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From phishing attempt circumvention to AI, new CIO has a big job

As the new CIO at Snow Software, Alastair Pooley is taking on a range of priorities, from helping the business to recognize a phishing attempt to exploring AI for customer support.

When Alastair Pooley joined Snow Software as CIO in February 2018, he was already quite familiar with the company: Pooley was a customer of the software asset management firm when he was vice president for global IT infrastructure at cybersecurity vendor Sophos Ltd.

At Snow Software, Pooley is taking on a range of tasks, from improving the integration of core business systems, exploring the use of AI and training the organization to recognize a phishing attempt. Pooley said he saw the CIO role at Snow Software as a great opportunity, based on his experience using the company's products in the Sophos IT shop.

"I was a customer of Snow at Sophos and we were actually using the products as a real source of data for the IT team," he said. Sophos IT used Snow to manage licensing compliance and to track various versions of software across the company's technology estate.

Now, Pooley may become a customer of his former company. He said he's talking with Sophos -- and hoping the vendor company might provide a discount.

Pooley recently spoke with SearchCIO to discuss his IT plans at Snow Software.

What are your top priorities as CIO at Snow Software?

Alastair PooleyAlastair Pooley

Alastair Pooley: We have got a few this year. The first one is around the customer success initiatives. We believe we can help our customers make better use of our platforms by enabling them to learn more about the features and functions within the product. We have a community website, Snow Globe, where our customers discuss how they've solved issues and provide us feedback on how to improve the product. This is something we want to grow and develop this year. We are also trying to improve our customer support portal and [online] knowledge base to help our customers solve problems faster and with less effort -- this requires some changes to our knowledge base.

Second on my list is really around improving the core business process. There are some efficiencies we can gain by better integrating our systems. By making sure data flows more efficiently between the different systems, we can ensure we have a better understanding of our customers. I'm looking at the flow from lead generation, through quoting to generating an invoice and, finally, supporting the customer. By improving this whole chain of systems, we can reduce effort within the business. With more consistent data we can also leverage the investment we have made in business intelligence software.

The third area on my list is investing in the public cloud. Snow has taken some steps in this direction, but it is missing some of the benefits of cloud around agility and flexibility.

Do you plan to introduce any new security approaches based on your experience at Sophos?

Pooley: Security was a big focus within the IT infrastructure teams at Sophos, and I think it is one of the core foundations you need to deliver. A couple of key areas I'm looking at include switching our focus to identity as the way to control access, rather than perimeter security. Second, we're evaluating how to protect the organization from ransomware and phishing. I'm looking at how to train the whole business on recognizing a phishing attempt. Finally, we are also looking at incident response: What are the early warning signs that something is going wrong and what do you need to leap on before something can develop?

What do you view as the top emerging technologies having an impact in 2018?

Pooley: One of the ones I've been looking at is [software-defined WAN]. It has become a real tangible alternative to WAN technology and we have a lot of sites that need to communicate.

A second area I'm interested in is the opportunity to use AI for customer support -- using knowledge bases combined with AI to point customers in the right direction, searching for articles that can solve issues for external customers and internal customers from an IT point of view.

Finally, the automation of core processes: Snow has its own automation platform that we are using to set up new starters for accounts and ordering hardware. We want to use it for a large number of change requests, for example, to change access rights or to deploy a new software package. The principle is you raise a request through the platform, it sends a request to a manager for approval and then automates the task whether it's an [access control list] change or a deployment request. A lot of the workflow in the automation platform relies on PowerShell. I definitely see a great opportunity for IT to automate a number of our processes and reduce the workload on my team.

To read more about the use of AI for customer support, read this TechTarget article on Emirates NBD's virtual assistant. And check out this photo story to learn more about how to identify a phishing attempt.

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