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In response to increased corporate growth targets, CIOs are partnering with C-suite peers and line executives to capture market opportunities. Essential to these efforts are application development, process integration and connectivity to partners. This rightfully returns the CIO’s focus to revenue attainment, not simply cost control. Yet it also requires faster-moving IT operations.

To succeed, CIOs must deliver the agility necessary to drive growth – while assuring that constant change does not compromise network performance, introduce new security risk, or cause the organization to fall out of compliance with industry regulations. Even a single outage or breach can be devastating, both to reputation and revenue.

How are leading CIOs overcoming these challenges? Many free themselves to focus on the top line by minimizing uncertainty about network assets. Based on my conversations with these executives, here are four techniques you can apply to your own organization:

  1. Map your network. Repeat regularly.

    Information about the location and security of devices, hosts, and connections underpins IT strategies. CIOs must have confidence that yesterday’s assumptions are adjusted to reflect the current network. This is impossible without a complete, regularly updated understanding of the relationship between assets, as well as whether assets are in compliance to security policy.

    To achieve this, IT organizations traditionally combined data from multiple, manually updated sources or hired consultants to “sneaker map,” literally on foot. Most organizations now find these approaches too cumbersome and costly, as assets evolve by the hour. Leading CIOs remedy this by applying advances in “network assurance” practices and technologies. Many of the advances stem from efforts to map the Internet itself.

    Consider how a major regional bank tests whether its business continuity plans are sound. The bank uses assurance practices to scan disaster recovery infrastructure, determining if assets are appropriately secured and linked to internal resources and third parties. In a matter of hours, the bank’s senior IT executives can validate that the disaster recovery infrastructure is in compliance and not compromised by network change.

    Using similar practices, one of the world’s largest drug makers enforces boundaries between its research and administrative networks. IT staff can regularly test connectivity and assure the CIO and other senior managers that intellectual property critical to growth is secure. When necessary, security efforts like patch deployment can be prioritized around related resources.

  2. Look before you leap. Understand the implications of change. With CEOs increasingly dependent on IT to drive revenue, it is even more critical for CIOs to manage projects to expected business outcomes. However, most IT organizations have no reliable way to predict the full impact of network change – the reason outages and compliance violations often accompany even basic modifications. This problem is compounded by change-intensive activities such as mergers, outsourcing and consolidation.


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