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Roundtable: Next-gen CIOs debate security vs performance

Ross Milburn | July 23, 2012
There has always been a communication barrier between IT staff and users, but now there is serious pressure to break down the barriers and deal with the issues.

And sometimes, mobile devices can be very efficient. "We outsource a lot of accounting operations to Infosys, which has big teams in Guangdong Province and India, so we use Microsoft Office Communicator on mobile devices, for voice and SMS daily communications," said Iris Lee, Corporate Controller, Philips Electronics. "We find that our current solution provides a good balance between data privacy and efficient communications."

"A pharmaceutical company told me that when they hired two regional sales representatives, they had to depend 100 percent on mobile network connections," said Richard Gu, Head of Services, SAP Greater China. "Laptops were ineffective in many Asian destinations such as Tibet, have no tier 1 secure network connectivity. In this business, turnover of sales reps may be as high as 40 percent, so they could leave tomorrow with their corporate data. The company could only deploy software to activate/deactivate the mobiles for data security."

Mobile policy does not have to be all-or-nothing. "We have restrictions on iPhones because of push-mail, but in meeting and audio-conference rooms, all the technology is controlled by mobile devices," said Daisy Khanna, Finance Director of CMPRG, the parent company of public relations firm Weber Shandwick. "Switching projectors, lighting and even ordering tea and coffee for guests can be done with mobile devices. So we maintain security with a mixture of traditional and openness."

Lock-down vs employee trust
The conflict between users wanting agile mobile communications and CIOs wanting to lock-down unsafe devices ignores the issue of trust. One CIO spelled it out: "The real issue is the quality of the people we hire and we all need to ask ourselves if we trust our employees – if we don't trust them, why are we hiring them?"

Unlike technology, trustworthiness cannot be measured, but HR skills can apparently aid the selection process. "We have technology that helps our clients evaluate candidates with regard to their likely fit with the culture of a particular organization and industry," said Herbert Lau, IT Director, Asia Pacific, Korn/Ferry International, an executive search firm. "It can be used during recruitment interviews to differentiate the personal requirements of a specific role."

Increasingly, CIOs have to mediate between technology and people. "IT people need to learn to be flexible in their response to user requirements," said Herbert Lau. "They can't say 'no' to the CFO, but they need to think outside the box in order to find viable solutions. As IT Director, I need to be a catalyst between the business staff, the IT people and the systems."

Vendors also have to deal with the "two cultures" of IT and business. "Even though we have 1,500 service people in the region, it's a challenge to recruit a workforce with both the technical product skills and the ability to talk business with customers with various demographics," said McKinnon. "We have to teach business people technology and teach IT people business – that's more difficult than it sounds."


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