AI models to analyze bids from suppliers according to pre-set conditions. Such automations could provide McDermott a significant productivity boost, Dave says.

Liberty Mutual expedites data science in the cloud

Liberty Mutual is one of the most advanced cloud adopters in the US. And that is in no small part thanks to the vision of CIO James McGlennon, who has built a robust hybrid cloud infrastructure primarily on Amazon Web Services but with specific uses of Microsoft Azure and, lesser so, Google Cloud Platform.

Liberty Mutual’s cloud infrastructure runs an array of business applications and analytics dashboards that yield real-time insights and predictions, as well as machine learning models that streamline claims processing. In fact, 60% of the insurer’s global workloads run in the cloud, delivering significant savings in hardware and software purchasing, but the big benefit comes in the form of business insights from analytics that are immeasurable, McGlennon says.

Liberty Mutual’s data scientists employ Tableau and Python extensively to deploy models into production. To expedite this, the insurer’s technical team built an API pipeline, called Runway, that packages models and deploys them as Python, as opposed to requiring the company’s data scientists to go back and rebuild them in Java or another language, McGlennon says.

“It’s really critical that we can deploy models quickly without having to rebuild them in another platform or language,” he adds. “And to be able to track the effectiveness of those machine learning models such that we can retrain them should the data sets change as they often do.”

The insurer uses, for example, Amazon Sage Maker as well as Python to build machine learning models. Liberty Mutual’s IT team has also created a set of components called Cortex to enable its data scientists to instantiate the workstations they need to build a new model “so the data scientist doesn’t have to worry about how to build out the infrastructure to start the modeling process, “McGlennon says.

With Cortex, Liberty Mutual’s data scientists can simply set their technical and data-set requirements, and a modeling workstation will be created on AWS with the right data and tools in an appropriately sized GPU environment, McGlennon explains, adding that he is also focused on technologies that will define the next generation of cloud-based applications, including IoT devices and sensors that, in conjunction with the insurer’s cloud-based computer vision models, could help generate more data for its clients’ insurance claims.

Koch Industries embraces multicloud networking

Integrating a new network after an acquisition can be a sizable headache for any CIO. But for Koch Industries, a $125 billion global conglomerate that has acquired five companies in two years, connecting those acquisitions’ networks to its own sprawling network has been a challenge of another magnitude.

Traditionally, to integrate its acquisitions, Koch would flatten the acquired company’s core network, says Matt Hoag, CTO of business solutions at Koch. While this approach makes connecting the network easier, it is a slow, arduous endeavor that gets more complex as more companies are acquired, he says.

“Cloud deployments typically come in the form of multiple accounts, including multiple LAN segments that need to be connected. This encompasses not only VMs but also many other services offered by the cloud provider,” he says.

The major tasks involved range from deploying core IP routing, to enabling connections among virtual workloads within a multitenant cloud, to connecting multiple clouds, to ensuring remote users can connect to the company’s cloud estate. It’s the kind of challenge few, if any, enterprises can take on without a partner today.

Hoag brought in partner Alkira to help tackle the challenge, as using a third-party platform to handle the abstraction of networking into a software service would vastly reduce the complexity for his own IT team, he says.

Hybrid and multicloud networking, such as Koch’s, represents the next level of cloud maturity, says IDC analyst Brad Casemore, who adds that it’s a category in which most enterprises are woefully behind. “While compute and storage infrastructure have largely aligned with cloud principles and the needs of multicloud environments,” Casemore says, “the network has not kept pace. “

There’s little doubt, however, that hybrid, multicloud networking represents the next level of cloud maturity, says Casemore, who adds that it’s a category in which most enterprises are still behind but will likely evolve to as the digital infrastructures of enterprises mature.

National Grid taps cloud to become ‘intelligence connected utility’

The cloud is one of the core ingredients driving National Grid’s digitization efforts, which Global CIO Adriana “Andi” Karaboutis equates to the energy giant’s core goal: To build the “intelligent connected utility.”

Karaboutis is the chief architect of the $20 billion British multinational’s digital transformation in the UK as well as in New York and New England. She is also working with two governments to shore up cybersecurity of several NATO power grids.

“It’s one of the most stressful, but challenging jobs, securing and transforming critical national infrastructure,” says Karaboutis, who is excited to be a player not only in securing grids against cyberattacks but also in transforming the global energy grid in an era of epic technological advancements to slow climate change.

And the cloud is critical to accomplishing these goals, she says. National Grid is a big Microsoft Azure cloud customer making extensive use of the company’s advanced data analytics, cybersecurity, and AI tools.

For instance, National Grid is applying Microsoft machine learning (ML) algorithms to optimize its “vegetation management” effort to prune plans as part of project “Copperleaf” to prevent fires and other catastrophes. It is also using geospatial technologies in concert with Azure artificial intelligence to make the “right decisions” about how to maintain undersea cables and to make routing and investment decisions, she says.

The utility is also exploring ways to deploy ML algorithms to better manage electricity outages that still occur during power surges, such as during commercial breaks from the World Cup or royal weddings.

Not all data will be migrated off premises — just the data that makes sense running in the cloud, she says.

“I call it cloud density in the right way,” Karaboutis adds. “All of our investments are about value. And in so many cases, it’s not pure ROI and cost savings but it’s removing hidden costs and shared costs of managing technical debt, like not having to do upgrades. It’s about increased security to the state. It’s about capacity management and resiliency. All of that together is how we’re measuring the value of going to the cloud.”

Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation

Orla Daly joined Skillsoft, a maker of learning software, as CIO in March 2022 with a mandate to drive both operational efficiency and transformation from Day 1.

To succeed on those objectives, Daly drew up a longer list of supporting tasks she needed to quickly accomplish. Her list: Understand in detail the business dealings of her new employer and its strategy. Inventory its current technology landscape. Assess the talent on her team. And then use all that information-gathering to identify what needs to change and how to change it.

“It’s really about learning where we were at, so I could formulate a plan forward,” says Daly, who has already launched new training programs to close skill gaps, particularly around the data literacy needed to support digital transformation. She has also prioritized IT projects based on their expected impact on business priorities. Both are actions that Daly believes help her build credibility and a true partnership with her executive colleagues.

“It’s all setting up IT for success in the longer term,” Daly adds.

Like most executives, the honeymoon phase for new CIOs is pretty short. Consequently, incoming CIOs like Daly have less time to make a positive impression, build alliances, and craft plans for success.

How best to do that can vary, but here, several seasoned IT leaders share essential to-dos that new CIOs should accomplish in their first year to set the stage for future success.

1. Make time to listen

CIOs have heard for years now that they need solid communication skills to succeed, but Helen Norris, CIO of Chapman University in California, believes as CIO she must listen as much as — if not more than — she talks. That’s why she embarked on a listening tour when she started her role.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to just jump in and say [what needs to be done],” Norris says. “You have to listen to what people across the organization are saying, hear their priorities. People really welcome it, the chance to be listened to. And you have to give people the opportunity to be really frank with you, and you have to steel yourself to hear complaints, and then build a strategic plan out of what you learn.”

2. Build relationships

When Norris started at Chapman, the IT department “was very much in the background, in that it was a utility,” she says. The university’s leaders recognized that IT wasn’t adequately supporting the school’s core mission, and they gave her a mandate to better engage the academic departments.

To do that, Norris had to reach out to department heads who had considered IT only an afterthought and establish a rapport. That kind of relationship-building is critical for any CIO who wants to be seen as an executive and equal partner in the C-suite, Norris says.

“All executive roles are about people and relationships, and it’s particularly important for a CIO to think in that way because we come from technical backgrounds and some people still think it’s a technical role,” she explains.

She adds: “We’re not doing technology for technology’s sake, or we shouldn’t be. We’re doing technology to improve the student experience, or if you work in a corporation, to increase the customer experience or the staff member experience, and that’s why it’s really about the people.”

3. Build trust

Dr. George F. Claffey Jr., CIO and interim vice president of Institutional Advancement and Strategic Partnerships at Central Connecticut State University, says he, too, focuses on listening and building relationships. He sees building trust as an essential extension of that work.

“No one is going to have confidence in your agenda if you can’t be trusted,” he says.

To build trust, Claffey acknowledges others’ challenges and works to fix them. “We find the win for them,” he says, adding that he also attends meetings held by other departments and demonstrates a genuine interest in their goals so they see “I’m interested in not just IT but everything that’s happening.”

4. Rethink (and rebrand) the IT portfolio priorities

Skillsoft’s Daly says focusing on the most impactful issues and the tech initiatives supporting the most critical business needs can quickly build credibility and demonstrate the value of IT.

That focus, however, doesn’t happen by chance, and new CIOs shouldn’t assume their inherited work portfolios have the right projects prioritized. Daly didn’t and instead reviewed the IT landscape to ensure her team is focusing on the most critical issues first.

Daniel Sanchez Reina, who as a vice president at research firm Gartner works on CIO leadership, culture, and people topics, says CIOs should see this process as an opportunity to highlight the value those projects have to the business. He advises new CIOs to position and even rename projects by their value proposition to help show they’re focused on using technology to create business results.

5. Mind the skills gap

To have a successful CIO shop from the start, Jim Hall, CEO of consultancy Hallmentum, says CIOs “need to have the right people doing the right things at the right time, and they have to have the right skills.”

To ensure they have that, CIOs should assess their teams early on to identify skill gaps in individuals and across teams, and then determine what measures are needed to get in place the right people and skills doing the right thing at the right time.

6. Craft your strategy to deliver business results

Veteran IT leaders say new CIOs can’t take too long in this get-to-know-everything stage. They must quickly take that information and use it to draft a strategy that delivers on the objectives they were hired to achieve.

“After that first 100 days, create a central theme of what you’re going to do,” Claffey says. “It’s then time to start talking about what your plan is.”

After meeting with business unit leaders, holding roundtable conversations with staffers to get a sense of their capabilities, and reviewing the IT landscape, including its project portfolio, Skillsoft’s Daly says she drafted her plan to move forward and rapidly started implementing pieces of it. So far that includes training and development around data, seeing that is a necessary component for digital transformation, as well as an initiative she named North Star, aimed at delivering capabilities for key business processes.

7. Establish your expectations for managers

CIOs often inherit a management team when joining a new company, and they thus inherit their decision-making and accountability structure.

As the new department chief, “You’ll have to figure out what decisions [managers] can make on their own, what they need to run by you, and how you’ll measure them,” says Michael Spires, principal and technology transformation practice lead with The Hackett Group, a business advisory and consulting firm.

Spires says this is a particularly important year-one step for CIOs who were promoted from within, as they have to adjust to being the boss of those who were once co-workers. He adds: “Recognize that the relationship has changed, and so be explicit about your expectations for your former peers.”

8. Name a deputy

A CIO who is successful at being a strategic partner can’t also be running interference on everyday IT operational needs, Sanchez Reina says, “because if the CIO tries to solve all the day-to-day obstacles, then they won’t be able to dedicate time to strategic activities.”

To head off that potential scenario, Sanchez Reina advises new IT chiefs to nominate a deputy to take on that tactical work. CIOs at large organizations can create and staff a specific deputy position, while CIOs at smaller companies will likely have to add such responsibilities to an existing role.

“It might not be a formal role,” Sanchez Reina adds, “but the CIO always has to have that right-hand person.”

The nominated individual should be pragmatic and decisive, he says; they can’t take a month to make a decision. They should be customer-focused rather than heads-down technical workers. And they should be generous with their time, noting “It has to be a person who never says, ‘It’s not my job.’”

9. Determine the CIO’s true place in the hierarchy

Yes, the CIO is supposed to be a C-level position but it sometimes isn’t viewed as such by other executives. Even if it is, the CIO could find that his or her authority is curtailed or undermined by others on the executive team, consultant Hall says.

“The CIO should have full authority over IT, but that might not be true in some organizations. That reality could be quite different. You might be reporting to someone who used to be in that CIO role and they’re going to take ownership over it no matter what you do. Or for historical reasons you might find someone asserting authority. And even if it the CIO has full authority, others may have influence over IT,” Hall explains. “So understand your full scope of authority.”

New CIOs should suss out whether other executives could be usurping the CIO’s power and — at least for the short term — find a pathway around that situation so they can still deliver successes despite any obstacles or obstructions others put up, Hall says.

“The ultimate goal is for the CIO to bring that authority all within the CIO role,” he says, “but in the shorter term the CIO may need to be working collaboratively with those [other leaders].”

10. Identify influencers within the C-suite

New CIOs would do well to identify those executives who have the most influence on the CEO — “influential meaning the CEO listens to these people,” Sanchez Reina says.

Identifying those individuals and understanding their visions for the organization can provide insights into what the CEO thinks and values, he says — insights that can help CIOs shape their own roadmap, strategic thinking, and priority projects. CIOs can also highlight that alignment to gain buy-in from — and even get champions among — those executives.

11. Get an ally on the board

Similarly, Rick Pastore, senior director and technology research advisor at The Hackett Group, recommends that new CIOs seek out an ally among the directors by identifying and engaging a tech-focused board member. That relationship can help the CIO better understand and, thus, align to the board’s view on the organization’s strategy and its future.

12. Figure out and fix your problem spots

“Figure out where your operational challenges are, whether it’s project delivery or outages or something else. Then determine whether the person in charge of that has a rational reason for that, do they have a plan to fix it, or are they waiting for someone to tell them what to do,” Spires says, adding that “you can’t leave a problem like that festering because it reduces your credibility.”

CIO, IT Leadership

As transformational IT has increasingly become a business imperative, implementation partners have been looking to strengthen their value proposition for their customers. To differentiate themselves from transactional service providers, the more proactive partners are evolving their offerings and approaches, thereby becoming more strategic than they had been in the past.

While IT leaders can maximize the opportunity arising out of this shift by leveraging the partners’ strategies and advanced capabilities, it’s important for them to maintain focus on the risks. Here’s a look at how implementation providers are evolving and how CIOs should approach partnering with them for mutual success.

Shifting to a transformation approach

There is a perceptible change in the way implementation partners are now approaching their clients as compared to earlier, and it is all about becoming a strategic partner for transformational change.

“A partner now enters an account with a broader area of engagement in mind. The discussions may be around a specific project with a CIO, such as implementing a typical solution like Oracle or SAP ERP, but the partner’s core agenda is to bring about an extensive and comprehensive transformation of the client’s IT infrastructure,” says Harnath Babu, CIO at KPMG.

“As the project progresses, the partner discusses the CIO’s pain points and what could alleviate them. This could invariably lead to the partner’s scope getting expanded into, but not limited to, managing emerging technologies, enhancing cost and operational efficiencies, bringing about automation, application development, or improving the system of records,” he says. “Implementation partners are clearly moving from the earlier point approach to a transformation approach.”

Sharing an example of this as it unfolded at KPMG, Babu says, “We engaged with a system integrator to help us with L1/L2 support. In a short time, we scaled it to L3. We found that we could also leverage the partner for managing our infrastructure. Next, we asked the partner to help us with POD development as it was a big challenge to find skilled resources,” says Babu. “So, what started as an L1/L2 service engagement, eventually led to infrastructure management and resource augmentation.”

The POD, or product oriented delivery, is a software development model that entails building small, self-sufficient cross-functional teams that take care of specific requirements or tasks for a project.

Takeaways for CIOs from this trend: Leveraging one partner instead of many frees up CIOs and their teams from more boilerplate deployments, allowing them to focus on what is core to the business. “An implementation partner looks at the total value generated from an account. Therefore, if a CIO gives value to the partner, the latter will reciprocate. This will give CIOs the confidence of having a strong partner behind them. There can then be a project director to manage the project on a day-to-day basis and the CIO can intervene only when there is budget or strategy involved,” says Babu.


Building Centers of Excellence 

With the aim of adding value to their customers, implementation partners are increasingly realizing the importance of building technological expertise.

“To keep pace with the market and stay relevant, implementation partners are building on human capital and expertise. For instance, most partners lacked competency in cloud as there wasn’t much requirement related to it in the past. However, as cloud is gaining a strong traction, they have also upped the ante,” says Subramanya C, global CTO at business process management company Sagility (formerly HGS Healthcare). 

So, when Subramanya decided to move the company’s SAP, SharePoint portal, intranet, and other applications to the cloud, he roped in a partner who had a Center of Excellence on cloud and 12 to 15 subject matter experts (SME) on the technology.

“Partners with such capabilities were not seen in the past,” he says. “More than 100 servers had to be migrated in a few weeks. Immense planning, resources, and mitigation of risk were involved in the project. However, the partner’s strong technical expertise, which formed the basis of the center of excellence, made sure that the project got completed smoothly and as per the scheduled plan,” says Subramanya.

Takeaways for CIOs from this trend: Although implementation partners can provide deeper expertise than they could in the past, IT leaders should not be complacent when enlisting it. “For complex projects, like ours, strong governance is required from the enterprise technology leader’s end,” Subramanya says. “IT leaders can outsource a task or an activity to a partner and their SME, but they can’t outsource their responsibilities. Therefore, we ensured a strong governance framework was in place while implementing this project. We also had our own SME working in close collaboration with the partner’s experts.”


Collaborating with other partners

The evolution of technology, driven by modernization of applications and services, is catalyzing collaboration among system integrators.

As Archie Jackson, head of special initiatives, IT, and security at digital transformation company Incedo says, “I have seen system integrators coming together to offer solutions, a trend that wasn’t visible in the past. Today, products don’t work in silos. One product has multiple linkages with other products, and it orchestrates and expands into other areas. For instance, a security solution today is not limited only to the network. It is connected to end point and applications, too. Therefore, one project could spill over to another. A partner, however, may not have the expertise or the bandwidth to execute everything, which leads to collaboration with other partners.”

Incedo was in talks with a partner some time back for implementing managed links for connectivity. The end-to-end managed service would have offered remote connectivity to access corporate network from anywhere in the world.

“During the conversations, the partner suggested he could bring another implementation partner to enhance the cybersecurity of the links. It came across as a logical fit because the links had to be secure, but I had not seen a partner collaborating with another one like this in the past,” says Jackson. Takeaways for CIOs from this trend: One implementation partner bringing another partner may help a CIO, but it could also increase the cost of the project. “This is a good option only if a CIO wants to build capability. The primary partner will build his margin into the project for which he is getting the second partner, thereby increasing the cost for the CIO.  If CIOs have the capacity to architect a solution more efficiently, they should do so in-house,” says Jackson.

IT Strategy