Modern technologies can be intimidating, says Aijaz Regoo, Chief Technology Officer at MIS Forward

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Modern technologies can be intimidating, says Aijaz Regoo, Chief Technology Officer at MIS Forward
Modern technologies can be intimidating, says Aijaz Regoo, Chief Technology Officer at MIS Forward

Rapid Changes in the Technology Industry occur when requirements necessitate the creation of a new box that must be properly scoped and scaled

This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Aijaz Regoo, Chief Technology Officer at MIS Forward

How did you plan your career path to be a successful technology leader?

Everyone is not born with SILVER SPOON FEEDING, and I don’t have a God Father in the technology platform. Every step I took was keenly discussed with my known seniors and some of my first cousins, who were very kind to share their thoughts and recommendations. Being a leader can allow you to influence others and share your expertise. In the tech industry, many leaders work to provide innovative solutions and expand the way people view problems. We need to understand what leadership skills we possess and what valuable ones we can gain to help us establish ourselves in the industry. Since graduating in Technology and Management, I’ve tried to push myself further to understand what technology can do for humanity by pursuing a Master’s in Information Technology while also completing technical and renowned certifications and courses from Microsoft, Cisco, ISACA, PMI, AWS, Six Sigma, Axelos, and many more in the technology platform. I gradually started thinking that if you need to make a decision on your own; you have to attain the highest level of technical leadership, like that of a CIO, CTO, chief architect, IT head, and many more. I started a full-time job in an ISP where security and technology should be on par, and then later found myself thinking, “Why don’t I move to the corporate world where my skills will be awarded and companies will start getting good out of it?” I then moved to the Gulf and Middle East and joined one of the biggest retail companies. This was the time when I started meeting the leaders and champs in the technology field and the C-level leaders, who were really good to share their regular thoughts on being a leader. I decided to improve my management skills and was offered a position with one of Saudi Arabia’s largest engineering consulting firms. Then I started flowing with the stream and took on every single task and role as my responsibility so that management could count on us from the technology aspect. I had the opportunity to work in a variety of domains and industries, which helped me understand other industry standards. Now I have handled the CXO level role for the past 4+ years, and at this stage, you will want to make sure to let your team grow along with you because all your success is because of the team skills you acquired to get your plan up and running with success. I want a leader to be shoulder to shoulder with his or her team, and I want the team members to be the pillars of your success.

What challenges you faced in your career path and how did you overcome them?

“Be the type of person who faces and overcomes life’s challenges rather than avoiding them.”

There are lots of changes happening across every single industry, which is actually a need of the hour. The changes made you capable of doing the enhancements across since it put forward a challenge to update and upgrade, which led to facing a new challenge with these happenings. Career growth comes with challenges in accepting the role and following certain rules that make you moldable to the requirements of an existing environment. Attract the skilled employee by providing a variety of benefits that will allow him or her to perform better. You need to understand the team members’ way of doing the job and make him or her comfortable while their services are offered. Support their growth and try to sustain skilled employees by offering a flexible schedule.

Rapid Changes in the Technology Industry occur when requirements necessitate the creation of a new box that must be properly scoped and scaled. Always remember that you cannot be a jack of all trades; be willing to seek consultation and bring on consultants in such cases as they are subject matter experts (SME).

As you can see in my portfolio, I have been moving around and joining different industries, and there is always a challenge to grow and excel. Since you are new to a certain business industry, it doesn’t mark you as new to the technology implemented; you are selected there to enhance the system, and business growth should be seen along with better tuning and scaling and accepting certain changes. I am never short of opportunities to learn from my colleagues and mentors. You should never lose track of learning at any age or stage. I am not encouraging or advising anyone to be only industry-specific; rather, stand out from the crowd to be known as a game changer. A job cannot define you personally, but you as a person can define what needs to be done  in a righteous way.

Shape the IT Division in a way that sets an example for each colleague in the organization, where they will ask for your input in their growth. The digital transformation is there for businesses that lead technology players to upgrade, update, and enhance the products included. Don’t just take the traditional path; there may be a shift in a hybrid model where doing a task is a blessing rather than a curse.

Any frequent change in the management side should not affect the technology or strategies if proper care is taken of the application and infrastructure (updates, patches, and no outdated hardware) and the right model of doing the work is accepted. Although no one is permanent, your work should always be required.

What are the challenges faced by technology leaders today while implementing digital technologies?

Well, if you can read or visit my previous reply to the question above, you will find a basic rule: if you are going for a new industry or new product change, take a strategic partner or consultant along with you since technology leaders can never be masters of all trades or businesses. Digital transformation is not only adopting new software, technologies, and processes that are more efficient and automated than traditional business practises and processes; it is also an entirely new, innovative way of doing something that is core to your business. That means organisations must consider everything when taking on a digital transformation initiative—from how people will react to the change to how it will impact customer relations, the cost, how it will align with business goals, and so forth. Digital transformations empower organisations to take their business into the future and position companies to withstand competition and grow into new areas. But all of that is easier said than done. According to McKinsey, a leading consultant known globally for digital transformation statistics happening globally, 70% of all digital transformation programmes fail due to employee resistance and lack of support from management, and only 16% of employees said that their company’s digital transformation efforts improve their performance or are sustainable. I’ve been reading a book of common thought that says and shares the same challenges that technology and management leaders face:

  1. Lack of Change Management Strategy
  2. Complex Software & Technology
  3. Driving Adoption of New Tools & Processes
  4. Continuous Evolution of Customer Needs
  5. Lack of a Digital Transformation Strategy
  6. Lack of Proper IT Skills
  7. Security Concerns
  8. Budget Constraints
  9. Culture Mindset

Lack of Change Management Strategy

Organizations with a thorough change management strategy are six times more likely to meet or exceed their digital transformation objectives. Having a strong change management culture is vital for any organization’s success. A lack of a change strategy sets up any new project or implementation plan for failure. An effective change management strategy involves planning a project by identifying the root causes of issues and building relationships with all stakeholders and employees.

Complex Software & Technology

Enterprise software is inherently complex. Modern technologies can be intimidating. This is a large challenge for organisations undergoing digital transformation, both from an implementation and data integration perspective as well as from an end-user experience perspective. Leaders should consider this in the initial stages of a transformation project and seek out the most intuitive, integrated systems. Never be hurried or impatient when selecting software from the market.

Driving Adoption of New Tools & Processes

New processes and technologies often present challenges in the form of resistance to change from tenured employees who feel there is nothing wrong with the way they are currently doing things. For new software implementations, organisations must provide comprehensive onboarding training with proper sign-off of acceptance as well as continuous employee performance support to help employees become productive and proficient with a tool quickly, allowing them to understand the value of these new processes.

Continuous Evolution of Customer Needs

Organizations are always evolving, and COVID-19 accelerated this. Consider what a customer wants. That changes as the world evolves and industries change. Digital transformation is not an easy project, and intensive transformation efforts can take years to accomplish. What happens if, during that time, your customer’s needs change? The evolution of customer problems will happen. Do not be surprised, and plan to be agile when it comes time to adopt new digital technologies.

Lack of a Digital Transformation Strategy

Why are you replacing legacy systems and manual processes with new digital systems? Does your organisation have a plan (or need one) to implement advanced and complex systems? Are you ready to properly migrate your existing systems to new ones? These are all questions that should be answered before implementing a digital transformation process. There is no such thing as a successful transformation project without a predetermined strategy. Do not be sold on false assumptions and buzzwords. Know where your organisation can be improved and what areas of the company are in need of an upgrade, and start from there.

Lack of Proper IT Skills

To succeed in your transformation efforts, you will need a skilled, high-performing IT team. And that is difficult to put together—especially in the current tech worker shortage. According to an enterprise study, 54% of organisations said that they were not able to accomplish their digital transformation goals because of a lack of technically skilled employees. The challenges presented to organisations include a lack of skill sets in cybersecurity, application architecture, software integrations, data analytics, and data migration. Organizations that lack IT professionals can combat this challenge by outsourcing this work to outside consultants and digital transformation experts to help bridge the implementation and migration gaps.

Security Concerns

Many enterprise organisations in data-sensitive industries have privacy and cybersecurity concerns, and that is valid. Most digital transformation efforts involve leaving behind on-premises solutions to move to the cloud, as well as integrating all of a company’s data into one central system. Of course, this brings up the increased threat of cyberattacks stealing customer data and company secrets. Online attacks can target system vulnerabilities, poor setups, and unsuspecting users. Be sure to have a plan in place to proactively mitigate these threats before they happen. Bring in a cybersecurity expert to help identify weaknesses in your defense.

Budget Constraints

Digital transformation is not a cheap investment. For organisations that have a less-than-stellar transformation strategy, scope creep can slowly start to push back deadlines and add in new work, all adding to the cost of a project. Add in any consultation work, changes in your customers’ needs, or IT errors, and the cost of digital transformation continues to increase. Do understand what your long-term goals are and what ROI you plan to achieve from your transformation process. This will help you clearly understand what spending is too much and where you must increase your budget.

Culture Mindset

Organizations with legacy systems and manual processes often have an old-school mentality. Things change slowly, automation is looked down upon, and modern technologies are difficult to adopt. A significant cultural challenge of digital transformation exists. Everyone—from leadership to new employees—must be on the same page. Everyone should be ready to make substantial changes in their day-to-day lives and not be afraid of learning new things.

How can technology leaders overcome the challenges faced?

Some of the seven challenges listed below may appear overwhelming, but as Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” and IT leaders with strategic planning can efficiently overcome these challenges while leading the way to a successful business transformation.

However, it’s always best to seek expert digital transformation strategy consulting when things seem complex. Especially when it comes to business transformation, what is better than partnering with the top digital transformation consulting firms? So, stop contemplating why businesses should invest in digital transformation and start paving the way for your business to become digitally advanced.

Hybrid Work Environment

With 63% of high-growth companies using hybrid work models, the most common challenge for tech leaders is to manage and streamline their workforce and accept their employees’ new flexible working preferences. For any enterprise leader to run an efficient digital and hybrid business, catering to the current needs and preferences of the employees is imperative. Therefore, it’s a must for the tech leads to look into, evaluate, enhance flexibility, and enhance their existing infrastructure that might not be well equipped to cater to the post-pandemic requirements of the dispersed employees. The most effective way to tackle this significant challenge is by moving to cloud infrastructure, investing in cloud-based collaboration tools, and making clear communication a priority. To successfully lead a hybrid team, leaders must embrace new ways of working, assist their teams in aligning their schedules, meeting targets, collaborating seamlessly with fellow teammates, and determining how employees of work and performance can take full ownership without compromising their work-life balance.

Migration to Cloud

A cloud migration survey noted that 56% of respondents named a lack of understanding of cloud security and compliance best practises as a significant challenge. And, given that we just advised business owners to adopt cloud infrastructures, it’s time to learn how IT leaders can coordinate a successful cloud migration strategy. To align a successful cloud migration strategy, tech leaders should begin by hierarchizing workloads for migration and identifying which cloud infrastructure will suit their business needs, whether it be SAAS, IAAS, or PAAS. Post-placing the best-suited infrastructure, leaders should lay out a strategic migration plan with continuous monitoring systems for each workload, build a pilot, and then evaluate and fine-tune the strategy based on the results of the pilot with their in-house team.

The Global IT Skills Gap

Now that we are just weeks away from 2023, the global IT skill gap is undoubtedly no secret. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, 87% of companies worldwide are aware that they either already have a skills gap or will have one within a few years. And thus, this IT skill gap is yet another challenge for CIOs and CTOs to tackle. The term “IT skill gap” refers to the variance between the necessary skills an enterprise needs and the employee’s current skills. This skill gap is majorly fueled by the rise of technologies like AI, ML, Metaverse, Blockchain, etc. and their acceptance by the IT industry, with businesses embarking on their digital transformation journeys and striving to interact with these new tech innovations. To maintain a competitive advantage in the industry, overcoming this challenge and filling the skill gap should be one of the primary priorities of CTOs and CIOs. To bridge this gap, IT leaders should begin administering workforce education and training programmes that encourage and aid upskilling and reskilling within the organisation while preparing the enterprise for the inevitable prospective advancements.

Cyber Uncertainty

Do you know that it is estimated that worldwide, cybercrime will cost $10.5 trillion annually by 2025? With the workforce no longer working under one roof and increasingly sophisticated and modern cyber-attacks and threats, IT leaders face constant cyber uncertainty. As for any enterprise entirely dependent on cloud infrastructures and operating virtually, the catastrophic damage that even a tiny cybersecurity breach can cause is unaffordable. Therefore, for IT leaders, the security focus should no longer be solely on security within their own four walls; instead, they should continue to expand their safeguarding criteria and secure the employees’ workspaces and mobile devices, along with essential user data, and, in addition, become well equipped to detect and respond to cyberattacks by investing in the best tools and cyber intelligence.

Finding and Retaining the Finest IT Talent

As the working culture continues to evolve and the hiring pool turns global, one of the most familiar challenges for CTOs and CIOs is finding and retaining high-performing candidates that can drive business value while helping an enterprise grow and thrive in the competitive marketplace. Especially post-pandemic, since the work has turned virtual and hybrid, we can easily observe that the employees are experiencing early burnouts in their long-held jobs, leading them to change career paths and choose the leisure of working at their convenience or switch to gig-based work, which certainly has made it difficult for IT businesses to bring in or retain the best professionals who work with total efficiency, meet deadlines, and outperform. To solve the challenge of finding and retaining top-rated professionals, IT leaders should build an employer brand, promote internal mobility, and start prioritising a flexible working environment, task automation, strategic and continual training, leadership support, professional development, and purposeful work, along with offering competitive remuneration to professionals based on their experience and outcomes. However, every CIO and CTO facing an IT talent shortage has the option of partnering with top IT service providers to outsource needs. Given the need to revise workforce management, bring in the right talent, and develop the necessary skill sets.

Keeping Pace with Digital Transformation

As read above, we are part of a business era that is driven by digital transformation. Regardless of the niche, businesses are rapidly evolving into digital-equipped entities and are doing their best to embrace these technologies and innovations. The above fact signifies that digital transformation is ahead for every IT leader. And since no industry is resistant to it, the only way to thrive in these turbulent times is by accepting the new age of tech-driven processes and enhanced data infrastructure. To assimilate these tech advancements, an enterprise’s leaders can join hands with the top digital transformation consulting firms to ease the business transformation, in addition to strategically introducing a technology-driven work culture by retraining employees in automation and digitization and empowering them to uplift themselves and the organisation to compete and adopt the right technologies to innovate their businesses.

Combatting Supply Chain Disruptions

The global pandemic has exposed the fragility of the supply chain and multiple areas of weakness for businesses, verifying the immediate need for IT leaders to strategize their moves, adopt new tools and technologies, and analyse market footprints as a crucial investment for the future. To resolve the ultimate supply chain shortages, tech heads should steer the financial and operational challenges post-pandemic, build a flexible framework, and address the customers’ and suppliers’ requirements by putting in place proper risk management operations that can turn disruption into meaningful change. However, ensure that the risk management system is technically advanced, utilising the platforms that support AI, ML, and applied analytics, ensuring end-to-end transparency and responsiveness across the supply chain to combat the potential upcoming disruptions.

Any best practices, industry trends, or advice you’d give to fellow technology leaders to help them succeed professionally?

Every single personality is what distinguishes him/her from other human beings, and everyone has different ways of doing the job after the many practise courses he/she has taken. As a leader, simply follow along in addition to your normal course of practice.

  • Communicate often and regularly with the team.
  • Offer regular check-ins with line managers.
  • Review their work frequently and set KPIs.
  • Assist them in prioritising their tasks so that they can offer solutions on time.
  • Show interest in their life outside of work and be connected on social portals.
  • Plan goals together with your department managers.
  • Set the quality standard for offering services.
  • Make yourself available or coordinate with representatives.
  • Rotate and offer roles that are challenging.
  • Provide learning opportunities and free tech courses to enhance the skills of team members.
  • Encourage accountability and give ownership.
  • Celebrate their success, as we did, and I will get that done.
  • Make space for problem-solving.

Any other points that you would like to highlight?

Change or upgrade your version from 1.0 to 2.0.

 

Also readTechnology is changing, or, let’s say, upgrading, within no time

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CIO News, a proprietary of Mercadeo, produces award-winning content and resources for IT leaders across any industry through print articles and recorded video interviews on topics in the technology sector such as Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Cloud, Robotics, Cyber-security, Data, Analytics, SOC, SASE, among other technology topics