The role of CIOs in the rapidly changing IT world

Guna Chellappan

General Manager, Singapore,
Red Hat

The CIO today wears many hats, every department in the company is digitalising — recruitment, payroll, administration. All these IT software concerns the CIO and there is always a newer, updated software version to deploy. CIOs are spoilt for choice and also lost for choice. Where should one’s priorities lie? 

CIO World Asia spoke with Guna Chellappan, General Manager, Singapore, Red Hat. Chellappan shares his perspective on why consistency ought to be chosen over novelty when it comes to IT trends. He also discusses Red Hat’s collaboration with DBS Bank and how traditionally conservative sectors are digitalising into an open source culture. 

Recent Changes In CIO’s Environment 

Looking at the role of a CIO, it includes all the key elements of a business, overseeing the people, processes, and technologies within a company’s IT organization. But today, as organizations are on the road to digital, the role of a CIO has become very critical. They need to manage an organization’s entire IT ecosystem. This was observed during the pandemic when organizations were forced to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to drive new innovation and meet customer demands. A Harvard Business Review (HBR) report suggests that the Chief Information Officer now needs to be the Chief Innovation Officer as well. The most forward-thinking CIOs today understand the importance of innovating and being at the forefront of increasingly competitive markets and technology trends.

In Red Hat’s recent State of Enterprise Report, digital transformation jumped to one of the top three uses of enterprise open source alongside IT modernization and application development. The prominence of cloud computing and always-on services means that enterprise organizations are leaning more and more on the hybrid cloud as their operational model. This is no small feat, and it requires new skills, new tools, and strategies. As a result, CIOs now need to act as a cloud operator, overseeing the combination of hardware, applications, virtual environments, existing cloud services, and associated infrastructure. Choice and flexibility were key considerations in the past years for CIOs, and they remain even more important today even as CIOs embrace their role as cloud operators.

A Harvard Business Review (HBR) report suggests that the Chief Information Officer now needs to be the Chief Innovation Officer as well.

Guna Chellappan, General Manager, Singapore, Red Hat

Maintaining Existing Systems While Keeping Pace With IT Evolvements 

People are always keen to find out what the next technology trend is, or what emerging technologies they can consider for their business and system infrastructure. But the truth is, immediately adopting the “next big thing” isn’t the best strategy for CIOs, as it trivializes the longevity and impact of IT in an organization. Some technology persists for decades if not longer, and the decisions IT leaders make today can affect their organizations’ nimbleness and market response down the road.

As technology needs span far outside the traditional realms of the data center and public cloud environments, consistency is crucial to successful IT organizations. Adding new technologies haphazardly isn’t enough to meet these demands. Instead, CIOs and organizations should focus on creating a platform that enables their current technology to evolve to meet new needs. Rather than run to what’s new first, CIOs and organizations should look at modernizing existing infrastructure and IT solutions investments. Combining existing systems with new technologies, whether it’s containers and Kubernetes or cloud services and edge computing, represents a sustainable future for IT.

Innovation happens when these technologies work together, utilizing the services where they may live, across the open hybrid cloud, from traditional data centers to public cloud environments to edge devices. Taking a hybrid approach offers balance, both technologically and economically. But without a consistent hybrid cloud foundation, there are extensive complexities in blending on-premises and cloud services along with the risk of incompatible stacks.

But the truth is, immediately adopting the “next big thing” isn’t the best strategy for CIOs, as it trivializes the longevity and impact of IT in an organization.

Guna Chellappan, General Manager, Singapore, Red Hat

Innovation And Growth With Open Source Solutions

Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source software solutions. Having helped many organizations navigate technology and business disruption, the company sees a strong appetite for digital transformation across the region. As a result, this has led to a wider adoption of open source because it has evolved to play an increasingly strategic role as a default technology of choice to help businesses improve their agility, efficiency, and enable transformation and innovation. Furthermore, key benefits such as faster implementation and improved flexibility have motivated more IT decision makers to move to open source.

Industries across the spectrum in Singapore and the APAC region– even those traditionally regarded as being very private and guarded, such as financial services – are now embracing open source approaches to realize innovation and drive transformation. One such example is DBS Bank, which wanted to re-architect its technology infrastructure and transform its customer experience to place digital at the core of everything it does. By offering solutions such as the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform and the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform to them, Red Hat collectively empowered them to accelerate a culture of innovation by enabling them to innovate quickly while reducing costs.

Future Of Open Source In Shaping Businesses

Today’s businesses operate in a world of increasing complexity characterized by higher data volumes, faster business cycles, and ever more demanding customers. In this volatile climate, traditional business models, processes, and skillsets can put a company at a competitive disadvantage.

The traditional model of “plan, prescribe, and execute” is no longer relevant today. To compete more effectively and sustain growth in the current digital landscape, organizations should adopt an open innovation culture, or what Red Hat knows as the open source culture, an innovation-led culture to empower people to initiate and iterate change rapidly from the ground up.

Open source is not just a company or a product. It can be viewed as a development model and way of innovating and collaborating. It is built on openness and transparency. It is about people working together to create ideas that haven’t existed before. People are encouraged to act, debate and share, allowing our best ideas to our technologies and customers to be born. As economies across the region continue to grow and modernize exponentially, we believe that open source is becoming the de facto approach to ensure continued progress.

Open source is a promising venture in a world thriving on collaboration and constant communication. It not only provides functional benefits such as peer review of code through collaboration with personnel in and beyond one’s organisation. It also encourages businesses to work jointly with people in the community who are potential users or  benefiters of the company’s services.  Community engagement is a win-win way for businesses to build user relationships and increase brand awareness.