Optimizing Efficiencies Through Data and Automation

Community Blog
Written by Nicole Giebel

SEPTEMBER 26, 2023

Economic headwinds have business leaders determined to cut costs while continuing to drive growth, putting pressure on CIOs and CISOs to deliver secure advancements and capabilities that improve productivity and efficiencies across the enterprise. To achieve these goals, technology and security leaders are including data and analytics and automation as integral components of their overall strategy.

To see a growth impact, they are not only focusing on data architecture, but also empowering the business through the right data access, literacy and tools to make better, faster decisions. Gartner’s Distinguished VP Analyst, Janelle Hill reports, “For some CIOs, this means stepping out of their comfort zone of internal back-office automation to instead focus on customer or constituent-facing initiatives.”

For our Seattle CIO and CISO communities specifically, data and analytics and automation are in their top three functional priorities for 2023, and they recently gathered with their peers for an Inner Circle to network and discuss their mission critical challenges. During the dinner, community members led small group discussions on supporting faster, data-driven decisions and how to advance automation in a competitive environment. 

The Governing Body host for the program was Brian Abrahamson, Chief Digital Officer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and helping facilitate the discussions were Aradhna Chetal, Managing Director Executive Cloud Services and Cybersecurity Technology at TIAA; Isabel Niu, Vice President of Technology, Global Architecture, Innovation, Strategy at Lululemon; Lana DeMaria, Head of Data Governance and Privacy at Alaska Airlines; Patrick Voon, CISO at Loma Linda University Health; and Sean Murphy, SVP, CISO at Boeing Employees Credit Union.

At the end of the program, each group shared their key takeaways:

Supporting Faster, Data-Driven Decisions

Technology and security leaders discussed and debated the varying models they use to manage their data - i.e., centralized data lakes, federated models, data mesh, etc. - but one thing is certain, they need to implement an approach that ensures quality data to drive better business decisions. One participant said, “Our organizations and institutions need and depend on the value that we provide from well-managed and well-curated data.” Another shared, “Your data insights can only be as good as your data quality.” 

Here are more of their learnings on this topic:

  • Educate leadership about data. Many struggle with senior leadership not knowing what they’re asking for or what they need in regard to data. One leader cited, “You can’t leave it up to them. Have a standard nomenclature for everyone about what data is and what it means.”
  • Establish a data governance framework. One group advised their peers to: “Pull everything together more centrally. Have a good data governance structure. This means you have a framework, process, and charter (top-down from senior leadership). You need a common language; describe what a data steward or custodian is and what they are responsible for. Then, help them be literate in what data means and how they can get meaningful, relevant and actionable analytics out of the data we are collecting for them.”
  • Gain insight from your data without crossing privacy boundaries. There was agreement that balancing access and security is one of their greatest challenges. One CISO shared, “We have to have a strategy around reasonable levels of access and authorization so that we are not only countering ‘deny by default’, but we are looking at it from the perspective of ‘once you're in, you're in.’ This is the balance we were talking about.” Another leader added, “You have to provide as much security as you can without compromising access. We have to provide the right level while also enabling business. We have to have a better view, than set it and forget it.”
  • Hold data owners accountable. One group shared that people feel very passionate about the data that they have; however, data owners must be held accountable.
  • There are mixed feelings about generative AI. It can improve speed, but there are inherent risks that many are not willing to take.

Advancing Automation in a Competitive Environment

Automation is improving ROI for many organizations as well as their customers. From the CIO perspective, it is improving speed and creating efficiencies. From a CISO perspective, participants report security automation securing access controls. Here are some ways technology and security leaders are implementing it within their businesses:

  • Automate IT first. One CIO said that you must help yourself and then you can help others. They added, “My engineer would say, ‘First, I automate anything in my job, then I automate anything for customers, and finally, I help their customers.” Another leader agreed, saying, “First, you have to look at yourselves. Whether this is configuration management or automating your pipelines. By doing the things in IT, you build the capacity to help the business.”
  • Use Cases:
    • One organization is running a pilot where they are trying to predict when a part of a transportation vehicle will fail, so mechanics can proactively replace the part, preventing breakdowns. If this automation pilot passes, it will provide value and a service to both the organization and customers.
    • When another participant’s customers requested access to data or to delete data, it used to take 40 hours per request. Through automation, this process has been reduced to minutes.
    • An IT leader shared, “Automation is opening doors in customer experience for business efficiency, especially the older population.” They are using AI and automation to improve the phone experience for this demographic, who predominantly use this means for customer service interactions.

As data and automation capabilities continue to mature and new technologies such as generative AI advance, it is more important than ever for IT and security leaders to come together, learn and share with one another. Members of the Seattle community expressed how meeting with their peers impacts their professional and personal development:

I have met several peers, now friends, through my involvement with Evanta. Those friendships are priceless and they go beyond the work environment. They are trusted sources I can call if I have a security issue, and I would not be where I am today in my career without having those relationships. It's critical to your success.”

Chuck Markarian

The benefit of meeting new people, exchanging ideas, commiserating, and making friends is key to success… You will be surprised how often you meet people in these communities who either hire you down the road or put in a great word for you as a reference. ”

- Sean Murphy
SVP, CISO, Boeing Employees Credit Union

The Seattle community will be meeting again soon at the Seattle CIO and CISO Executive Summit on December 14th.

For more about this topic and to stay on top of what your CIO and CISO peers are discussing, apply to join a community near you, or check out our calendar to see when your local community is gathering next.