Slalom’s Michelle Grover believes many innovations today are only limited by the speed at which technology can process data, a problem quantum computing can help solve.
As the first chief technology officer at global consulting firm Slalom, Michelle Grover is responsible for developing the company’s IT strategy.
Prior to her current role, Grover held a number of senior tech positions, including consulting CTO at Softcom, CIO at Twilio and interim chief information and digital officer at First Command Financial Services.
Slalom has more than 13,000 employees across seven countries and 44 markets. In an interview with SiliconRepublic.com, Grover said IT infrastructure work from her team “empowers our consultants around the world to deliver customer outcomes that build better tomorrows for all”.
‘When you assume you are the most secure, you are likely the least secure’
What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape?
In general, there’s no one problem and there’s no one solution. The exciting thing about the IT industry is that there are always new hardware, software, process and culture improvements that are being tested and rolled out across millions of people and companies.
In general, I think that there’s a lot of pride with IT professionals because we solve problems and create efficiencies that empower others.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so when it comes to security and data it can seem like the industry is always a step behind.
But I’ve made a career out of helping companies see that IT can make what might seem impossible, possible, and in a positive way, there’s no end in sight for the ways that we can harness technological innovation to improve the lives of our colleagues, employees and customers.
What are your thoughts on digital transformation?
Digital transformation enables productivity efficiencies that help us stay customer centric. Since Slalom is a business and technology consulting company, my IT team’s customers are both internal and external.
Our consultants across the world benefit from any efficiencies we can create through technology – the less time they spend on troubleshooting and IT tickets, the more empowered they are to do great work for themselves, and for our customers.
And the easier we make it for our customers to activate the solutions we provide for them, the better they’ll be at improving the experience for their customers.
How can sustainability be addressed from an IT perspective?
Sustainability and digital innovation both have the same goals – improve productivity and decrease waste.
The way that the pandemic has affected us all is very interesting, because while it created barriers for the traditional structure of corporate office life, it also helped enable and force innovation for more IT sustainable work, especially when it comes to unnecessary travel.
Consulting companies are often dinged for their work-travel cultures. Think people in suits, constantly on the road or flying across the world burning fossil fuels in big jets. Slalom is different and our consultants have always lived in the communities that they work, which is why they are committed to our customers’ long-term success.
This community-based format is important for our customers and our people and we’ve found that employees who can make the best commuting choice for their lives, often find ones that are good for our environment.
We want to empower employees who work from home with a digital infrastructure and resources that help them do their best work, and for our consultants that meet in an office, we want to create environments to work, or meet with colleagues in the office or digitally.
Slalom has a goal to achieve carbon-neutral operation emissions and shift to 100pc renewable energy by or before 2030. By reducing waste, decreasing business travel and increasing telecommuting, two of our Slalom offices made the shift to 100pc intentionally purchased renewable energy in 2021, with more offices making the transition in 2022, and overall, we’ve reduced our market-based emissions by nearly 40pc.
What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?
From a data perspective, every company has a data problem to solve and the larger your data sets, the longer it takes to discover the patterns that will create efficiencies and allow you to move on to the next challenge.
The majority of innovations in the world today are formed by data and only limited from the speed at which our computers and technology can process data and recognise patterns. Pattern analysis is critical to growth and quantum computing will help us surmount those issues quicker than ever.
The goal is always bigger, better, faster. Quantum computing will change the way we live.
How can we address the security challenges currently facing your industry?
Our biggest and most important security asset is our people, and our best tool is process. Keeping employees educated, informed and actively thinking about how to keep our data secure is important, but we all know that anyone, with enough time and/or money, can surmount any defence.
So, our goal should be to always develop layered security approaches so that bad actors are deterred and any intrusions are tiresome. For a layered approach, your first goal is to make a system that alerts you to the attack, and your second is to shut it down and/or move other security systems in place concurrently so that you can protect your data.
I like to say, when you assume you are the most secure, you are likely the least secure. Overconfidence creates opportunity, so staying vigilant about your security culture with ‘fourth quarter’ mindset is key. In a game, your team can have a great first three quarters, or struggle through some tough ones, but it takes both offence and defence, practice and a sound strategy to secure the win.
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