Citrix’s Meerah Rajavel discusses the biggest challenges in today’s IT landscape, from remote working and talent shortages to new security threats.
Meerah Rajavel is the CIO of Citrix, the multinational cloud computing company that provides server, application and desktop virtualisation, networking and cloud computing technologies.
Rajavel has more than 25 years’ experience at well-known tech companies including McAfee, Cisco and Forcepoint. In her current role, she leads Citrix’s IT strategy.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape?
Many companies viewed remote work as a temporary solution to the pandemic and business leaders continue to push for a return to the old days where employees work in the office every day. But we just did two polls on LinkedIn and Twitter that show this isn’t likely to happen.
That’s going to challenge a lot of organisations, because working remote isn’t easy. When it comes to addressing the technical aspects of how employees can cope and remain productive, you’ve got to walk in their shoes and understand how they leverage technology to achieve business outcomes.
The key to keeping employees engaged lies in providing consistent, secure and reliable access to the systems and information they need to get work done – wherever it needs to get done. And it takes more than just flipping the switch on technologies. Culture plays a huge role in adoption.
Another big challenge IT is faced with is hiring. It’s difficult to find high-quality candidates in the areas of security, design thinking and user experience, data science and analytics right now. And there are a few reasons for this. Security remains a critical priority for CIOs. In the hybrid cloud, remote working, BYOD world we now live in, more resources are required to ensure that corporate networks and assets remain safe. And demand far exceeds supply.
When it comes to design thinking, the paradigm is shifting away from user-centric thinking toward human-and-machine thinking. This requires designers to be well versed with the constructs of the possibility of artificial intelligence and machine learning and analytics in addition to user experience in their workflow design process. And that’s a skill that’s not widely available.
What are your thoughts on digital transformation in a broad sense within your industry?
In the last decade, the digitalisation of everything has caused every company – regardless of industry – to become a software company. From mobile banking and virtual healthcare visits to self-driving cars and automated food prep and delivery services, software applications are embedded into nearly every aspect of the economy and our lives.
And as they embark on digital transformation initiatives to support this trend, IT leaders need to align with their business counterparts and make sure they’re collectively approaching things from an inside-out, company-wide perspective.
For me, any type of change management needs to be broken down into three key focus areas: people, process, and technology. But it’s imperative that you start with the people because without first establishing a culture around the change, it will be difficult to achieve success.
‘Digitalisation of everything has caused every company – regardless of industry – to become a software company’
– MEERAH RAJAVEL
When it comes to people, we are particularly mindful of two important elements: culture and training. First, we’ve worked to establish a culture that encourages risk taking and organisational success over individual success. Second, we’re investing in training programmes that enable individuals to confidently transition to the new technologies or way of working and be immediately effective.
In digital transformation, technology needs to be integrated into the ‘flow’ of business, which demands IT and business to embrace shared methods and process. For process, we’ve anchored on standards like safe agile frameworks that make culture and operational efficiency key pillars of any project, to help iterative value delivery and ease of adoption across all areas of the business.
And perhaps most important, we’re investing in the technology – including our own – to help automate and integrate workflows so we can reduce time to production, minimise disruption to the business and increase effectiveness.
What are your thoughts on how sustainability can be addressed from an IT perspective?
In embracing remote work and enabling it through technology, companies can drive their ESG goals and create a more sustainable business and future.
Using digital workspace technologies, for instance, they can give employees access to everything they need to engage and be productive wherever they happen to be, reducing the need to commute and the carbon emissions associated with doing so.
They can also eliminate the need for applications and data to reside on endpoint devices and transition from energy-intensive desktops to energy-efficient laptops to increase their energy efficiency. And because no data is required to live on these devices, they can extend the life of their equipment and reduce waste.
What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?
We did some research that showed 93pc of business leaders think the increased digital collaboration forced by remote work has amplified more diverse voices, resulting in richer idea generation. And as flexible work becomes the norm, the vast majority expect enhanced equity and collaboration to continue and fuel an era of hyper-innovation. And this excites me.
With flexible work, I see more innovation happening to converge physical and digital experiences. Whether it’s concepts like metaverse or technologies like AI/ML and VR/XR integrated into the collaboration tools, all aim to enhance the experience and effectiveness for users in a location-agnostic fashion.
What are your thoughts on the security challenges currently facing your industry?
The threat landscape has become much more sophisticated as a result of remote and hybrid work and protecting employees has never been more critical – or difficult.
Employees want the freedom to work when, where and how they want using the devices of their choice. And to attract and retain them in what is no doubt the tightest labour market the world has ever seen and keep them engaged and productive, IT needs to serve it up, all while ensuring corporate assets and data remain safe.
It’s among the biggest challenges we face. And to overcome it, we must move beyond thinking that security and user experience are mutually exclusive and take an intelligent approach to workspace security that combines the two following the zero-trust model to give employees simple, unified access to the apps and information they need, when and where they need it, to perform at their best.
We’ve also witnessed two major software supply chain attacks in the last 12 months with SolarWinds and Log4j.
The first is an example of how easily malicious code can be remotely injected into a simple software update delivered to thousands of enterprises and government agencies worldwide. The second highlights how threat actors are increasingly targeting the vulnerabilities in third-party software components to cause widespread havoc.
All of this underscores the importance of securing the software supply chain and adopting practices like DevSecOps.
Editor’s note, 8.25am, 24 January 2022: While thousands of organisations received malware in the SolarWinds cyberattack, a much smaller number were compromised by follow-on activity.
Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.