Pandemic pressures mounting for IT leaders

Canadian IT leaders say they’re feeling the stress of juggling IT issues brought on by the pandemic and the need to move forward on strategic plans.

“The world has changed so drastically and paradigms we used even a year ago have been thrown out the window,” said Jack Lumley, National Sales Manager Networking with Citrix Canada at CanadianCIO virtual roundtable. IT leaders from Quebec and eastern Canada participated in the session.

CIOs have to deal with pressures they didn’t have before COVID-19, such as budgets, supply chains and procurement, said Lumley. “Instead of focusing on strategic projects, we’re distracted with day-to-day operations and that’s not where we should be,” added an IT Director from the manufacturing sector.

Participants acknowledged that many aspects of digital transformation have accelerated because of the pandemic. But that’s also raised higher expectations. “The good news is that we found out we could move a lot faster, but the bad news is everyone will expect it,” said Corey Cox, Vice-President of Information Systems for the Tandet Group of Companies. “I have seen expectations on implementation times go from a year to six months to tomorrow. This level of stress can’t be maintained.”

Security is the biggest concern

During the roundtable, 80 per cent of the participants identified ransomware attacks and the challenge of implementing zero trust as their top areas of concern. That’s not a surprise, said Cox. “Many businesses have gone from managing 20 branches to 4000 and, for many of those locations, you’re not completely in charge,” he said. “We’re not as confident in endpoint security anymore.”

Education and training is essential, said a health care executive. “In the last few months, we’ve gotten a huge amount of spear phishing and the attackers are really good at it,” she said. The organization has been doing internal campaigns and providing feedback to employees who click on the phishing emails. The messaging has to be continuously reinforced, she stressed.

Some organizations sidelined security in the rush to get people working from home, noted Lumley. Now, they’re struggling to get caught up on putting the necessary security measures in place. This is taking time because there aren’t enough security specialists to meet the demand, added an IT leader from a government agency.

The problem goes beyond the security issue, said Jim Love, ITWC CIO.  “Digital transformation moves at the speed of security,” he said.  “You can’t divorce the two.”

Agility is the answer

These pressures can be addressed by developing an agile environment, said Lumley. “We are working in a world where agility matters more,” said Lumley. This will also help organizations balance security risks with the need for IT innovation.

Hybrid multi-cloud will improve flexibility by allowing organizations to move assets around, while applying the same management and analytics across the board, Lumley said. As well, there is growing interest in SDWAN, not just as a way to save money, but also to provide agility and application assurance.

“Organizations need to encourage flexibility, agility, security and end user experience,” said Lumley. “Set that foundation and you’ll be equipped for almost anything that hits you.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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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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