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Atlanta CIO’s discuss the “Consumerization” of IT E-mail
Written by Brant Pirkle and John E. Kosar, III   

Helping employees and customers be connected and collaborative is at the heart of the so-called mega-trend of “IT consumerization”.  Managing all the consumer devices, mobile applications, infrastructure changes, and security issues is the resulting challenge currently facing IT departments everywhere.  Several of Atlanta’s leading CIOs discussed this trend at the AITP’s fifth annual CIO Roundtable.

“We believe our role is to embrace and educate,” said Karen Painter, Senior VP of Enterprise Applications for Turner Broadcasting System.  “We want to provide education around social media and what kind of information should be accessible.  We’re trying to think about how we can make our service offerings available anytime anywhere,” she said.

CIO 2011 PanelDeveloping a clear policy and managing the support is a major issue for CIO’s.  “At the county, we’ve been embracing it for some time now,” said Curtis Rawlings, Assistant CIO for DeKalb County Georgia.  “The problem is support.  We have reduced staff but are expected to provide support for all this.”  Danny Bensley, CIO of Hardin Construction agreed:  “earlier this year, we opened our smart phone policy up to android and iPhone operating systems.  We’re a very small shop so we stick with browser based apps that we can work with in house.”

Others pointed to trends in user demographics as drivers for consumerization.  “As a staffing company,” said Alan Stukalsky, CIO for Randstad Corporation, “we want to get to potential employees as quickly as possible with jobs.   We’ve built an app to allow this and we’ve had a lot of success with the 20 to 29 age group.  This group believes that email is yesterday.”

Bill Smith, CIO of Chamberlin Edmonds added: “it seems that our workforce is getting younger.  Everyone wants to use texting.  It’s a great way to communicate, but then you’ve got to manage it.  There are things you’ve got to do to control it but you’ve got to present them to your work force and allow them to grow, especially if they’re younger.  Because that’s the way they think and that’s the way they get their job done.  So you have to align with that and it’s a challenge, but it’s exciting at the same time.”

Security Remains the Leading Priority

With all the changes and challenges currently facing the IT departments represented in this year’s roundtable, the group agreed that security is paramount.  Regardless of whether the IT department employs a handful of professionals or thousands spread over the globe, maintaining the integrity of the data and applications was on the mind of each CIO present. 

“Security is very important to me,” said Curtis Rawlings.  “We spend a lot of time protecting access, protecting our network, and making sure no one is able to hack us.  As a public entity, if we were to get hacked, we would never recover from that from a public trust standpoint.”  Bill Smith agreed:  “with a couple million people in our database, the ability to secure that information is very important.  We’re hired by hospitals, so a breach would kill our business,” he said.

Danny Bensley, added that you have to achieve a balance:  “we are a private company in an unregulated industry and we balance performance and end user experience with our risk management needs.  You’ve got to have data redundancy, you’ve got to worry about restore points and restore times and those sort of things.”

For Global Organizations like Turner and Equifax, the CIO’s were all too aware of the consequences of security breaches:  “We’re sort of like an M&M,” said Painter:  we’re really hard on the outside and a little bit softer on the inside.  With organizations like CNN and CNN.com, it would be a trophy for any hacker.  Hackers are trying to penetrate the walls of Turner Broadcasting all the time.  It’s very much a target.  I think we’ve done an exceptionally good job with security.”

Dudley White added: “the amount that we’re investing in security solutions and making sure that, from a development standpoint, our applications can support them, is very large.  Risk management and security and all the things we’ve talked about here:  it’s Equifax.  Probably the most important thing that we do is to maintain everyone’s data.  It’s at the forefront of what we do.”

About the CIO Roundtable

When John Kosar, CCCi Client Manager and former AITP President conceived the CIO Roundtable five years ago, his intention was to help foster direct interaction between leading Atlanta CIO’s and AITP members and students.  “This has been an excellent way to gain a dialogue between all levels of our IT community,” said Kosar.  “In these annual dinner events, AITP members enjoy meeting and talking directly with the CIO’s.   We work hard to come up with questions that are professionally relevant to all of our members.”  This year’s event was particularly relevant with topics that are currently on the minds of most IT professionals.  Please stay tuned for upcoming articles in this series with more insights into how Atlanta CIO’s make hiring decisions for some of the world’s leading IT organizations.


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