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Confessions of a CIO: “My Credibility is Hinged on Digital Transformation”

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In the last few years, the CIO role has grown from managing systems and infrastructure to delivering on innovation. Yet just one in five CIOs say they’ve cracked the code on digital initiatives.

In the last few years, the CIO role has grown from managing systems and infrastructure to delivering on innovation. CEOs are looking to CIOs to deliver on applications that improve customer experience, and act as the enabler for digital transformation efforts across the organization. Yet just one in five CIOs say they’ve cracked the code on digital initiatives. 

It’s tough to strike a balance between ensuring operational excellence with existing systems, driving efficiencies migrating apps to the cloud while delivering or enabling new initiatives to create competitive advantage around sales, marketing, service and other areas. It’s no wonder that 73 percent of CIOs find it challenging to balance it all.

Whether they’re focused on developing new apps or migrating older ones, there’s one secret to innovation success that CIOs share: data. Without getting data in the hands of dev/test teams, it’s painfully easy for projects and teams to step over each other, shortcut compliance processes or simply spin their wheels in a maelstrom of unmanaged innovation.

Unmanaged innovation is chaos

Innovation requires data. Simply embarking on digital, using methodologies like Agile, and spinning up cloud infrastructure is fraught without the right data enablement around it. 

For example, setting up and running dev/test environments requires ensuring teams have frictionless access to data, so development can work with realistic data and QA can easily thoroughly run different test scenarios throughout the project. 

But without the right infrastructure, they’ll end up hammering the production team with hard to fulfil ad hoc requests for database copies or creating massive data redundancy across non-production environments that hampers project delivery and drains efficiency.

Unmanaged innovation is a cybersecurity risk

Everyone is focused on securing production, but non-production environments in many ways are substantially a larger vulnerability. They’re not only more common but often less secure, far outside the purview of SecOps. 

A production application or database often feeds countless data consumers, who are using the data to develop new apps or analytics. They often contain sensitive PII data too with data that has been masked imperfectly or not at all. It only takes one ad hoc, unmasked data request to risk it all.

Unmanaged innovation burns talent

Finding and hiring top tech talent is also a big concern for CIOs. Developers want to develop and build their skills. But many times, they’re buried in administrative work, such as setting up or updating dev/test environments, waiting for data to work with or for the testing team to complete - that’s a recipe for talent churn.

This all calls for a new approach called DataOps, a trend that is tracked and recognized by Gartner. DataOps is the alignment of people, process and technology to enable the rapid, automated and secure management of data, aiming to eliminate friction through the dev/test lifecycle. The goal is to enable teams to efficiently get the data they need, so they can focus on innovating without waiting for data, reduce the amount of data redundancy and cut cybersecurity and compliance exposure by automating data masking. 

Take Molina Healthcare as an example. Molina’s health plans serve more than three million members, primarily through government-based programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. 

With change underway in the healthcare industry, Molina Healthcare CIO Rick Hopfer had to take stock of the company’s existing infrastructure, applications and processes to formulate a strategy that would scale and enhance the agility and adaptability of the company’s IT systems while managing ongoing business demands. 

Specifically, they were challenged with a growing volume of data, its inability to quickly integrate disparate and disconnected systems from several acquisitions as the company expanded into more states and furthermore, extra strain from having to comply with strict privacy and data security laws, including HIPAA. 

Molina on-boarded more than 3,000 databases and a petabyte of data into one single platform to make data fast and secure for access across the company. This allowed Molina’s IT organization to better support development teams by reducing the time required to set up environments from weeks to just minutes. They also adopted data-masking technology to automatically secure PHI datasets and deliver them to downstream environments for development, testing and analytics. 

Key results included shortened times to provision a new environment from days to less than 10 minutes on average; ability for developers to easily branch data alongside code branches, while testers can bookmark and share data with developers by extending self-service data management to application teams; downsized storage requirements from 4 PB to 200 TB, resulting in an estimated $6 to $10 million in savings for storage costs over three years. 

What’s the takeaway? Data is at the heart of modern business success. A DataOps solution cuts the friction between data producers and data consumers, allowing app development and other initiatives, like cloud migration, to move faster. CIOs who understand the benefits of making data fast and secure for access across the company will be able to better compete and deliver results in this rapidly changing environment. 

Sign up for the “Confessions of a CIO” webinar to learn more about what’s keeping CIO up at night and how modern executives are adapting their organizations and processes to meet future needs of the business.