New Zealand’s start to 2023 has been challenging, with Auckland hit by torrential flooding in January followed by Cyclone Gabrielle in February, which left a trail of destruction across Northland, Hawkes Bay, and the East Coast.

For Foodstuffs North Island, the supermarket cooperative behind well-known brands like New World, Pak’nSave, and Four Square, several of their stores were cut off, damaged, and without connectivity as a result.

Simon Kennedy, the company’s CDO, says his team performed “minor miracles” to maintain operational flow and provide access to essential supplies for affected communities.

Kennedy said they had their first trial run getting trading up and running during an emergency following Cyclone Hale, which impacted parts of the East Cape in mid-January. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) contacted Foodstuffs after the cyclone made landfall in the region. Three communities were cut off by road, preventing supplies getting in, and there was no power or cellular coverage.

“With cash the only option and communities running out, it was beginning to look quite dicey in terms of supply and, in this situation, transacting,” says Kennedy.

The team examined ways of getting non-cash transacting up and running while the area remained without power and cell-phone coverage. They decided to source some Starlink machines, but the current ones only connected wirelessly so they needed to think how to connect them to their store Eftpos terminals, which use ethernet.  Then came the challenge of how to get the kit out to the affected stores with the roads cut off.

Consumer-grade Starlinks were sourced in retail outlet Noel Leemings in Gisborne, but they were unable to pay for the units online and get them delivered. The Foodstuffs team called on the Pak’nSave owner down the road who got his team to get the Starlinks and pay for them.   

A local Datacom field tech, contracted to Foodstuffs, configured the devices, along with some wireless Eftpos machines, and was taken by NEMA on a light aircraft to get equipment to the Four Square stores in Te Araraoa and Hikurangi Ruatoria, along with emergency supplies to be dropped in the area.

“It doesn’t sound like a dramatic step but [it] actually was to get these Four Square stores back, trading on something other than cash for communities that were running out of cash,” adds Kennedy.

The incident, as a result, prompted him and a small team to start work on a strategic plan to address emergency situations and contingencies to keep stores operational for customers.

Crisis management mode engaged

However, just a couple of weeks later, Auckland was hit by an unprecedented flooding event that killed four people and affected thousands of homes and businesses. 

Some of the most dramatic pictures from that time were at Pak’nSave in Wairau Park, with the store almost completely submerged and people climbing up high shelves to escape the deluge. But within a week, the Wairau Park store was open again. Kennedy says it was an incredible job to deliver what was, in effect, a store opening program in six and a half days. 

“Those on the forefront of the cyclones from my team were also the people who performed, frankly, minor miracles to get the Auckland flooded stores back up and running,” says Kennedy. “The whole store had to be lifted out, cleaned multiple times, and restocked. From an IT point of view, all the checkout cabling and self-checkouts had to be upgraded to gel-based waterproof cabling, and devices were refitted, and back-of-house equipment was reset.”

With Cyclone Gabrielle looming a couple of weeks later in February, Foodstuffs initiated its crisis management process. The cross-functional collaboration across the business was used during the Covid-19 response and is rolled out for acute events such as severe weather.

The impact of the cyclone on Northland, parts of Auckland’s west coast, Coromandel, Hawkes Bay and the East Coast became apparent in the days that followed. Flooding was widespread, thousands of homes and businesses were damaged, and many areas were cut off due to landslides and washed-out bridges. Power outages were extensive, too, and cell-phone coverage was again affected in many areas, all of which led to the declaration of a national state of emergency.

At the peak of the cyclone aftermath, 74 Foodstuffs stores in the region were affected, and the organisation kicked into crisis management recovery mode. This meant, “keeping our customers safe, and our team members safe,” says Kennedy. “Then we had to think about how to maintain our ability to trade, how to get the supply chain back up and running, and how to deal with road closures.”

Again, came the technology challenge of how to get the stores operational and how to get them reconnected and trading sustainably.

“The work that steadily went on to figure out how we might use Starlink in a network pattern hadn’t reached the end but here we were needing something,” he says. “It was then that the amazing piece of technical work from people in my team came together and tried to figure it out.”

The team of 30 from IT operations and security, architecture, enterprise systems, and customer digital products worked through a process to hash out the concept and then scrutinised it from a security and performance point of view. They then set up an environment to see if it would work in theory, ran tests and made the changes required across various network settings and firewalls that would make it possible to deploy. 

The team deployed the network pattern to its first store to ensure it worked in a live environment. The store happened to be Gisborne Pak’nSave, the supermarket that came to the aid of the Four Square in the earlier cyclone event. 

The solution was then rolled out more widely and the work the team not only allowed trading on cards on wired and wireless Eftpos machines, but it also got all their backend systems, self checkouts, and fuel systems for larger supermarkets with petrol stations on-site. 

“It was a really neat piece of engineering design, but it also [showed] real tenacity to get it done,” he says “We eventually deployed that solution to eight stores. For quite a few of them, a field tech went out on helicopters to get it up and running.”

They even enlisted the help of the organisation’s CEO Chris Quin to get Eftpos units delivered when he was making a trip by chopper to stores that were cut off by road access. 

As power was restored and cell service resumed over the following days, the need for the solution lessened, but Kennedy points out that for a period of 24 to 72 hours, the work the team did meant the difference between a store being able to operate or not.  

But the temporary solution they came up with is not sustainable, Kennedy points out. After moving out of crisis response mode, the team now works on how to design a robust solution that can be deployed in the event of another emergency. They’ll also need to ensure that whatever contingencies they come up with remain current and able to help their stores in areas more vulnerable to severe weather events.

“Yes, we’ve been able to do something really fast, but that’s because we’ve got a consistent network pattern across our stores that we can rely on where it’s deployed,” says Kennedy. “We’ve got a notable team that knows that inside and out, and we’ve got the kind of culture that means people will go the extra mile and make things happen.”

Emerging Technology, IT Leadership

Technology work attracts neurodivergent people. So if you are leading a tech team, it’s likely that someone in your crew may be on the autism spectrum (ASD), be living with ADHD, or have an auditory processing disorder, learning disability, or other mental difference. Without the right accommodations, many neurodiverse professionals can struggle and, eventually, leave. These modifications are typically not equipment you can install or tasks to add to HR’s plate. They are behaviors and processes that start with you.

“This is the unique challenge of leadership,” says Brian Zielinski, vice president of technology at Circa. “Some of the most productive, talented individuals have challenges in terms of how they interact with others, or with the world. That talent is precious. If you can create an environment where they can be productive, you’ve got a leg up on the competition.”

To accomplish that, you likely need to do more than you are. A recent Wiley study found that 60% of business leaders believe they are working to foster an inclusive culture while half of Gen Z tech workers felt uncomfortable in a job because of their gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, or neurodevelopmental condition. This disconnect is hitting companies hard when it comes to retaining talent. The reason most young tech workers gave (20%) when asked why they left or wanted to leave a role was that they lacked a sense of belonging.

I asked experts how to fix this. And it turns out that most of the adjustments neurodiverse people need are relatively simple and inexpensive to implement.

“And most of what we think of as accommodations make the environment better for everybody,” says Cara Pelletier, M.A., senior director of DEI at holistic performance management platform 15Five. “When you’re implementing something that makes life easier for somebody with a disability, you’re making life easier for everybody.”

1. Ask people what they need

Neurodiversity includes a wide range of styles, disabilities, preferences, and needs. You can’t know what any of those are until you ask, which is the best place to start.

“In most of my internal messaging before a meeting, I ask, ‘Do you need any accommodations?’” explains Chloe Duckworth, co-founder and CEO of Valence Vibrations, which makes digital solutions for neurodiverse teams. “I make sure I’m asking the question in our very first encounter.”

If you are leading a team and have not already done this, you might hesitate to raise the subject.  

“The most important thing you can do as an executive trying to support disabled or neurodivergent employees,” says Duckworth, “is to ask them what they prefer. It can be uncomfortable for people to constantly advocate for themselves without knowing if their boss or peers will be accommodating. So a lot of disabled people don’t feel comfortable disclosing their diagnosis. As executives, it’s incumbent on us to proactively ask employees what they need.”

You might feel that you don’t want to probe into things that aren’t your business, bring up something that might make your team member feel uncomfortable, be rude, or know what to say. You don’t have to ask about their disability or neuro type, though.

“People don’t need a diagnosis — and shouldn’t have to disclose one — for you to be able to accommodate the best way for them to perform in your environment,” says Duckworth. Ask instead, “What type of workplace environment helps you focus,” she says.

2. Build a safe psychological space

If you find that getting people to ask for what they need is a challenge, it may mean that your work environment does not feel safe or that people don’t trust the company.

“The more psychological safety there is in an environment, the more you’re going to find disclosure of what would help people perform best or deliver results best,” says Bettina Greene-Thompson, program manager for DEI talent acquisition at Amazon.

For Circa, this took some effort. “The biggest cultural change was building an environment where individuals felt comfortable sharing,” says Zielinski. “We were not getting that reporting early in our journey. That took bold statements by leadership. We did mental health roundtables, where we split up into groups and talked about our own experiences. I think that humanized it for everybody.”

This was true at Amazon, too. “Having environments where conversations can exist and you can feel seen and authentic, has an impact on how secure an individual feels,” says Greene-Thompson. “I know, for myself, having leadership come forth and identify and be public about it, allowed me to feel comfortable with my own disclosure.”

3. Learn to speak many emotional languages

Some people talk in meetings and chat effortlessly with you and coworkers. Others communicate as if they are being charged a fee for every word. Some gesticulate enthusiastically while others present such a flat affect, you wonder if they spoke at all. The way someone expresses themselves can be the result of ASD, their cultural background, and many other factors. It’s important to listen to the intention and meaning of what people say, not only their emotional delivery.

“About 10% of the worldwide population is estimated to have alexithymia,” explains Duckworth. “This is an emotional perception deficit that commonly coexists with autism, ADHD, and anxiety disorders.”

Emotional perception can have a huge impact on the way your team communicates, though. Duckworth offers an example: Duckworth offers an example from another company that had many brilliant, autistic engineers. All of them raised a red flag that something in the stack was broken. “But because they had a very flat affect in the way they were communicating that challenge, the people on their team didn’t address it appropriately. They didn’t realize how severe the issue was,” she says.

This emotional communication breakdown can happen between people of different genders, cultural backgrounds, and neurotypes, too. “We are trained, neurologically, to interpret emotions by comparing them to people like us,” she explains. “So, if we’re speaking to someone that doesn’t have our same vocal tone patterns to convey emotions, we often misinterpret them and may not realize it.”

4. Document expectations and action items

One simple step that helps every neuro type — and takes the onus of asking for an accommodation off neurodiverse people — is to practice good hygiene around work expectations and the action items that arise in meetings. Use daily, weekly, or monthly checklists to make your expectations clear and easy to reference. And write out action items in the meeting chat or a shared document during the meeting.

“Having clear goals and a checklist of things you’re supposed to accomplish between check-ins is important,” says Pelletier. “People with autism or ADHD also sometimes have auditory processing disorders so they miss part of the conversation, or it takes them longer to process what you’re saying.” That checklist becomes an easy source of truth, viewed by both parties, that can prevent misunderstandings and keep people on track.

“It’s another way to be sure you are on track, which is huge for someone with ADHD, anyone who struggles to prioritize their time, or who’s on the autism spectrum and who may come out of conversations without clarity,” says Pelletier.

5. Offer a written version of meetings and agendas

A simple way to address a wide range of needs is also just good meeting hygiene.

“Make meetings more friendly for neurodivergent people,” suggests Pelletier, “by putting out an agenda ahead of time. This gives people a chance to read it, think about it, process it, and prepare for the meeting.”

Also turn on captioning in meetings and make a transcription of it readily available. This helps anyone with an auditory processing disorder overcome the difficulty of following meetings that are audio only. If you make this standard operating procedure, neurodiverse people for whom auditory processing is a challenge won’t have to ask for anything. And those tools, though often intended for people who are hearing impaired “are also helpful for people in a noisy environment, on their commute, who have kids in the background, speak English as a second or third language, and for lots of other reasons,” says Pelletier. It’s even helpful for people who simply prefer to glance over meeting notes for an idea or task, rather than rewatch a video or listen to a recording.

6. Take a break from meetings

One thing 15Five does to provide a more neurodivergent-friendly workplace culture is to have a day without internal meetings, Pelletier says. Most people on your team will appreciate the uninterrupted time as well as a day where they don’t have to dress up, wear makeup, or be social. But for some neuro types, this is huge.

“For many autistic people, video conversations are mentally and emotionally taxing,” explains Pelletier. “Many autistic people have a difficult time matching their facial expression with their emotions. Behind the scenes, there is another track where I’m thinking, ‘Fix your face so you look engaged. Don’t look angry or upset. Look into the camera. Don’t spend a lot of time looking away. It’s like when you watch a duck go across the water. You see only the bird gliding on top. What you don’t see underneath is the feet paddling like hell. If I can turn the camera off, all I have to do is close my eyes, focus on what I hear you saying, and try to interpret the tone of your voice. I don’t have to worry about what is my face doing.”

Video calls can sometimes be necessary or desirable. But often they aren’t. “Provide the grace and flexibility to allow people to show up in a way that’s going to be most productive for them at that time,” says Pelletier. “Sometimes tiny adjustments like that make a huge difference for people.”

7. Get some training

“Education is the foundation,” says Amazon’s Greene-Thompson. The actions you take in your role as leader are important to the success and productivity of a wide range of neuro types. We all know only our own way of seeing and interacting with the world. But ours might not match what others experience.

To discover what you don’t already know, you have to study. Read about neurodiversity. Invite speakers to give presentations. Take a class. “The more you understand,” says Greene-Thompson, “the more you see that your lived experience is only your own perspective. But how do we understand the lived experience of another? How do we make the work environment more accommodating, equitable, and inclusive for everyone? We start with education, training, presentations, through accessing the latest research, and in seeking out subject matter experts in this field.”

This effort usually has benefits beyond your neurodiverse team. “We find that managers start to think, ‘This is going to work for everybody!’ If I, say, start asking what is your communication style or how can I support you best. For a neurodivergent individual, it might be one thing. For a working parent, it might be ‘Can I start at 10 am? Can we schedule meetings at 11?’”

Everyone is different. When you learn about these differences, you might discover people are struggling with something that’s easy to change.

“When we recognize that everybody’s showing up uniquely and support them delivering their best work,” says Greene-Thompson, “we are much more inclusive.”

Diversity and Inclusion, Staff Management

Having a clear vantage point within the organization, CIOs play a vital role bringing together engaged and motivated employees to work toward a common outcome, increase productivity, and achieve better business outcomes. Many CIOs know that a high-performance team is usually greater than the sum of its parts, comprised of talent with highly complementary skills, a broader set of objectives than other teams, and fine-tuned approaches to collaboration and communication. Parallels with sport are often drawn in that simply getting the greatest players together doesn’t guarantee the greatest team because each member has a different function, and each function requires different competencies. The key is understanding where the opportunities lie and how varying strengths can dovetail with each other. That’s when a high-performance team takes shape. 

Here’s a look at some of things that modern CIOs do to assemble a high-performance team to maximize potential.

Focus on the human element

Robert Brine, director, cyber and intelligence solutions, Mastercard SA

Mastercard SA

According to Robert Brine, director for cyber and intelligence solutions at Mastercard SA, many businesses focus too much on the technology and struggle with the human element. But if business leaders want to attract and retain talent, they have to think about people. If you have a Formula One team and you spend all your money on the car but your data analyst working in the background has to use an old, beat-up laptop, they’re going to struggle to deliver the insights the team needs to perform optimally.

Prioritise culture

Seugnet van den Berg, founder, Bizmod


When talking about people, you have to think about business culture, so approach it with the same care and dedication you would developing any other asset, says Seugnet van den Berg, founder of South African IT and management firm Bizmod. “In the new world of work, companies with an attractive culture have a strategic advantage over companies without one,” she says. Culture is not a one-off activity, she adds, it’s a journey and should be maintained and reinforced regularly over time.

Also, take a look at some of your most recent projects and do a critical evaluation of how well you fared, advises Brine. “In asking how well different members of your team were able to handle different tasks, you can develop a list of skills shortages that need to be addressed right away.” And then do the same exercise with an eye on the future, he adds.

Future fit your employees to retain them

“Keeping the right people in a very competitive job market is a challenge we share with many tech companies today,” notes David Cohn, CIO at supermarket retailer Shoprite Checkers. This situation has become exponentially more challenging with the explosion of investment in, and use of, technology since the start of the pandemic.

According to Cohn, addressing this starts with knowing your people and understanding what different individuals want from their career. “We encourage our employees to take ownership of their career paths and empower themselves,” he says. “It’s up to them to determine what training they require and then we work with them to make it available.” As part of this, Checkers’ management and leaders do their best to ensure that various structures are in place to allow for successful learning. Again, it comes back to listening to people, he says.

Enable room to grow

David Cohn, CIO, Shoprite Checkers

Shoprite Checkers

“People want to grow and change, and good business leaders are willing to give them the opportunity to do so,” adds Cohn. Here, you can get HR involved, encouraging them to bring their expertise and ideas to the table to help you come up with the right approach to training and employee development.

In addition, it’s important to remember that an empathetic leader understands that people come from different places and therefore won’t grow and develop in the same manner. Modern CIOs must approach upskilling and training with this reality in mind, advises Benjamin Marais, CIO at financial services company Liberty Group SA.

You also need to create opportunities that expose your employees to what’s happening outside the business, suggests van den Berg. This is especially true where it pertains to future technologies and skills because if teams know what’s out there, they better understand what they need to do to keep up.

Put your best foot forward

Given the rise in competition for skills in the market, you have to demonstrate your best when trying to attract top talent and retain them, stresses Cohn. Today’s candidates aren’t only looking for an employer who will help them achieve their career goals, they also want their work to align with their personal values and beliefs, adds Fred Swanepoel, CIO at Nedbank.

Fred Swanepoel, CIO, Nedbank


“Obviously, people are looking for a competitive package,” he says, “but we believe people are equally attracted to purposeful growth and meaningful work.” Prospective employees want to know what the organization does, so you need to talk about and promote the exciting projects being worked on so they can get a glimpse of what they’d do if they join the business. They’re also interested in what other talent is joining and the type of talent that already works for the business. “They want to know what the organization looks and feels like to decide for themselves if it’s a good fit,” he adds. “This is why diversity, equity and inclusion—a key focus area for most businesses—is so important.”

“With the CIO being promoted from the basement to the boardroom, we now have a seat at the leadership table and must transform the information we have into something the business can use to learn, grow and make better decisions from in the future,” says Swanepoel. “Today, you can’t pass yourself off as a CIO if you’re not central to how the organization operates. And as such, I think the CIO is equally responsible for an organization’s mindset, behaviour and culture because they have all the data around how the business has been doing in these areas in the past.”

Turn failure into a positive

If you want to build a high-performance team, you have to not only embrace failure but encourage it. This mindset is essential so you can use each setback as a learning opportunity. “You have to be okay with making mistakes, with failures and with pushing each other harder so you can turn stumbling blocks into successes,” says Swanepoel.

If you aren’t sure about something new, don’t be afraid to ring-fence it as an experiment and give it a try, adds van den Berg. “Employees love being part of something new when it’s framed as an experiment and when they understand that the purpose is to see how it works, to determine if it will work for us and to decide what we can learn from it,” she says.  

Embrace fusion teams

Benjamin Marais, CIO, Liberty Group SA

Liberty SA

Gone are the days when IT was a standalone department not integrated within the rest of the enterprise, outlines Marais. As a result, the role of the CIO is to foster new ways to work and build fusion teams so ideas flow. Fusion teams are multidisciplinary that blend technology and business domain expertise and share accountability for business and technology outcomes.

A typical fusion team may include roles such as product owner, scrum master, developers and domain experts. These cross-functional teams not only help the business think more broadly, but bring new ideas and solutions to the table in times of crisis. Swanepoel agrees. The new world of work is all about multidisciplinary interaction, he says. This makes it important to rethink how we organise our business—moving away from grouping people by business function and instead grouping them based on shared outcomes. This also means putting a greater emphasis on soft skills.

CIO, Employee Experience, IT Leadership

When technology companies develop innovative new products in the high-performance computing (HPC) space, it allows life science researchers to do new things that they hadn’t imagined before. And when life science researchers make new breakthroughs, it pushes information technology to innovate new approaches to support those scientific advances. It’s a relationship that has driven innovation in the life sciences industry for years. 

This mutually beneficial cycle is particularly evident in the work of the Center for Quantitative Life Sciences (CQLS) at Oregon State University. The center supports more than 26 different departments, providing laboratory equipment, computing infrastructure, training, and access to staff members with extensive experience in genomics, bioinformatics, and computational biology.

Christopher Sullivan, the assistant director for biocomputing at CQLS, recently sat down for an interview where he discussed some of the center’s most exciting new projects. Several of those projects use machine learning models to perform advanced analytics running on the center’s HPC clusters.

Tracking Owls by Sound

Working with the U.S. Forest Service, researchers at Oregon State have developed algorithms that can identify different species of owls from sound alone. They set up recording stations in the woods to capture audio files. They then generate spectrograms — visual representations of the audio inputs — which they analyze using a machine learning model they have trained to recognize distinct species.

In the beginning, the models could only identify a handful of species. But the team saved their audio recordings over the years, about 5 PB captured since the 1990s. In the intervening years, the scientists developed more models, so that today, the project can identify more than 50 different species. At the same time, the technology has advanced, allowing the scientists to re-run that old data more quickly than in the past.

“You give me a new technology, I’m going to push as much data out of that technology as I possibly can,” Sullivan said. “It’s about building the tools that we need alongside the data as it comes at us. And as those tools change, we’re able to go back to the data and redo it.”

This scientific and technological breakthrough is having a meaningful impact on both the economy and the environment. “It’s helping the public monitor the owl populations and all the other animal populations in the forest so that groups can farm the forests properly for wood and different things without harming species,” Sullivan explained.

Monitoring Covid in Wastewater

A lot of the work at CQLS involves genetic sequencing. For example, they regularly analyze the genetic material in wastewater so that they can determine which Covid variants are most prevalent at any given time. 

This is an area where a scientific breakthrough drove advances in computing. Sullivan explained that a new genome sequencing innovation enabled the CQLS to scale up so that instead of doing 2,000 sequences per run, they were able to conduct 2 million sequences per run. And it happened “literally overnight.”

But the computing infrastructure wasn’t designed for that kind of throughput. “So we actually had to go back and develop a whole new stack because the technology changed,” Sullivan said. “We’re constantly doing that at all times.”

Identifying Plankton by Laser Light

Another CQLS project is using genetic sequencing to monitor the health of the ocean. Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a project that analyzes they plankton in seawater. They have a ship that drags a laser device behind it to capture images of the ocean. As the lasers pass over the water, the plankton and other organisms in the water cast a shadow. The team records video of those shadows, which they then analyze with HPC systems powered by GPUs to classify the contents. 

That effort generates a tremendous amount of data — on the order of 100 TB per week. That was more than the CQLS could affordably store and process in the cloud. However, the center’s HPC environment, built with Dell infrastructure featuring NVIDIA GPUs, provided the right balance of performance and cost.

Projects like these are helping Oregon State learn more about the world in which we live and develop innovative new approaches to computing at the same time. Their efforts are improving life and health while also pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with high-performance computing.

For more information, read the OSU customer story here


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IT Leadership

Many Australian enterprises are getting their cloud security strategies wrong. While they are lowering infrastructure costs and introducing efficiencies by moving to flexible multi-cloud platforms, building the right level of security throughout their agile software development lifecycles is becoming difficult.

Almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of respondents to research questions posed by Cybersecurity Insiders, on behalf of Check Point, had integrated their DevOps toolchain into cloud deployments, but are still struggling with a lack of expertise that bridges security and DevOps. Only 16 per cent have comprehensive DevSecOps environments in place.

Senior technology executives gathered for a roundtable luncheon in Sydney recently to discuss why enterprises are often getting their cloud adoption strategies wrong, particularly when it comes to securing their infrastructure, as well as challenges around cloud compliance. The conversation, ‘Cloud tales: Lessons from a cyber incident response team’ was sponsored by Check Point Software Technologies.


Ashwin Ram, cyber security evangelist Office of the Chief Technology Officer at Check Point Software Technologies, says there are multiple factors at play when it comes to getting cloud strategies right.

Firstly, many organisations don’t understand or appreciate how dynamic cloud ecosystems are – a simple misconfiguration or security oversight can expose an organisation, he says.

“Cloud providers are innovating extremely rapidly and as such, it is difficult for cloud security teams to keep pace. The current cyber skills shortage is also a contributing factor as organisations struggle to find the right expertise to address the steep learning curve to bridge security and DevOps,” Ram says.

Further, he says, COVID-19 forced many organisations to rush their remote working and cloud projects in order to be more agile. This has resulted in many cloud projects being rushed through without proper assurance processes.

“Check Point’s Cloud Security Report 2022, 76 per cent of organisations have a multi-cloud strategy, which makes it difficult to implement consistent security. Organisations are struggling to implement the same security settings and policies on all clouds and ensure this is maintained to provide continuous consistency,” he says.

John Powell, principal security consultant at Telstra Purple, adds that it’s very easy to think of the cloud as reducing administration and providing more flexibility.

“But the truth is that there is a lot more to get right up front so that ‘business-as-usual’ is smooth as well as secure. The responsibility for security is shared according to what is outsourced to the cloud provider.

“This means that contractual arrangements are extremely important to make sure the boundary in the shared model is crystal clear. The need for legal expertise and even a cyber/legal mix of expertise is not often considered when moving systems and services to the cloud,” Powell says.

Meanwhile, John Boyd, group chief information officer at The Entertainment and Education Group (TEEG), says the organisation has adopted a hybrid cloud approach, which has provided the best of both worlds.

On-premise infrastructure provides stability for its venues, especially those in very remote locations. But when the business demands agility, the organisation turns to the cloud to meet these demand requirements, Boyd says.

“As for security, our team are testing at every stage of the software development lifecycle. Security is always at the forefront of our team’s mind and during application development, we adopt best practices such as educating staff, and outlining requirements clearly so [they] can focus on the most important issues,” he says.

Why cloud misconfigurations happen and what to do

The misconfiguration of cloud resources remains the most prevalent cloud vulnerability that can be exploited by criminals to access cloud data and services.

Check Point’s Ram says these misconfigurations happen because cloud teams are pushing out incredible amounts of code and building infrastructure at a rapid pace so mistakes are bound to happen.

Ram says that organisations with mature cloud security capabilities are using cloud security posture management tools to gain situation awareness of their cloud ecosystems in real time to automatically remediate misconfiguration.

“In addition to misconfiguration, organisations should also be aware of identity and access management role assumption attacks, which look to elevate privileges after initial entry. These attacks continue to be a significant concern,” he says.

Ram recommends that organisations invest in a tool that can visualise and assess cloud security posture by detecting misconfigurations, while automatically and actively enforcing gold standard policies to protect against attacks and insider threats.

Telstra’s Powell adds that exploiting the poor configuration of cloud resources is often much easier than exploiting software or hardware vulnerabilities or running a phishing campaign against privileged users.

“Misconfiguration is the most prevalent cloud vulnerability because it is often the lowest hanging fruit,” he says.

According to Powell, the configuration of cloud environments provides several technical security controls. He says that measuring technical security controls is best achieved by using technology tools.

“To this end, a cloud security assessment, with an associated tool, can be used to achieve this goal either as a once off or better still, as a regular check.”

TEEG’s Boyd says that the organisation’s resources are hosted exclusively within Azure and the team use Microsoft Cloud Service to proactively manage the security posture of the entire platform.

“Conducting regular assessments and reviewing any new recommendations help to strengthen the security configuration of our cloud resources,” he says.

Getting cloud compliance right

The ongoing technology skills shortage has made it difficult for organisations to find the right staff with skills to complete cloud-related audits and risk assessments.

Telstra’s Powell suggests that first up, organisations should “let machines do what they are good at and let people do what people are good at.’

“Technology controls can be tested and assessed with technical solutions and if this process is automated, then the compliance of the technical controls can be checked with high regularity so that any movement away from compliance is noticed and amended quickly.

“Assessing the actions of people or the flow of process is best assessed by a skilled security auditor and when human resources are scarce, they need to be used where they are most effective,” Powell says.

Secondly, if enterprises don’t have resources available internally to audit security controls or to design and build monitoring systems required to constantly test and assess these controls, then they should reach out to a partner, he says.

“It’s very difficult to retain specialised cyber security skills, so rather than continuing to train new cyber security staff, rely on the people who are already specialists and can provide that service,” he says.

TEEG’s Boyd says that compliance is an ongoing focus for his team, which is operating a business in seven regions, all with their own set of unique regulatory requirements. This requires the organisation to be aligned on its approach to compliance and execution.

“We rely on the expertise of our internal team in conjunction with key vendors that provide us with subject matter advice on risk assessment and establishment of clear policies and controls,” Boyd says.

Who is responsible with a breach occurs?

Attendees at the roundtable also discussed what enterprises need to be aware of when negotiating cloud contracts, particularly who is responsible for what when a breach does occur.

Telstra’s Powell says organisations need to make sure that the clauses of a contract with a cloud service provider defines the scope of what the provider is responsible for and what they are not.

Powell adds that this doesn’t apply only to a breach situation, but to everything that goes before a breach and the recovery from the breach.

“Be sure to include a clause of what can and can’t be tested within the cloud environment. Ask, ‘can we view the cloud service provider’s threat profile, risk assessments and risk register?’

“Most importantly, you cannot outsource accountability so don’t be too quick to believe that your risk is reduced because you are not responsible for the infrastructure that underpins your systems and services.”

Check Point’s Ram adds that most organisations will do well to understand the shared responsibility model as a first step.

“It’s important to note that the responsibility changes depending on the type of cloud resource you consume from infrastructure-as-a-service to platform-as-a-service to software-as-a-service offerings.

“The shared responsibility model is very specific on who is responsible for what as we saw with the Capital One breach.”

Cloud Architecture

With its legions of fans worldwide, and a dramatised Netflix series to boot, Formula One is enjoying a boom in popularity, culminating in the Formula One group doubling revenue to $360 million in Q1 of 2022, and seeing a profit of $19 million – compared to losing $47 million in the first quarter of 2021.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the 2020-21 season delayed and motor races taking place without fans, Formula One has had an increasingly busy race schedule, a healthy mix of car manufacturers and independent teams vying for the driver and constructor championships, and with countries fighting to add their track to the race calendar.

On the track, meanwhile, regulation changes have seen 2022 cars aerodynamically engineered to allow for closer racing, while an enforced budget cap has been introduced to tighten the gap between race leaders and the rest of the pack.

For Nathan Sykes, CIO and data science director at mid-field team Alpine, achieving high performance on the track comes down to proving the return on investment (ROI) of data science, adopting low-code to improve efficiency, and resetting the value of IT.

Reimaging the IT department as business systems

Sykes’ official title at Alpine F1 is IT Business Systems and Data Science Director, a role he carried over from the team’s days as Renault Sport Racing, since rebranded as Renault’s motorsport arm, Alpine, for the 2021 season. He says he consciously chose business systems because it offered a wider breadth of responsibilities, befitting of his own varied background.

“I’ve done 16-odd years [in F1], as aerodynamicist building my way up from engineer, all the way through to pretty much managing and getting all the data together,” says Sykes.

Alpine F1 team CIO and data science director Nathan Sykes

Renault Group

Data science has become his own differentiator. At Renault Sport Racing, he initially joined as head of data science before being promoted to CDO, and he would later change titles again to IT Business Systems and Data Science Director.

In doing so, however, cracks would emerge. The team’s data was in a poor state, costs were spiralling through third parties, and IT appeared to be a back-office function with minimal engagement with an organisation that offers services spanning from motor racing to road cars and apparel.

“IT was not in a very good position,” admits Sykes. “They were trying to help the business, but it wasn’t happening. We had lots of external contractors that we’re working with, which are expensive.”

“We had the business, who weren’t quite giving us the processes as to how they wanted to work. We never really got the full picture as to how they wanted to work. Therefore, sat at the bottom of it all, was the IT department trying to do their best to give the solutions that they wanted – and really struggling to get on top of it.”

Sykes sought to change the culture, empowering team members to work collaboratively with different departments, and to put business systems at the fore.

By this, Sykes suggests that business systems changed the focus from the business defining what they wanted from IT to a more data-driven, impartial view of current and future requirements. In short, any project would align the defined requirements and scope of the project with the business processes and these in turn would inform the data model.

“It’s taking the ownership of what are the requirements and what are the processes that we need to do and almost get to the point that, before you start developing anything, you’re wireframing it,” Sykes says. “You’ve taken people through the story of what they’re going to see when they get it.”

Building low-code Power Apps for better workflows

From racing simulation and production to data visualisation and collaboration, Alpine F1 is leveraging technology from Microsoft to eke out performance in its race cars and through its teams. The motorsport team is using Dynamics 365 and Power Platform to make faster decisions on the factory floor and Azure for cloud infrastructure and data consolidation and analysis.

With Dynamics 365 and Power BI dashboards, as well as large Surface Studio screens, the team are trying to get a holistic view of their production cycle – but its Microsoft’s low-code Power Apps which are proving to be a real growth area.

Sykes says the motorsport team now has 10 PowerApp developers, up from two last year, with PowerApp workflows having been developed to improve a range of processes, most notably perhaps for nonconformance reports on parts.

Compiling such reports is typically a task “people don’t want to do”, Sykes says. Alpine F1 staff take pictures of components and feed this information back to designers to see if they are correct and fit for purpose. Now that process is streamlined, thanks to a combination of PowerApps, Office 365 and Microsoft Teams.

“It’s one of those things where it probably looks like our best bit of software,” says Sykes, “when it’s realistically dragged and dropped a few things into place.”

Cost cap and data ROI challenges

Alpine’s F1 racing cars have some 200 sensors which collect over 50 billion data points and it’s this data that can help technical staff to improve car aerodynamics, handling, and performance. Today, Alpine’s advanced data models help the team get an edge on the racetrack; take, for example, tire degradation.

Whereas historically, Alpine F1 would rely on historical analysis of how a tire performed over a single qualifying lap, Sykes says the team’s advanced data models can now be used to fill in gaps where they do not have all the information – crucially on tire degradation, where regulation dictates that manufacturer Pirelli can only share limited information with the 10 racing teams.

Proving ROI on data science remains a formidable challenge. In the cost-cap era, where teams must spend no more than $140 million over a single season – falling another $4 million in the 2023 season, Sykes says spend must be tied back to the efficiency of the personnel, even the lap times the cars obtain.

Making the case for data science can be challenging, not least in an industry where not all team principals understand its value.

“I think some people don’t get it as much as others,” Sykes says. “There’s definitely some that do and some that don’t…. [but] I don’t think they’re quite as bought into as you think they might be.”

The cost cap remains a key priority, despite many commendations from bigger teams trying to balance competing in a global series, with less money and restricted resources.

“Not only are we trying to make the cars go as fast as possible,” Sykes said at a conference in London, “we’re also going under cost control.”

“We’re trying to be as efficient as possible… you have to sit there and not only look at what makes the car go faster, but what makes the car more efficiently go fast.”

Automotive Industry, IT Leadership, Sports Software

At the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University, scientists, mathematicians, and software developers conduct manufacturing research, working together to gain new insights from machine, product, and manufacturing data. Manufacturers partner with the team at WZL to refine solutions before putting them into production in their own factories. 

Recently, WZL has been looking for ways to help manufacturers analyze changes in processes, monitor output and process quality, then adjust in real-time. Processing data at the point of inception, or the edge, would allow them to modify processes as required while managing large data volumes and IT infrastructure at scale.

Connected devices generate huge volumes of data

According to IDC, the amount of digital data worldwide will grow by 23% through 2025, driven in large part by the rising number of connected devices. Juniper Research found that the total number of IoT connections will reach 83 billion by 2024. This represents a projected 130% growth rate from 35 billion connections in 2020.

WZL is no stranger to this rise in data volume. As part of their manufacturing processes, fine blanking incubators generate massive amounts of data that must first be recorded at the sharp end and processed extremely quickly. Their specialized sensors for vibrations, acoustics and other manufacturing conditions can generate more than 1 million data points per second.

Traditionally, WZL’s engineers have processed small batches of this data in the data center. But this method could take days to weeks to gain insights. They wanted a solution that would enable them to implement and use extremely low-latency streaming models to garner insights in real-time without much in-house development.

Data-driven automation at the edge 

WZL implemented a platform which could ingest, store, and analyze their continuously streaming data as it was created. This system gives organizations access to a single solution for all their data (whether streaming or not) that provides out-of-the box functionality and support for high-speed data ingestion with an open-source and auto-scaling streaming storage solution. 

Now, up to 1,000 characteristic values are recorded every 0.4 milliseconds – nearly 80TB of data every 24 hours. This data is immediately stored and pre-analyzed in real-time at the edge on powerful compact servers, enabling further evaluation using artificial intelligence and machine learning. These characteristic values leverage huge amounts of streaming image, X-ray and IoT data to detect and predict abnormalities throughout the metal stamping process. 

The WZL team found that once the system was implemented, it could be scaled without constraint. “No matter how many sensors we use, once we set up the analytics pipeline and the data streams, we don’t have to address any load-balancing issues,” said Philipp Niemietz, Head of Digital Technologies at WZL. 

With conditions like speed and temperature under constant AI supervision, the machinery is now able to automatically adjust itself to prevent any interruptions. By monitoring the machines in this way, WZL have also enhanced their predictive maintenance capabilities. Learn more about how you can leverage Dell Technologies edge solutions.


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IT Leadership