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CTOs Find Faith in Evolution of IT, but Compatibility Struggles Persist

To best support the "New IT," CTOs must choose the right tech to create value, but they are finding compatibility to be a pain point.

The shift to a hybrid work environment is elevating the importance of elements of IT architecture, with chief technology officers (CTOs) noting the importance of cloud software and computing for the future of hybrid work.

These were among the findings of a Lenovo survey of more than 500 CTOs, who generally have a positive perspective on their organization's technology architecture — 43% called it "improved" and 39% said it is "easy to use."

In fact, CTOs say there is potential to utilize technology even more extensively at work across five major areas — client, edge, cloud, network, and intelligence.

"The industry is now in a very fragmented and dis-integrated phase, and the consensus can help navigate the industry players to innovate and develop products and solutions based on the needs of users and customers," said Lenovo CTO Dr. Yong Rui.

'New IT': Using the Right Tech to Bridge Gaps Based on Needs

Different companies are facing different customers, and their needs for digital operations may vary — CTOs of retail companies may be interested in faster checkout processes, and smarter production scheduling can be important to CTOs of manufacturing companies, he said.

"For CTOs, one of the most effective ways to advocate what we call 'New IT' is to understand their companies' current applications, their customer expectations, and the practices adopted by their competitors, then choose the right technology to bridge the gaps based on their actual needs," Rui said.

For CTOs, if they want to advocate emerging IT more smoothly and realize value creation in the process, there are several key stakeholders they will need to align and collaborate with.

The first group, Rui said, is the directors of the board and key executives — they must be aligned on strategies and resource allocations (investment, talent, etc.) for the company's digital transformation to progress smoothly.

The second group is customer-facing business managers, as CTOs also need to be familiar with the business and the customers.

"Another group CTOs need to turn to is the CIOs; they need to work together to ensure the right technology and the right information are in the right hands," he added.

Finally, Rui said employees' experience with digital solutions is also essential, as they are closely related to a company's productivity and are an integral part of the value-creation process.

CTOs of product-based companies need to ensure that distributed and hybrid teams have access to the right collaboration and development tools to engage with team members and cross-functional teams most effectively, according to Debasish Biswas, CTO at Aware.

"One area of concern is the security posture of these different software tools that are used to collaborate and build products," he said.

The CTO can ensure that there is a common and accepted security framework that is enforced for all software-as-a-service (SaaS) product adoption, thereby reducing friction and risk.

CTOs at SaaS and software-powered corporations should partner with the CIO/CISO and head of customer success to ensure the security and risk management posture of both product and company infrastructure, Biswas added.

"This will ensure that the right vendors and technologies are chosen for both corporate IT as well as company's own product infrastructure," he said.

Srinivasa Addepalli, CTO at Aryaka, added that CIOs and, more increasingly, CISOs should be part of the process.

"Modern businesses need to work together across different departments to ensure there's alignment and that all key considerations are being considered upfront," he said.

Security is one area that is becoming more critical to pull into the process because if there are any changes to the IT architecture that are missed, that can create a vulnerability for outsiders to attack, according to Addepalli.

"The convergence of network and security has proven to be effective in combating today's cybersecurity threats, so the more you can avoid siloed approaches that keep security separate, the better," he said.

Why Compatibility Is a Pain Point for CTOs

The survey also indicated compatibility issues in enterprise infrastructure and user experience are primary pain points when CTOs make purchasing, upgrading, migrating, and retiring decisions of IT infrastructure for their organizations.

At least two factors make compatibility such a pain point: The first is the industry has become very fragmented, with more specialties and more niche players, each focusing on a narrowly defined area, Rui explained.

"This variety and vibrance have driven the industry to innovate and prosper, but also brought challenges of compatibility and complexity across systems and platforms," he said.

The second is related to the patching process of the infrastructure.

"Enterprises usually cannot achieve the full-scale update and replacement of the old architecture at once, and the more patches they have, the less compatibility they enjoy," he explained.

Striving for Simplicity

Addepalli pointed out that all CTOs, CIOs, and CISOs are striving for more simplicity.

"Nobody wants to do the same task over and over when there are ways to oversee and control everything from one central interface," he explained.

When systems are not compatible with each other, it creates an environment of chaos, which can force employees into scramble mode and take away from core tasks that move the business forward.

"It also creates a lot of security vulnerabilities and makes it difficult to pinpoint suspicious behavior on the network, which can lead to serious damage," Addepalli said.

About the author

Nathan Eddy headshotNathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITPro Today. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.
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