Got digital transformation headaches? Automation may be the answer

IT leaders say the challenges of the job keep growing. They’re faced with more demands to provide service anywhere and on any device.  Plus, everyone wants it delivered faster.

It’s not easy to deal with all of the competing interests, said a CIO from the finance sector at a CanadianCIO virtual roundtable.

One way to help manage the situation is to introduce automation to replace mundane tasks and to set policy parameters within systems, said Kurt Roemer, Chief Security Strategist at Citrix Systems.

Organizations must determine their priorities, Roemer said. “IT has to look at how the organization can be more agile, while being secure. Ultimately, it’s about supporting digital transformation for business.”

If it isn’t cloud, it’s security

Cloud migration and security enhancements go hand-in-hand on digital transformation projects. Many organizations start with elements of Zero Trust such as micro-segmentation to cut down on lateral movement, said Roemer.

Zero Trust is easy to read about, but implementing it is not so obvious,” said one IT leader. However, his organization is making best efforts to apply Zero Trust as it moves workloads to the cloud.

Dealing with legacy systems is also an ongoing issue. Several of the CIOs noted that moving legacy systems to the cloud is not a “lift and shift.” “You don’t want to replicate customized processes in the cloud,” said one IT leader. In most cases, these systems have to be redesigned and business processes have to change. That can present another challenge for the IT team because, as the IT leaders put it, convincing some business departments to change can be a long process.

Cost approvals and cost controls for the cloud transition can be another obstacle. The move from capital to operating expenses can be difficult because capital expenses are more clearly defined. Some IT leaders also expressed concern about cloud costs getting out of control. “If you open up cloud resources to everybody for unleashed consumption, that could be a problem,” said one IT leader.

Another concern was that it’s simply not possible to move everything to the cloud because some data is too sensitive. As a result, IT must find ways to better coordinate on-premises and cloud infrastructure.

Ideas for automation

There’s a lot of technology to make managing hybrid clouds easier, said Roemer. This can help avoid duplication of data so that people can use it in different places. With automation of tasks and orchestration of workflows, organizations can build defined policy parameters into the system, he said. For example, it can be set to automatically stop a user that tries to put sensitive information on Dropbox.

Similarly, cloud costs can be controlled by automating the “spinning down” of cloud infrastructure when it isn’t needed, said Roemer. “You can also build in boundary conditions for the consumption of cloud resources.”

The key to Zero Trust is to set access rules that are aware of the appropriate business context. As an example, different controls can be applied to only those who deal with highly sensitive data. “This is one of the biggest opportunities to balance productivity and cost,” said Roemer. “If you do that, you can make things, not just incrementally, but wildly better.”

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Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.

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