State of IT: award-winning CIO says IT staff must network more

21 Jun 2012

Netwatch chief technology officer Niall Kelly

Recently named 2012 CIO of the Year, Netwatch chief technology officer Niall Kelly has added his voice to calls for IT departments to make a greater strategic contribution to their organisations.

Kelly is also co-founder of the Carlow-headquartered security company and his position affords him a wider perspective on the company he serves, instead of a narrow remit of delivering IT services.  

Speaking to, he said IT departments should “not be afraid to let go” of certain parts of their infrastructure, and to focus on where they can make an input into their company’s strategic direction.

“For businesses where IT is a support, then the IT role will have to be involved more in decision making and strategic stuff; the nuts and bolts can be outsourced. We need to keep ourselves upskilled, and not be afraid to let go of certain areas. If servers move to the cloud, we shouldn’t be stuck in the mindset of ‘we need to buy servers’,” he said.

Netwatch still needs to be self-sufficient in key areas, such as ensuring security of information, Kelly said. Consequently, the company retains a lot of control over networking and resiliency of systems. However, it outsources its application development and is considering the cloud for data storage in certain cases.

Kelly also urged IT professionals to interact more closely with other departments in their companies, as well as customers, in order to be able to make a more meaningful contribution to the company strategy.

“I’d encourage IT professionals to become better versed in business development, and to interface with aspects of the business, such as sales. It’s something IT people tend not to do well. They need to become more rounded,” he said.

Netwatch insists its IT team meets with customers in order to understand their needs. Kelly said this approach “has changed our business. Our investment in research and development has come directly from requirements that our customers have had,” he said.

Kelly, who is 45, also spoke of the importance of being open to new ideas, such as when recently graduated recruits join the company and are more familiar with new areas of technology. “I’m happy enough to be challenged by someone like that,” he said.

You can read a full interview with Niall Kelly tomorrow, 22 June, in our The five minute CIO interview slot.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic