Meerah Rajavel of Citrix discusses the biggest challenges in today’s IT landscape, from remote working and talent shortages to emerging security threats.
Meerah Rajavel is the CIO of Citrix, the multinational cloud computing company that provides server, application and desktop virtualization, networking and cloud computing technologies.
Rajavel has over 25 years of experience at well-known tech companies including McAfee, Cisco and Forcepoint. In her current role, she leads Citrix’s IT strategy.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in today’s IT landscape?
Many companies viewed remote working as a temporary solution to the pandemic and business leaders continue to push for a return to the old days where employees work in the office every day. But we just did two polls on LinkedIn and Twitter showing that this is unlikely to happen.
That will be a challenge for many organizations, because working remotely is not easy. When it comes to tackling the technicalities of how employees cope and stay productive, you need to put yourself in their shoes and understand how they use technology to drive business results.
The key to keeping employees engaged lies in providing consistent, secure and reliable access to the systems and information they need to get their work done – wherever it needs to be done. And it takes more than just switching the technology. Culture plays a major role in adoption.
Another major challenge IT faces is hiring. It is currently difficult to find good quality candidates in the field of security, design thinking and user experience, data science and analytics. And there are a few reasons for that. Security remains a critical priority for CIOs. In the hybrid cloud, remote working and BYOD world we live in today, more resources are needed to ensure that corporate networks and assets remain secure. And the demand far exceeds the supply.
When it comes to design thinking, the paradigm is shifting from user-centric thinking to human-and-machine thinking. This requires designers to be well versed in the constructs of the capability of artificial intelligence and machine learning and analytics alongside user experience in their workflow design process. And that’s a skill that isn’t widely available.
What do you think of digital transformation in a broad sense within your industry?
Over the past decade, the digitization of everything has turned every business – regardless of industry – into a software company. From mobile banking and virtual healthcare visits to self-driving cars and automated food preparation and delivery services, software applications are embedded in almost every aspect of the economy and our lives.
And as they launch digital transformation initiatives to support this trend, IT leaders need to align with their business counterparts and make sure they approach things collectively from an inside-out, company-wide perspective.
For me, any type of change management should be broken down into three key areas of focus: people, processes, and technology. But it is imperative that you start with the people, because without establishing a culture around the change first, it will be difficult to achieve success.
‘The digitization of everything has made every company – regardless of the industry – become a software company’
– MEERAH RAJAVEL
When it comes to people, we pay particular attention to two important elements: culture and education. First, we’ve been building a culture that encourages risk-taking and organizational success over individual success. Second, we invest in training programs that enable individuals to confidently adopt new technologies or ways of working and be effective immediately.
Digital transformation requires technology to be integrated into the flow of business, requiring IT and business to embrace shared methods and processes. For processes, we have anchored in standards such as secure agile frameworks that make culture and operational efficiency key pillars of any project, to aid iterative value delivery and easy adoption across all areas of the business.
Perhaps most importantly, we’re investing in the technology—including our own—to help automate and integrate workflows so we can reduce production time, minimize business disruption, and increase effectiveness.
What are your thoughts on how to approach sustainability from an IT perspective?
By embracing remote working and enabling it through technology, companies can pursue their ESG goals and create a more sustainable business and future.
For example, using digital workplace technologies, they can give employees access to everything they need to be engaged and productive wherever they are, reducing the need to commute and the associated CO2 emissions.
They can also eliminate the need for applications and data on endpoint devices and move from power-intensive desktops to power-efficient laptops to increase their energy efficiency. And because no data is needed to live on these devices, they can extend the life of their equipment and reduce waste.
What major tech trends do you think are changing the world?
We did some research that found that 93 percent of business leaders believe the increased digital collaboration enforced by remote working has empowered more diverse voices, leading to richer idea generation. And as flexible working becomes the norm, the vast majority expect greater equity and collaboration to continue and fuel an era of hyper-innovation. And this turns me on.
With flexible working, I see more innovation happening to bring physical and digital experiences together. Whether concepts such as metaverse or technologies such as AI/ML and VR/XR integrated into the collaboration tools, they are all aimed at improving user experience and effectiveness in a location-independent manner.
What are your thoughts on the security challenges your industry is currently facing?
The threat landscape has become much more sophisticated as a result of remote and hybrid work, and protecting employees has never been more critical or difficult.
Employees want the freedom to work when, where and how they want with the devices of their choice. And to attract and retain them in what is arguably the tightest job market the world has ever seen, and to keep them engaged and productive, IT needs to serve them while ensuring that assets and data remain secure.
It is one of the biggest challenges we face. And to overcome this, we must go beyond thinking that security and user experience are mutually exclusive and take an intelligent approach to workspace security that combines the two under the zero-trust model to give employees easy, unified access to the apps and information they need, when and where they need it, to perform at their best.
We have also witnessed two major attacks on the software supply chain in the past 12 months involving SolarWinds and Log4j.
The first is an example of how easily malicious code can be injected remotely into a simple software update delivered to thousands of companies and government agencies around the world. The second highlights how threat actors are increasingly targeting the vulnerabilities in third-party software components to wreak widespread havoc.
All of this underscores the importance of securing the software supply chain and adopting practices such as DevSecOps.
Editor’s Note, January 24, 2022 at 8:25 am: While thousands of organizations received malware in the SolarWinds cyberattack, a much smaller number were compromised by follow-up activities.
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