The question for Adobe CFO John Murphy was how had digital transformation changed his job. Are there decisions you’re involved in today that would wouldn’t have been involved in 10 years ago? he was asked.
Murphy, who assumed the CFO role at Adobe in April, was being interviewed at the recent MIT Sloan CFO Summit before a large roomful of his peers. He had already talked about Adobe’s “leap of faith” transformation from a desktop software company to a hybrid cloud powerhouse — a turnaround described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Silicon Valley.”
Certainly, Adobe’s big bet on AI and machine learning as a key business differentiator means he’s involved in technology decisions that in the past would have been driven by the CIO or CTO, Murphy said.
CFOs are not the technology experts, Murphy said, and “they can’t pretend to be.” But they must “master the fundamentals of technology” in order to figure out how technology impacts the growth of the company and its customers,” he told his interviewer, MIT’s Hal Gregersen.
But here’s the aspect of his current CFO role that’s completely different from anything he’s done before in his career: He’s out there selling. “Now that Adobe has digital transformation as part of what we sell, I am able to tell our story to customers and show them how we measure that digital transformation. That’s actually new,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he usually starts client conversations by asking them to explain the problem they are trying to solve with a digital product and how they see their customers using the product, before getting into how they might monetize the investment.
Tips on making digital transformation part of the CFO role
Gregersen, the executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, asked if Murphy had any advice for finance folks who might have “a bit of fear” about the CFO role in digital transformation.
One thing that helps, Murphy said, is to apply new technologies to their own finance function. At Adobe a tech/IT council was formed to identify bottlenecks in the workflow. “We asked open-ended questions,” he said, encouraging employees to identify where they were struggling and to describe the process changes they’d make if they were “completely unrestrained” by resources.
“What we ended up with was a flood of ideas from the middle ranks telling us where the problems were,” Murphy said. As a result, finance has deployed a number of software bots and other robotic process automation software that are “generating excitement.”
Murphy’s participation in cross-functional teams at Adobe has helped him see how people “thought about a business problem and what technologies they evaluated to figure out the solution.” Participating in groups like this can get CFOs up to speed quickly in the technologies available today.
The element that’s crucial to becoming a player in digital transformation is understanding the business. On assuming the CFO role, Murphy said it was important to him to spend as much time as he could with business leaders to understand their pain points and how they expect the finance organization to serve them, he said. That interaction is critical to making the shift from utility player to strategic player. Asked by Gregersen for pointers on how to intercalate oneself into the business, Murphy said by “being a pain the butt.”
“Sometimes you force yourself into meetings to really understand the business… so you can figure out a way to help,” he said, adding that it’s hard to say no to someone who says they want to help.
Most people, according to Sixgill VP of Marketing Barry Spielman, know “nothing” about the dark web – an issue that he added is increasingly problematic as a lack of dark web security in cybersecurity frameworks puts data at risk.
Spielman’s bold statement came at the recent InfoSec North America conference earlier this month in New York, where he noted that only a small fraction of the internet is easily accessible by search engines and simple user searching. The rest of data, information, and content exist in two other versions of the internet: The deep web and the dark web. The deep web is likely already accounted for in your security policy to prevent access to untraceable, password protected content that doesn’t appear on search engines or indexes. The dark web, however, often remains unaccounted for.
Spielman’s tip? Treat the dark web like any other facet of the internet, and consider the risk and threats stemming from the dark web when developing your security framework.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is a smaller part of the deep web that is explicitly private and requires special software and browsers to gain access. Dark web sites and forums are often used for communities that demand security for intellectual reasons, but it’s also host to a bevy of illegal activity ranging from narcotic sales to calls soliciting government attacks.
“The dark web has become a source for a tremendous amount of cybercrime,” Spielman said during the Demystifying the Dark Web panel discussion.
“We like to call [the dark web] a crowd sourcing of bad guys. When you put very smart people together with no rules, you can get very creative.”
What risk does the dark web pose?
You might now be thinking, “my company doesn’t sell illegal products or use the dark web, so I’m safe!” But if so, you’re incredibly naïve to the potential risks. As we enter the age of big data, the dark web is a host for enterprise information that can be sold for a profit — from passwords to insider trading information.
“You want to buy something, sell something, or you want someone to monetize what you’ve got. If you have insider information but don’t know what to do with it, you turn to the dark web,” Spielman said.
Since the dark web attracts experienced hackers and cybercriminals, law enforcement has only a modicum of luck when monitoring and punishing crime that exists there. As data security threats constantly multiply, so do the dark web sites that facilitate potential data crime. And when one site gets shut down in a high profile case – think Alphabay or Silkroad – it only creates opportunity for the millions of dark web users looking to host a new site.
From a law enforcement point of view, there are no laws on the dark web, Spielman said. The encryption, secrecy and perseverance of dark web forums and sites means there are constant risk and potential threats that need to be monitored. Enterprises should add security measures that manage and monitor potential dark web breaches — a tall order when much of the dark web is encrypted, hidden and secretly managed, he added.
Spielman advises, at bare minimum, creating an incident management plan for any proprietary data and information that could be floating around the dark web, and perhaps implementing cryptographic or intrusion software to prevent against these dark web threats.
“The better intelligence you have about what your threats are, the better you can use your cybersecurity resources in the best way,” Spielman said.
The rise of digitized processes and data analytics in modern companies has unquestionably influenced the CIO’s role — a topic we cover often here on SearchCIO. But realizing the importance of technology for modern business success is spreading throughout the C-suite, giving rise to a relatively new, highly sought-after position: the digital CFO.
Chief financial officers must reexamine their role as they navigate the “unprecedented and uncharted territory” of how to successfully operate in the increasingly tech driven world of digital business, said CGMA external relations VP Ash Noah when moderating a session at the MIT Sloan CFO Summit earlier this month.
“We need to adapt to this environment, we need to adopt these new technologies, we need to be able to leverage data so that we can truly add value to the business,” Noah said during the Digital Finance, Digital World panel discussion.
Increasingly, as the digital CFO is finding their way, they’re tapping into the business benefits afforded by machine learning, automation and advanced data analytics, panelists said. They were clear that technology is a huge driver as the CFO role evolves from an “information provider” for the organization — pulling together things like quarterly earnings reports — to a “problem solver” that helps the organization leverage data to increase business value.
The finance team has a ton of data available to them from various business departments and advanced analytics techniques can provide in-depth business insights for CFOs, said panelist Anitha Gopalan, CFO at Catalant Technologies.
The digital CFO knows how to harness that information to make informed, data-driven decisions. This can go a long way to help companies establish a stronger base for innovation and disrupt faster — essential goals for any digitized business, Gopalan added.
“Finance can be a huge enabler from that perspective,” Gopalan said.
One obstacle facing the digital CFO is the availability of too much data, with Noah saying they risk “analysis paralysis” when there is excessive information to pick through. Automation and machine learning are helping in this regard — but knowing what data is valuable relies on rudimentary CFO skills like knowing the business and its associated goals, panelists said.
Understanding business drivers will go a long way toward realizing what data is useful to solving specific business problems, they added.
“Every single person on the finance team has to truly understand the business model,” Gopalan said. “Understand the business drivers, what is the value that each of them are bringing.”
Panelists reminded the audience that technology advancements typically require a new set of skills for the digital CFO — and their staff — to be successful.
Those tech and data analytic skills are not necessarily present in the organization, said panelist Doug Baker, a principal at KPMG. Although new tech creates vast new business capacities, developing the skills to tap into those capacities poses a real challenge for organizations.
When it comes time to find people with both advanced technical and data analytics know-how, “you have to look at your organization and recognize whether or not you have people today that are maybe underutilized and maybe could be doing that, but aren’t,” Baker said. “Or maybe, you just don’t have those people and need to go find them.”
From there, finding the balance between incorporating old school CFO traits and the ability to tap into advancing tech for business benefit is essential for the digital CFO as the role continues to evolve.
“The technical skills bring you to the table, but it’s then your knowledge of the business, your interaction with the business, truly being embedded in the business, that is key,” Noah said.
Cisco network architecture now has a new layer for the multi-cloud age and the vendor wants CIOs to know about it.
Technology architectures, sometimes derided as “marketectures,” have been around for ages. IBM was famous for them in the 1970s and 1980s, pushing Micro Channel Architecture, Systems Network Architecture and Systems Application Architecture, to name a few.
Cisco is hardly a stranger to architecture and can point to Digital Network Architecture (DNA), Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) architecture and intent-based architecture as its current examples.
Architectures tend to surface among large IT vendors with diverse product lines that have sometimes been assembled via acquisition. The architecture provides the vendor with a way to discuss its offerings as a unified portfolio and provides some assurance to customers that its varied product sets can work together or will integrate with each other down the road. Architectures can also create market differentiation — IBM’s Micro Channel Architecture, for example, is aimed to make IBM’s PC stand out among a growing array of PC clones.
For the latest Cisco network architecture, which the company has dubbed multi-domain architecture, the motivation seems to span both goals: unify the product line and differentiate itself from rivals. David Goeckeler, Cisco executive vice president and general manager, networking and security business, outlined multi-domain architecture at the recently concluded Cisco Partner Summit 2018. Although his audience was mainly channel partners, his message also targeted CIOs.
According to Goeckeler, CIOs are expanding to the cloud, tapping SaaS offerings and developing their own cloud-native applications to provide a “next-generation” digital experience.
“Every CIO is under pressure to deliver that new experience to their users,” he said.
Those experiences come from applications that enterprises deliver through multiple networking domains: in-house and outsourced data centers, public cloud, private clouds and SaaS offerings. There are also campus networking and branch networking domains, Goeckeler noted.
The task for CIOs is to manage those domains while also keeping pace with dynamic elements that populate, or interact with, the IT infrastructure stack: devices, applications, data and users.
“CIOs are required to manage a set of variables that are changing constantly,” Goeckeler said. “Networks we built 30 years ago are not geared to that environment.”
Cisco network architecture: Spanning domains
The latest twist on Cisco network architecture aims to help CIOs manage varied, multi-cloud infrastructures and enable them to connect any user, on any device and in any network, Goeckeler said.
But the problem with IT infrastructure is that organizations have been treating the different domains, including security, as independent parts of the network, he added. Cisco’s plan for multi-domain architecture is to interconnect all those domains while integrating security into the architecture, instead of tacking it on as an afterthought. Software-defined networking is shaping this architecture, which Goeckeler referred to as “one big software system.”
CIOs can think of this multi-domain approach as an architecture that spans other Cisco architectures.
“We are now beginning to integrate DNA (campus) and ACI (data center) together through common policies that can map across these domains,” Goeckeler wrote in a recent Cisco blog post.
Recent product launches also contribute to the multi-domain architecture approach. Cisco, for example, recently integrated security applications into its SD-WAN platform.
“Building this architecture is game changing for our customers and is the biggest opportunity we have seen in a very long time in the networking business,” Goeckeler said, speaking at Cisco Partner Summit 2018.
The bid to reinvent the Cisco network architecture across multiple domains is a development that bears watching. The question for CIOs is whether Cisco’s end-to-end architecture fits into their plans or whether a multi-vendor approach, in which the CIO takes responsibility for the overarching plan, makes better sense.
Should an enterprise’s robotic process automation (RPA) strategy include working with more than one vendor? In a recent interview I had with a global manufacturer of automotive parts about its multiyear RPA project with Redwood Software, it came to light the company was simultaneously using leading RPA vendor UiPath.
“You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket,” said Anna Berger, functional design lead in finance at Faurecia, which has operations in 35 countries.
The multivendor RPA strategy makes sense for the automotive company.
Redwood Software has extensive experience in automating finance processes, in particular ERP systems from Oracle and SAP. Faurecia has worked with SAP for over a decade, rolling out a single, integrated SAP system to about 98% of its 300 sites; it has some 35,000 users in SAP.
“We have taken the position that for processes which are quite standardized and which are very linked to SAP, we want to go with Redwood, which is strongly integrated with SAP,” Berger explained. Faurecia is using Redwood on a major project to consolidate 25 shared services down to a handful of regional platforms.
UiPath and Redwood RPA projects follow similar best practices. For example, tremendous effort goes into making sure the process is accurately described and that everyone agrees on the process description. But the automation focus is different.
“UiPath is for topics which are less linked to SAP and which may have to go between multiple systems and [involve] processes which are less standardized,” Berger said.
Multivendor RPA strategy
Forrester Research analyst Craig Le Clair, who follows the RPA market closely, said a multivendor RPA strategy is becoming more common. “I see it trending that way,” Le Clair said. One reason for the movement toward multiple vendors is that RPA came in initially through the business side, which hired its own integrators.
As the IT side has gotten involved, business units that are happy with their RPA deployments don’t want to switch vendors, resulting in a multivendor RPA strategy by default. Secondly, the RPA platforms have different talents — increasingly by necessity.
“When you have a lot of the market value captured by the top three RPA vendors, the other 40 have to find spots,” Le Clair said, referring to Blue Prism, UiPath and Automation Anywhere as the triad at the top. A vendor like Redwood, which specializes in finance processes and has expertise in Oracle and SAP, has developed a library of bots to automate this area of operations, saving companies time.
The RPA platforms also tend to split between those that are focused on back-end functions where interaction with humans is minimal and those that are being deployed in call centers, where the automation must co-exist with an employee who may be jockeying between 15 and 20 screens. An example of the bifurcation in the market is Blue Prism, which doesn’t do contact centers, Le Clair said.
In any case, Forrester believes the RPA market is still on a strong growth trajectory for 2019.
Sophie Vandebroek, vice president of emerging technology partnerships at IBM, suggested companies start with scrutinizing their training data. “AI algorithms are only as good as the data used to train the system,” she said.
For example, an AI algorithm trained on data from a company that has more men than women software engineers might conclude that men are better software engineers than women, “which of course we know has nothing to do with the job and is irrelevant to the hiring decision,” Vandebroek said.
Checking the training data for bias is necessary but not sufficient for ridding AI algorithms of bias, said Gabi Zijderveld, chief marketing officer and head of product strategy at Affectiva.
Bias can also be subconsciously coded into an algorithm by developers. “We build what we know,” Zijderveld said. She recommended that companies strive for diversity when putting together their teams, as they can collectively act as an anti-bias failsafe. Besides, she said, diversity also “fosters creativity and innovation.”
CIOs can also help set the tone by investing in a strong culture, according to Nichole Jordan, managing partner of markets, clients and industry at advisory and accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP. “You’re bringing together a lot of individuals with different backgrounds — behavioral scientists, data scientists, sociologists — to work together,” she said. “You’ve got to be clear on your culture.” It’s important that a company’s ethics, values and acceptable behaviors are spelled out to employees.
The tech world has been abuzz after news that IBM is snapping up Red Hat for a whopping $34 billion, making it the third biggest tech-deal of all time.
Experts say, however, that the IBM-Red Hat deal will likely have little influence on enterprise IT cloud strategies, at least for now.
Ed Featherston, vice president and principal architect at Cloud Technology Partners, sees it as a move aimed at boosting IBM’s profile in the cloud space to give the company more credibility when it talks to customers about hybrid cloud.
“Without having done this, IBM would have probably faded away,” Featherston said. “I can’t think of a single client I have worked with in the cloud, whether public, private or on prem, that doesn’t have some level of the Red Hat stack in those environments, and now it’s [going to be] IBM Red Hat stack in their environments.”
Gartner analyst Dennis Smith believes the move will help both companies reset their cloud narrative.
Though Red Hat has had some initial success with the open source container application platform OpenShift, it needed some additional wind at its back from a scale and growth standpoint, Smith said. The deal also provides IBM with the potential to have a better story when talking to clients about their legacy applications, he added.
“Assuming [these clients] are a very loyal IBM customer and have a very large legacy footprint that they are looking at moving into some type of a cloud environment, they have additional options now,” Smith said.
IBM-Red Hat deal: Will it affect the cloud landscape?
During a media call earlier this week, Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of IBM Hybrid Cloud, said the acquisition redefines the cloud market.
“As our clients are moving to hybrid cloud, and they all use multiple cloud, they need the technology and they need a platform that lets them operate in that environment with security and comfort of portability,” Krishna said. “Together, that’s what we can get for them.”
But Gartner analyst Lydia Leong believes the IBM-Red Hat deal will have very little impact on the current cloud landscape and should not influence buying decisions related to public cloud.
Red Hat’s relative strength in on premises container solutions does not transform into any form leadership in the cloud market, Leong said. Containers are not cloud, she said, they are an infrastructure construct that customers may use as part of a cloud solution, just like they use virtual machines as part of a cloud solution.
Major public cloud vendors — AWS, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform — all offer Kubernetes-based container services that come at no extra charge to their customers, she said. The customer pays for the infrastructure cost but doesn’t pay extra to run containers, she explained.
“Plus, the use of containers, regardless of whether or not that includes Kubernetes, doesn’t make applications magically portable,” she added.
But IBM has continued to look for ways to build business outside of its on-premises infrastructure, sales and services business. Having ownership of a Linux distribution that is used widely across all the cloud vendors could be an interesting way for IBM to build cross-cloud services, said Scott Cameron, Azure Principal Solution Architect at Insight.
“But I don’t see it immediately affecting most of our customers and how they deploy cloud,” Cameron said.
Should CIOs care?
At least to start, Featherston believes CIOs have nothing to be worried about. The IBM-Red Hat deal is expected to close sometime in the second half of next year. As long as IBM lets Red Hat be Red Hat — allowing the open source provider to continue with the way it has conducted business — the impact for CIOs, whether they choose to go with IBM or not, should be minimal, he said.
He also sees no reason for existing IBM customers to think about changing their cloud strategy because if anything, the deal will ultimately give them more flexibility.
“They can feel safer if they want to stay with an IBM cloud model,” he said. “But they don’t have to feel that it’s a risk if they go elsewhere because they are still going to be an IBM customer, they are still going to be running Red Hat in AWS [if they decide to go with Amazon cloud].”
Data and analytics are part of everyday survival for companies. But according to a new research note from Gartner Inc., organizations are struggling to manage the data they have let alone establish a plan for the data that’s coming.
“This fruitless trend will continue unless technical professionals act now in preparing for the future demand,” stated the “2019 Planning Guide for Data and Analytics” report, which published earlier this month.
To that end, Gartner analysts identified five trends that CIOs and information architects should pay close attention to in the upcoming year, one of which is how the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning will become useful information management tools.
The foundation of the report is centered around Gartner’s logical data warehouse or LDW, a data management practice born out of the big data era. Rather than build a single, central data repository, Gartner began recommending that companies create a single view of the data through a virtual data layer that connects data repositories scattered around the enterprise and in the cloud.
The analysts caution that there is no single blueprint for establishing such a flexible architecture nor will it happen overnight. Instead, the report states, “the shift will be gradual and incremental — but also inevitable.”
With an LDW in place, Gartner analysts now recommend that CIOs establish an analytics architecture that’s flexible enough to support both traditional as well as newer analytics techniques. The architecture should utilize a plug-and-play framework that can integrate external and internal data sources together and combine the data collection, analysis and delivery of insights into a single discipline.
The ultimate goal of such an architecture is to accelerate digital transformation and support an “analytics everywhere” environment, where analytics can be delivered even at the edge of the enterprise. The detailed report walks CIOs and information architects through all five trends and provides planning suggestions for the coming year.
One trend is that AI and machine learning coupled with an LDW can create a more intelligent way to manage data. The benefits are a two-way street: An LDW can provide AI and machine learning the high quality data needed to produce good results and the infrastructure needed for model deployment. And AI and machine learning can help manage complex workloads, query data efficiently, and size up both the data type and content as it enters the LDW, which the report described as “one of the most exciting areas of the market today.”
To get started in 2019, the analysts recommended that CIOs and information architects look for use cases such as workload management where introducing AI and machine learning could make a dent on performance or where there’s some kind of overlap between the LDW and AI and machine learning such as data quality.
In most enterprises, data quality processing is for data warehouses are separate from AI and machine learning work. CIOs may want to collapse those two efforts together and use “the industrial strength data transformation and quality tools used for the LDW for machine learning,” according to the report.
They also suggested that CIOs take stock of the kinds of tools that are already at their disposal. According to the report, “most commercial database management system software has useful libraries of the most popular ML algorithms. When new analytical requirements can be met by common ML algorithms, these incumbent libraries provide a simple and low-cost means of meeting analytics requirements.”
Earlier this month I wrote about lessons businesses can learn from the Facebook data breach that affected millions of users. News has now surfaced that Facebook is rumored to be shopping for a cybersecurity company to help boost their security operations and prevent another major hack.
I reached out to Bryce Austin, CEO at TCE Strategy, and Vijay Pullur, CEO at ThumbSignIn to see what they thought of this potential acquisition and whether acquiring a cybersecurity company makes sense for Facebook as the company tries to rebuild its reputation after recent security lapses.
Editor’s note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
If it moves forward with the acquisition of a cybersecurity company, what will it mean for Facebook?
Bryce Austin: It is an interesting idea for Facebook to purchase a cybersecurity company, as their cybersecurity issues appear to be a failure of imaginative thinking rather than a lack of the fundamentals of cybersecurity. People are using Facebook’s tools/features in combinations that Facebook never conceived of, and it was the combination of three different tools that led to the latest breach Facebook announced. If the purchase of an outside firm can help with that, then I’m all for it, but I hope they are looking for the equivalent of Disney’s Imagineers rather than a more traditional cybersecurity outfit.
Facebook has larger reputational issues with the fundamentals of their business model as opposed to issues with their cybersecurity. Facebook’s users do not fully understand the ways that their personal data is being analyzed and sold for Facebook’s profit. The recent discovery that Facebook is sending targeted advertising to the phone number provided by cyber-aware users for multi-factor authentication is a prime example.
Facebook needs to be open and transparent about their behavior and business ethics. Facebook has a choice to be an ethical beacon (similar to Volvo’s commitment to safety) or an ethical nightmare (similar to Volkswagen’s blatant hacking of U.S. diesel emission standards). They can use sensitive analytical information they are able to glean from their users for customers’ benefit, or to their detriment.
Vijay Pullur: The need for Facebook to make an acquisition has become imminent. It shows that they are taking security very seriously and that helps with improving the public perception. I see it as a sincere effort to fix security.
It’s not that Facebook doesn’t have security experts — they must have an army of security specialists –but this acquisition will help them bring in more competence, focus and deeper knowledge to the security domain.
But as bad actors become more sophisticated, it’s important to remember that security is not a one-time fix. You have to constantly ward off threats preemptively and with the use of machine learning, AI and new generation of software technologies.
Financial services firms must respond to changing customer demands, cultivate personalized relationships and maintain those ties across multiple channels. Artificial intelligence is often among the technologies underpinning digital transformation. When it comes to digital transformation for banks, however, projects can also focus on the more basic, yet critical IT components: the core, customer-facing website, for example.
That was the case with Federal Bank Ltd., which replaced a custom-built website built on Microsoft’s .Net framework with a new corporate site based on open source technology from Liferay Inc., a software company based in Diamond Bar, Calif. The change, along with a UI overhaul, has led to a 5x improvement in daily site visits. The increased traffic translates into more customer leads for the Aluva, India-based bank that operates more than 1,000 branches and ATMs. Continued »