Top Business Tech catches up with Chief Information Officer, Alistair Pooley, who looks at the digital transformation, the role it has played in the pandemic, and cybersecurity trends across 2021.
Tell us about Snow Software – what are its priorities moving through 2021?
Snow Software is a leader in technology intelligence, providing software asset management, SaaS management and cloud management platform solutions and services. Our technology provides comprehensive visibility and insight allowing IT leaders to optimise resources, enhance performance and gain agility.
Snow’s number one priority for 2021 is to continue to provide the necessary asset management solutions and visibility to help customers navigate through ongoing uncertainty. Ensuring a clear understanding of what technology investments are being used across an IT environment – and ensuring those assets provide value – will be crucial for businesses in the year ahead. This is essential to not only to weather ongoing economic uncertainty but to support a more permanent shift in remote or hybrid working.
Digital transformation has become an overused buzzword and its true meaning has been blurred. Looking beyond, what does this term now mean for industry leaders?
Over time, the phrase ‘digital transformation’ has lost some of its meaning. For many, it has simply become the next buzzword that describes what businesses wish to achieve. Putting the concept into action and actually making the decision to ‘transform’ the way an organisation works is where results will start appearing.
According to our latest research, over three quarters (76%) of IT leaders said the pace of digital transformation has significantly increased in the past year, and it is unlikely to slow down as organisations continue to adapt. Considering the speed in which the world is shifting to digital, those companies who are already making these decisions will find themselves in better positions in the long term. While adopting new technologies was tied as a top priority, implementing new technologies was also IT’s second-biggest challenge. This will be an area that needs extra attention and governance in 2021.
What have been the main learnings for businesses across the past year or so?
While issues around digital transformation, employee enablement, risk management and cost-cutting won’t disappear, businesses will be able to draw on the lessons learned over the past year to better prepare for the year ahead.
When considering plans for the rest of 2021, it will be critical to look at the convergence of four influential factors: the changing needs around cybersecurity, the shift to hybrid working practices, the need to optimise and manage budgets, the drive to new technology for increased growth and productivity.
Beyond setting priorities, it is important to understand how businesses will achieve them. Technology investment has moved rapidly up the agenda for organisations and given the uncertainty, gaining better visibility and governance over your technology estate can have a positive impact on your growth in 2021.
Cybersecurity has long been a primary concern for businesses and leaders, but it’s become an even bigger focus as a result of the pandemic. What has Snow seen in this sector, and how can organisations overcome these challenges?
One of the biggest risks right now is business email compromise (BEC) – an attack that includes the use of ransomware and phishing to extract money from a firm. There has been a notable switch in criminal strategy. Cybercriminals have gone from trying to install ransomware on somebody’s home computer to force a ransom, to instead targeting businesses and enterprises. There has also been a spike in phishing attacks, in an attempt to take advantage of the prolonged uncertainty remote workers are dealing with. This is even riskier considering the circumstances found by employees who can easily move away from authorised devices to unknown and personal products while remote working which lack the common enterprise security controls.
There are several steps that businesses can take to enforce greater protection against cyber threats. Employing a zero-trust model of security to ensure every individual verifies their identity using multi-factor authentication would be an advisable practice moving forwards. And where at all possible, businesses should avoid employees using insecure home computers for work purposes. For instances where this is unavoidable, ensuring the appropriate measures and resources are in place to minimise is essential. This could include shifting to cloud applications to avoid data being saved to personal devices.
Given the rise in phishing attacks, it would also be worth companies investing in phishing training for all employees with simulated phishing attacks which rather than delivering malicious content, deliver training. That way only those who need the training, end up having to take it.
Are there any other challenges or risks that leaders should be aware of?
Our latest research has found that employee perception of IT has improved, but differing perceptions on technology management and procurement hint at potential issues ahead. While 41% of workers believe that access to technology has improved, there remains a 22-point gap between IT leaders and employees on how easy it is to purchase software, applications or cloud services. This is not the only area where IT leaders and workers have varying views. Though they agree that security is the number one issue caused by unmanaged and unaccounted for technology, awareness of additional issues drops dramatically after that, with 16% of workers believing it causes no business issues whatsoever. This will be a key challenge over the next year and one that must be addressed urgently in order to protect businesses operating in a digital age.
Finally, what are the key trends that we’re likely to see develop and grow in the future landscape?
For many organisations, the priorities of 2021 will closely mirror those from the past year as many continue to face many of the same headwinds. As we navigate the ongoing impact of the pandemic, we expect to see an increase in spend across the board. Rather than simply reallocating budget, many organisations had to quickly enable their employees to work remotely, and then sustain that unplanned investment for many months. Of course, this is at odds with priorities to manage IT spend. With the economy still struggling around the globe, IT leaders will likely be asked to trim spend without sacrificing employee productivity.
The rise in cyber threats means businesses will also continue to focus on managing vulnerabilities and training employees to recognise the risks. IT leaders will need to maintain a holistic approach to risk, underpinned by effective technology intelligence, in order to protect businesses from these ongoing cyber threats, and thrive in the new normal.
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About Alistair Pooley
Chief Information Office, Snow Software
Alastair Pooley is the CIO at Snow Software, responsible for Global IT strategy and implementation. Prior to his role at Snow, Alastair spent five years at multinational security company Sophos, where he was Vice President responsible for Global IT infrastructure, providing service to 3,300 staff globally and live services to over 100 million endpoints.