‘Sustainability is a pivotal element in shaping the future of IT’

6 Oct 2023

Ginna Raahauge. Image: Aaron Lucy

Zayo’s Ginna Raahauge discusses her role as CIO and the biggest IT challenges facing businesses, such as cyberattacks, the IT ‘brain drain’ and budget difficulties.

Ginna Raahauge is the chief information officer (CIO) at internet communications company Zayo, where she oversees IT operations, provides strategic direction for the company’s enterprise systems and delivers IT solutions.

Raahauge brings nearly 30 years of experience as a CIO and chief technology officer (CTO) for global organisations, from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. Prior to Zayo, she served as an executive in solution and sales engineering for Amazon Web Services (AWS).

As well as her current role, Raahauge currently serves as a technology advisory board member for Greylock Partners and is a co-founder of an angel investment firm which specialises in bringing capital to historically ignored demographics.

“I use technology to drive positive change within the company and connect customers with what’s next.”

‘Digital transformation remains an ongoing journey and a top priority for IT leaders’

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

Businesses are under pressure to grow revenue while cutting spending and balancing shrinking IT budgets, which has forced IT leaders to find new ways to be more efficient. We’re leveraging automation to optimise our IT processes and enhance our infrastructure to support this shift and other innovations.

Today’s workforce demands a more user-friendly and efficient IT experience. We’re investing in new technologies, such as cloud computing and AI, to help meet those needs. In particular, we are driving more automation by leveraging SaaS tools such as ServiceNow, the public cloud and investing in skills training for our teams.

IT leaders are facing a ‘brain drain’, where experienced IT professionals retire or move to other industries, forcing businesses to compete for top talent. We’re addressing this challenge by seeking diverse candidates and perspectives to join teams, offering competitive salaries and benefits, providing opportunities for professional development and cultivating more positive work environments.

Cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated and frequent, and they can have a devastating impact on businesses. We’re investing in advanced security solutions to overcome this challenge, training our employees on cybersecurity best practices and working with our customers to develop tailored security solutions.

While these issues aren’t new, they can still be daunting and difficult to overcome. Digital transformation remains an ongoing journey and a top priority for IT leaders who must work closely with business leaders to address these hurdles and achieve the desired level of organisational innovation.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation in a broad sense within your industry? How are you addressing it in your company?

Digital transformation in IT is more than moving to the cloud – it’s a complex and ongoing process requiring a holistic approach which includes: migrating to microservices; automating and simplifying processes; enhancing user experiences; and incorporating analytics and AI.

Many IT leaders acknowledge that their infrastructure isn’t fully primed for emerging technologies because of technical debt, resistance to change and complex application ecosystems.

At Zayo, we’re actively tackling this transformation by reshaping our organisational design and investing in the right partnerships. We’re also striving to balance agility, cost management and innovation, recognising that digital transformations aren’t solely about technology – they’re about people, processes and culture.

In line with the broader industry, we’re focusing on embedding security at the network and fibre layer while driving innovation for better, more elegant SD-WAN solutions and cost optimisation. Digital transformation is a journey and continuous priority, so as we keep a keen eye on AI and automation, we’re innovating around the edge, digitising experiences and preparing for the future. Organisations must be willing to change and adapt to the ever-evolving digital landscape.

‘The tech landscape is evolving rapidly; we must stay attuned to these shifts’

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?

The IT sector can and should contribute to sustainability efforts, and there’s plenty it can do to drive positive environmental change while fostering innovation and efficiency.

Implement energy-efficient technologies like virtualisation and cloud strategies to reduce energy consumption and minimise our carbon footprint. Additionally, data centres should implement cooling technologies, which can enhance energy efficiency by optimising temperature and airflow, further contributing to sustainability efforts.

Foster collaboration with stakeholders, vendors, industry peers, organisations and government bodies to establish and adhere to environmental standards and best practices. Simultaneously, promote environmentally responsible actions through policies and practices.

Zayo is committed to sustainability, as seen in our focus on fibre connectivity. Because this material uses less resources and energy than copper, it’s a more environmentally friendly way to transmit data.

Sustainability is a pivotal element in shaping the future of IT. As technology evolves, our industry holds the power to pioneer solutions that meet current demands and ensure a sustainable legacy for generations to come. We must fulfill our corporate responsibility and contribute to a more environmentally conscious and prosperous global landscape.

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

The tech landscape is evolving rapidly; we must stay attuned to these shifts. A few key tech trends stand out as game-changers in both the global context and our industry.

First, the prominence of AI and machine learning is remarkable. These technologies are reshaping how we process data, make decisions and enhance user experiences. In the telecoms industry, AI-driven network optimisation and predictive analytics have immense potential to elevate efficiency and reliability.

Additionally, the rise of edge computing is monumental – everything is moving to the network’s edge. The rise of edge computing enables new ways to deliver faster response times and lower latency by processing data closer to where it’s generated. This shift signifies the need for enhanced performance and responsiveness in decentralised computing environments, especially to support 5G and internet-of-things (IoT) devices requiring reliable, high-speed connectivity.

While the evolution of AI and edge computing open up many opportunities for digital advancement, cybersecurity remains a top priority. Digital landscapes are only growing in complexity, so safeguarding sensitive data and strengthening our networks against attacks remains crucial. Innovations in security technologies promise more integrated and proactive security solutions.

I’m most excited about the potential for these trends to work together and create something even better. Imagine the power of AI-driven edge computing enhancing real-time decision-making while safeguarded by cutting-edge cybersecurity measures. Combining technologies in this way can revolutionise how we approach connectivity, communication and service delivery.

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

Addressing the pressing security challenges in our industry is crucial. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are particularly prevalent, affecting business sectors like telecommunications, media, entertainment, cloud, SaaS, government and manufacturing because of their online presence and data sensitivity. Telecommunications companies particularly face heightened cyberthreats because of their pivotal role in communication and internet services.

We need strong cybersecurity measures, with a particular emphasis on security at the edge, network and fibre levels. Innovation is key, too, using AI and machine learning to stay ahead of attackers. Working together, investing in security, empowering smaller players and embracing new tech can help us build a resilient industry landscape.

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