2017 Greater Buffalo Area CIO Roundtable a Success

On a recent sun filled afternoon, almost 50 area business leaders and technologists gathered in downtown Buffalo to hear a panel of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) present their thoughts on trends and directions in technology, along with concerns and aspirations for their organizations.

The panel included Jeff Crimmins, CIO and CSO of Freed Maxick CPAs, Kerry Kerlin, CIO of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and Joe McLaughlin, Vice President, Operations and Technology of AAA of Western and Central New York.

After a brief opening, I asked the panelists, in rotation, a series of questions, starting with a broad ranging “what keeps you up at night?”.

Each of the panelists shared a number of concerns, but the common theme was finding adequate talent, and information security.

This led to the next question, Security and Compliance, specifically, how has the increased visibility of cybersecurity in the mainstream media, affected you? Interestingly, all panelists agreed that their greatest concern was for the ‘amazing things users will do’. The primary concern being that no amount of user training, clever videos, and growing awareness of phishing or ransomware schemes could correct for a non-thinking user accidentally opening a dangerous email.

It was widely agreed by the panel, and the audience, that additional training was required.

Chief-Information-Officer-Rountable-Buffalo-New-York-TxMQ-Solutions-2From there, the conversation moved to cloud.

Each organization represented had adopted various components of cloud; Mr. McLaughlin opening by pointing out they had moved to wide-scale adoption of an off site data center some years ago, what today his vendor now calls ‘Cloud’. The other panelists agreed they had varying adoption from moving some critical systems off site to a colocation facility, to adopting various vendor provided packages that are increasingly only available as cloud deployments.

Some attendees added questions, including asking the panelists on how they vet cloud providers. Most panelists agreed, that increasingly, cloud providers have facilities far more robust than in past years, and in nearly every case, far beyond the capabilities any of their organizations could hope to match in their own data centers.

The panelists were asked if the recent shift in the political landscape was having any effect on their businesses.

Notably, Mr. Crimmins of Freed Maxick, a large public accounting firm, pointed out that the increasing uncertainty, especially around the tax code, was causing some angst among their clients. “No one likes uncertainty”, he added. Mr. Kerlin noted that RPCI, as a prominent healthcare research facility, depends on grants like those offered by the National Institute of Health (NIH). The recent funding cuts to that organization may have a negative downstream effect on Roswell.

From there, we moved the conversation to Talent, where each CIO spoke about their challenges in filling roles.

Mr. Kerlin noted their work with the local universities including providing speakers, and educators, but expressed concern that there was still a disconnect in needed curricula to fill current and future STEM related positions. Some attendees questioned the CIOs on the availability of some talent willing to work non-traditionally, in some cases remote, or flex schedules. The panelists admitted they needed to continue to improve in offering this flexibility, but did note there are still systemic challenges to more broadly adopting remote workers.

In concluding, all the panelists acknowledged a dramatic shift in their roles over the past decade, specifically, the movement from a technology centric role, to one more leveraged across business units.

Privately, some panelists admitted a little “be careful what you wish for” sentiment. Noting for years they had lobbied for greater inclusion in business meetings, and input in critical decision making, which has led to a reality today where their days are taken up with nothing but said meetings, leaving little time to get the actual work done.

Feedback from the event was entirely positive, with multiple suggestions for future events. TxMQ intends to take this event on the road to multiple US and Canadian cities over the coming months, and we can only hope for as strong, and positive a reaction as we received in Buffalo.

 

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Chuck Fried is the president and CEO of TxMQ – an enterprise solutions provider supporting customers in the US and Canada since 1979.

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