CIOs from LogMeIn, Vonage and More Share How Their Role Has Changed in the Downturn

We talk a lot about the end-user era at OpenView. But when it comes to the company-wide tech stacks and systems that organizations have in place, it’s the chief information officers (CIO) and chief information security officers (CISO) who set the business strategy, making sure things are secure and that the company runs smoothly from a digital perspective.

So how has the downturn affected the role of the CIO and the CISO? What are they looking at today that they weren’t looking at four months ago? We asked leaders from LogMeIn, Episerver, Forescout and more to give us their perspectives.

Ian Pitt, SVP, CIO at LogMeIn

“In any downturn, a leader has a number of tools at their disposal to maintain the health of the organization and keep costs under control if needed: Headcount, programs, automation, discretionary spend and others. The level to which each can be tweaked depends on the external impact to the company and the company’s internal targets and time horizon. Given that LogMeIn is providing remote working tools that can keep companies productive during both a pandemic (no travel needed ) and cost effective (again, no travel needed!), the impact of the downturn is limited on us.

However, as the CIO of a soon-to-be private company, it pays to plan ahead and consider the depth of the downturn by balancing the short-term impacts via reducing discretionary spend, re-evaluating the business impact of a program to determine if it can “go-slow” or be suspended and the longer term impacts that form a “one-way door,” something that once you go through, you cannot go back.

Headcount reductions form that one-way door, since the exit of great talent can take months, if not years, to recover from and so this approach only gets used if the downturn is deeper than predicted or longer lasting. Leading the team through a slowdown in hiring is far easier on all than removing headcount as an emergency measure.

Related read: These Cost-Reduction Strategies Aren’t Easy, But They Could Save Your Business

While the role doesn’t really change—after all, any CIO is about automation, efficiency, cost management, etc.—the downturn throws a spotlight on the people side of the role. Clarity of message, understanding, compassion and encouragement are all dialed up to 11. Ultimately, the company’s needs outweigh those of the individual, so tough decisions will have to be made—but those four skills still fit in the spotlight.

Some things are non-negotiable: security and resilience. A few companies still believe security is discretionary or “they’ll never find out… let’s figure it out later.” This is unacceptable in any market condition. The risk of malicious activity on the inside can grow in a market downturn, so the need to maintain a good security stance—or in fact grow it—becomes even more important.”

Sue Bergamo, CIO and CISO at Episerver

“My role as CIO and CISO at Episerver really hasn’t changed since the pandemic hit. Our company is all about enabling digital footprints and building ecommerce sites, so the downturn has had a limited impact on us.

What we are experiencing is a wave of companies that either need to increase their web presence by building a better site or new companies that need to quickly get into the digital world.

The real differences I’m seeing in my role are that I’m spending wonderful time with our employees, meeting their families and talking with them about their situation as well as making sure employees are coping and managing well during the pandemic.

Since this all started, I’ve added to my title the Chief People Picker-Upper Officer (CIO, CISO, CPPUO).”

Julie Cullivan, CIO/CPO at Forescout

“Let me start by noting that wearing both the Chief People Officer and Chief Information Officer title during a pandemic is not something I recommend.

My focus remains the same, which is ensuring our employees are staying safe and have the tools and support they need to do their best work. What has changed is the need to be very focused on employee well-being and being very empathetic to the additional stress and complexity that comes with working from home during a pandemic and economic downturn.

Making the effort to check in and communicate with people on a personal level and showing empathy and sharing your own feelings is so important.”

Abbas Faiq, CIO at PTC

“Overall, our workforce has adjusted well to the remote work model. Collaboration tools and infrastructure supporting remote employees has performed very well. Surprisingly, we’ve seen improved productivity in certain functions—IT, back office, etc.—while roles that require direct customer interaction, such as sales, have been significantly impacted as face time with customers has dwindled.

Certainly, we as leaders have focused more on employee well-being and safety in the last few weeks. There’s also an urgency to speed up several digital transformation projects to improve digital customer interaction, so we’ve prioritized and accelerated some of these initiatives.

Security is top of mind, as our employees are remote and connecting and collaborating using various tools. We’ve beefed up our security operations team to deal with the increased cyber threat level and risk.”

Justin Somaini, Chief Security Office at Unity Technologies

“At Unity, we’ve always been a somewhat mobile workforce, so we’ve driven our security processes to enable that capability. And while the world is rapidly changing, security concerns are generally the same in two regards: phishing and fraudulent activity during any natural disaster or uncertain times, and ensuring the security around endpoints that are now all on remote networks.

It was a natural progression for Unity to put the focus on the security of disparate or remote networks because it’s something we’ve worked on for years and has only been underscored in the global pandemic.”

Related read: How to Reduce Security Risks for Remote Teams

Steve Strout, Global Head of Technical Operations at Vonage

“Well, the downturn in the market hasn’t really changed things from our perspective, but the move to everyone being remote has changed things a bit. The risk profile has changed somewhat.

An example: Phishing has become significantly more prevalent. Bad actors are adapting to people who aren’t normally working from home and spending significantly more time on their computer.

There’s also a slightly higher risk that an employee will use a personal device rather than their company-issued device. And an even smaller risk that someone other than the employee will be using their company laptop while at home.

But, of course, we’re all adapting rapidly and trying to stay out front of these types of changes.”

Header image by #WOCinTechChat.

More advice on how to rise up in a downturn

VP, Executive Network
OpenView

Casey manages the end-to-end strategy for OpenView’s advisor & expert network and corporate partnerships. She also leads all OpenView community-based initiatives.
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