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How new IT operating models stave off digital disruption

Cultural change also extends to competitions and events, including hackathons and guest speakers, such as Constellation Research’s Ray Wang, who Fetter said brought a broad view of emerging technologies and their role in markets. When LPL moved to a new facility in Fort Mill, S.C., Fetter created an innovation lab where engineers test emerging technologies, such as how to use Amazon.com’s Alexa and other virtual assistants to check balance inquiries, trades and other transactions. Fetter said  such experiments force engineers to think about how to rewire service layers to integrate voice into LPL’s back-end systems.

LPL is also prototyping a digital dashboard intended to serve as a virtual assistant for customer service representatives. When a call comes in, the rep can see who is calling, conduct a sentiment analysis to gauge the caller’s tone and pull up content pertaining to their recent transaction history to prep the rep. "I think that has the potential to be a game-changer in freeing up time by using information in different ways to provide better service,” said Fetter.  

Pure Storage

While most CIOs long to build deep benches in a tech talent-strapped world, Pure Storage CIO Yousuf Khan believes he can keep the flash storage outfit running lean thanks to cloud software and automation. Only about 30 workers provide IT for 1,700 employees. Khan runs the business largely on applications from Salesforce.com, Workday, NetSuite and Marketo. He’s also operating a data warehouse and other infrastructure based on Pure’s own technology.

Rather than hire software programmers—a hard task in the competitive Silicon Valley— Khan works with venture capitalists to learn about software startups that automate IT operations. For instance, he is exploring how employees might create and resolve help desk tickets using chatbots in Slack. Automation will enable his small team to focus on data analytics to bolster the business. "CIOs are business enablers more than ever before,” said Khan.

Khan is also prioritizing cybersecurity, mulling how to defend against social engineering risks, such as phishing threats, an attack vector he said was hardly an issue as recently as two years ago. Part of his challenge is determining which of the many hundreds of tools available will best help him protect Pure. But he also needs cyber staff that can work with the tools to identify and neutralize threats, a tall task at a time when cyber talent remains scarce. Khan is offering to train up IT staff to more sophisticated cyber roles, including new certifications.

"The people are not there,” said Khan. “The challenges that CIOs have includes building out security thinking within your organization and using that to build out that team. Security is one of those areas where every CIO wants to build up their skill set.”

Cincinnati Bell

Upgrading IT for a telecommunications carrier, particularly one running legacy ordering, billing and provisioning systems is no easy chore. Yet that’s exactly what Cincinnati Bell CIO Kevin Murray has been focused on in recent years.

As part of a software modernization strategy to help the company work better with its partners and customers, Cincinnati Bell has been replacing or augmenting custom software with cloud applications from Salesforce.com, TOA, Callidus, Microsoft and Xactly, among others.

Last July, the company moved roughly 1,100 employees in its professional services organization onto FinancialForce, an ERP product hosted on and feeding data to Salesforce.com. The migration from custom software to FinancialForce took about four months, a much shorter timeframe than the roughly 12 to 24 months it typically takes to move to on-premises ERP solutions. Cincinnati Bell also benefits from periodic upgrades and the software’s ease of use from smartphones.

“It's a lot faster to implement,” said Murray. "We've essentially said SaaS is our preferred path.”

 

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