Information technology teams, once seen as “business blockers,” are now “business enablers” helping organizations fulfill their strategic goals, says IT veteran Sheila Carpenter.
Carpenter, the Chief Information Security Officer of Zix Corp, a Dallas-based security technology company that provides email encryption services, email data loss prevention and mobile applications, talked with StrategicCIO360 about the changing role of IT chiefs.
What is one of your CEO’s top priorities for you this coming year?
One of my top priorities this year designated by Zix’s CEO David Wagner is maximizing efficiency across the business, which leads to deep dives on our solutions’ efficiencies as well. A key initiative I am working on to further this effort is developing and implementing a middleware software solution that will allow the companies that Zix acquires to “bolt-in” and sell within our existing Secure Cloud infrastructure. This will provide a unified service, logon and platform interface to our users—or as I also like to call it, create a “single pane of glass.”
The primary focus when talking to our customers is that our Secure Cloud can serve as their single pane of glass that unifies data across various applications and can quickly scale to fit businesses’ unique needs, all in one place. This initiative would make it so that end customers can log onto one platform and see one data access point, which helps them secure their environments while achieving complete visibility over their various solutions. Developing the middleware will not only further strengthen this narrative, but also drive business efficiency.
When acquiring a company, what is important to keep in mind regarding integrating solutions?
The way mergers and acquisitions are handled has radically shifted in today’s digital landscape. Now, the success of the deal is measured by the seamless experience created for the end customer. The CIO should be playing an essential role in the M&A process from start to finish, whether it is facilitating better-informed deal development or ensuring security is built in during post-merger integrations. The speed at which companies can implement technology that drives their business strategy forward is critical, and that is right up the CIO’s alley.
Is there such a thing as a conventional CIO anymore?
No, the role of CIO has evolved. Previously CIOs were often viewed as business blockers and the position was primarily viewed as an internal role tasked with aspects like ensuring employee devices were secure and up to date. Now, CIOs are seen as business enablers and are being given a seat at the table when a business is being acquired, or a new product is rolling out so that they give input on how secure the company is or how the new solution’s revenue will impact the rest of the organization.
Today’s CIOs should be focused on protecting the enterprise while also allowing the rest of the business to do their jobs. The disruption that has taken place over the last year has upended a lot of technology and workplace norms. CIOs are well-positioned to help the rest of the leadership team understand how emerging technology trends could impact the business, as well as the end customer, and they should be proactively flagging this to the broader team.
What is your best piece of advice for CIOs in the year ahead?
Focus on the customer experience. At Zix, we never want to overestimate our success with customer experience and work hard to ensure we are putting ourselves in their shoes in everything we do. This means testing out the products to drive changes that will ensure they are as streamlined and efficient as possible. CIOs need to be fully involved in the customer experience lifecycle.