‘AI as a disruptor is on every CIO’s mind’

25 Aug 2023

Andrea C Johnson. Image: Pipedrive

Pipedrive’s CIO Andrea C Johnson discusses her role, the effects of AI on the SaaS sector and her strategy for leading her team forward.

Andrea C Johnson is the chief information officer (CIO) at customer relationship management (CRM) platform Pipedrive.

As well as her current role, Johnson also holds the position of chairperson at WITS (Women in Technology and Science) Ireland.

At Pipedrive, Johnson says that she and her team have a “very ambitious” technology strategy which supports the company’s product and business operations.

“I’m currently identifying and translating our opportunities and enablers – it’s very exciting!”

‘Every business must understand how the combination of people and technology is critical to their success’

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape and how are you addressing them?

I’m mindful of how the battle for tech talent, advances in automation and AI, and the growth of SaaS (software as a service) to take over business technology, are reacting against each other to make every year a totally novel time for a CIO. It feels like our challenges are many and incredibly exciting to meet head on.

AI as a disruptor – and being disruptive – is on every CIO’s mind. For me, getting to know my new humans is critical. I’ve turned this into a skill and capability conversation – and it goes to support the previous point about enabling transformation and change. I’m also very cognisant that roles and structures that we have previously relied on may not serve us well going forward. Such is the pace of change. I have an amazing opportunity to flex, change and set us up for continued success.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation in a broad sense within your industry?

SaaS, as they say, is ‘eating the world’, and it’s important to ensure the digital transformation journey is firmly oriented to solving our user challenges in a rapidly changing business and social environment.

Pipedrive has a very mature digital transformation agenda we are executing against. As I’m at the start of my CIO journey, one of the areas I’m looking to address is automation/intelligent workflows for IT and finance operations. This will help free up our humans to add more value to customer-facing interactions. I’m also starting to shape our enterprise application transformation programme. This is exciting and will bring a level of maturity and functionality to enable, transform and innovate within the business.

Sustainability has become a key objective for businesses in recent years. What are your thoughts on how this can be addressed from an IT perspective?

Making the global technology industry efficient – not only minimising our impact on the environment – but leading on finding solutions, is critical. Green IT is top of mind as I shape our strategy. Pipedrive already has a number of great initiatives, including reuse of our hardware. My aim is to join up with our exec team to see how together we could drive new initiatives, minimising our impact on the environment, whilst leveraging some of the fantastic activities that we already do.

‘Since the beginning of the technology industry, it’s fair to say that enthusiasm trumped caution in design’

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

AI everywhere – especially in CRM markets – quantum computing and progress in green technology are all on my mind. The biggest technology trend for me right now is enabling my humans not only for today but for our big, wonderful, challenging tomorrow. In the rush to get on the ‘next big tech thing’, I don’t want to forget our people who are fundamental to our success.

Skills, capability, encouraging new opportunities to learn and partner, highly-focused technical mentorship and perhaps most importantly, encouraging and enabling innovation at all levels. A great example of this I saw recently includes amazing AI ideation from our internal IT Ops team, a really exciting and a great fresh approach.

Every business must understand how the combination of people and technology is critical to their success. Overall, I’d be really excited to see evidence of long-term industry planning from execs across sectors to show how their technology decisions will shape their industries into a greener, more productive and human-centric future.

What are your thoughts on how we can address the security challenges currently facing your industry?

Since the beginning of the technology industry, it’s fair to say that enthusiasm trumped caution in design. But for a few years security-minded experts have been bringing better practices to development (for example, ‘shifting left’), company security and in new automation to support security teams in managing an overwhelming task. Now I think it’s time to reshape culture to put a better understanding of security front and centre, as part of a great user experience, and the responsibility of all.

Thankfully Pipedrive has a wonderful CISO and team, so we are in great hands. Like all SaaS organisations, this is a 24/7/365 consideration and it starts with every one of our people. Security is a shared responsibility as we drive towards our zero-trust commitments. I’m delighted to be involved in the upcoming Cyber Security Summit being held on 19 October at Croke Park, where I’ll be chairing one of the streams and taking part in a panel discussion on ‘Creating a cyber workforce fit for the future’.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.