The role of CIOs in network evolution

With inflation at its record high, IT budgets have never been stretched so thin.

Yet despite the economic uncertainty and financial anxiety, organisations can no longer postpone accelerating network evolution that can help them gain the necessary resilience to ensure business continuity. As digital transformation leaders, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are currently faced with quite the challenge of balancing budgets whilst trying to progress initiatives that safeguard their networks, maintain data security and remove points of failure to minimise disruptions.

Working closely with network professionals, CIOs are quickly realising that persistent inflation is not the only barrier standing in the way of true network resilience. Wider staff are being hindered from ensuring improved services due to a variety of performance issues and outages. According to the 2023 report from Uptime Institute, the total number of outages is still increasing year-on-year globally, with two-thirds of all blackouts costing businesses more than $100,000. The urgency for increased investment in resiliency has never been so strong.

A need for stronger collaboration

Improving network resilience and progressing digital transformation strategies are not one-person jobs. To guarantee success, CIOs need to get out of the boardrooms and foster greater collaboration with their wider workforce, including network engineers, who have the clearest visibility of where innovative initiatives can be implemented. With CIOs and wider staff singing from a different hymn sheet, frustrated engineers are likely to be rushing to implement quick-fix solutions to performance or security issues with one hand tied behind their back. Engineers are best placed to suggest the right technologies, and it’s up to the CIOs to actively listen and provide them with what they need.

Network evolution will be unfeasible to an engineer that is unable to solve a problem remotely at 2am or is lacking connectivity from the start when trying to send equipment to an unmanned location. The consequences of extended downtime are huge and can range from stunted productivity and reputational damage to data security risks and loss of money for a business. In times of economic hardship, financial risks are not something most businesses can afford to take. Therefore, CIOs must look towards purpose-built future-focused solutions to meet the evolving needs of their staff and protect the organisation moving forward.

Implementing the right solutions

Network resilience adds a layer of intelligence to the backbone of an organisation – the IT infrastructure, and for that it needs the right tools. CIOs must deliver a network solution to engineers that provides separate access to the production network, giving them the ability to remotely monitor and manage all devices so that any outage can’t affect primary operations. Out of Band (OOB) management is the way to achieve this, with the most critical functions locked down and the secure OOB network available to configure and manage devices as needed. To ensure further resilience, businesses can make use of Smart OOB solutions paired with cellular failover capabilities to provide sufficient bandwidth for critical processes to continue to operate during an outage.

Furthermore, implementing NetOps processes enables greater network innovation and evolution. A Smart OOB management network already provides presence and proximity to local devices, so it can facilitate automated deployments for better scalability and agility. Smart OOB Console servers can support automation, such as standard Docker containers and a Python runtime environment, enabling engineers to perform and complete several tasks simultaneously and extend OOB functionality to network management systems in place.

Obtaining full visibility of all the active automated processes is key, with intuitive software providing an overview to engineers of console servers with automation capabilities and seamless access to console ports via connected applications. With API-driven capabilities, engineers can access remote networks securely, regardless of the method in which the network has been connected or the type of interaction from the user. To drive additional automation capabilities, Network tools and applications that run within Docker containers can be pushed to remote locations as needed.

The custodians of network evolution

Even at the current uncertain time of economic turmoil, organisations need to ensure their networks run smoothly to provide and maintain an acceptable level of service and normal operations. Building network resilience in the face of increasingly complex threats has never been more important. It’s become all too easy to fall behind in the network evolution, purely because of stretched budgets, but the consequences of outages and non-compliance can be much more damaging financially.

So, whilst CIOs are aware and abiding by their cost limitations, it’s important they don’t come at the expense of complacency. CIOs have a responsibility to connect more closely with their network engineers, listen to their challenges and propose tangible solutions. As senior leaders and guardians of digital transformation strategies, CIOs need to implement the right network technologies, such as Smart OOB, to secure their networks, improve efficiency and productivity and minimise the risk of disruption. In turn, this will create greater resiliency across the organisation and a steady foundation to progress with digitalisation and innovation projects in the future.

About the Author

Alan Stewart Brown is the VP of EMEA of network resilience experts at Opengear. An executive business leader and hands on team builder with an uninterrupted career spanning 29 years and a demonstrable track record of driving sustained growth through strategic sales, channel development, and operational leadership, with general management and board level remits. Alan has several decades of Sales Management, Business Strategy and Business Development experience gained throughout the EMEAR region.

Featured image: ©Siarhei