Apex sat down with Vice President & Chief Information Officer of Saint Peter’s University. With 20 years of experience in leadership, innovation strategies, technology implementation and business development, Milos shares his views on the role of a CIO and what it means to be an IT leader today.
Q: What is IT doing to support innovation?
A: IT is meant to drive innovation and enable others to do the same and take part. IT is a critical partner and a “golden thread” if you will across everything modern businesses and organizations do. As such, it is uniquely positioned to provide value to all. Furthermore, innovation comes in many forms, but it always requires action. Thinking, planning, strategizing is all wonderful and valuable, but without action, not much will get accomplished.
Q: What is the single most important thing CIOs should be focusing on today?
A: CIOs as well as all executives should be focused on people and business growth. Modern CIOs are more customer facing and are spending time on strategy, vision and innovations across and beyond the enterprise.
Q: Should IT be a business enabler?
A: IT is business in a sense, or it is at the very least an essential part of every modern and competitive organization. As such, it should provide options to challenge old (and at times outdated) business models before others (from the outside) do it for them.
Q: How do you stay abreast of the trends and what your peers are doing?
A: I have invested years (and continue to do so) in building and nurturing relationships across various industries, sectors and markets. These relationships paired with various events (such as those hosted by Apex) are of critical significance in staying current and learning from those who may be further along.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for a CIO today?
A: It varies across industries and different maturity models of organizations, but I do believe that attracting and retaining top talent is one of the largest priorities, it certainly is for me. In today’s world and in major markets such as greater New York City area people have options which is great for them, yet challenging to many organizations.
Q: What is the difference between a CIO and a CTO?
A: Titles vary, but in general, a CIO should be focused on customers, innovation, strategy, growth and providing value to other major areas (Finance, Marketing, Operations, Security, Legal…) while a CTO is leading the existing services and ensures smooth operations of teams.
Q: How has the role of the CIO changed over your career?
A: Visibility has increased, and so have the responsibilities. CIOs have now earned seats on top management teams among their executive leadership peers. They are also more involved in the overall business vision, strategy and direction than ever before. All of these changes have taken place across organizations that are current and future proofed, while others are still behind and are struggling across some of these areas.
Q: What advice would you give an early stage CIO joining an organization?
A: Get as close to the business as you possibly can and learn everything about it. Build relationships, provide value to others and always give more than you take, in every exchange. Spend time and resources on developing leadership, strategy and negotiation skills as they matter in all that we do, professionally and personally.
Q: How important is the relationship between a CIO and a CISO?
A: While the reporting structure is debated by some, the relationship is very important. CIO relationships with everyone they work with are of importance, from CISO, to CFO, CMO, COO…all the way to the CEO. The entire C-suite needs to be unified and transparent with each other in order for all of them to move forward and make progress.
Q: What is the largest obstacle a CIO faces when it comes to security?
A: People. Training and organizational requirements to how data is stored, used and shared. Furthermore, many organizations are not funding information security adequately and proactively.
Q: What falls under the CIO’s responsibilities when it comes to security?
A: I’m of the belief that there should be one top technology leader and that is a CIO. Everyone else should report to them with varying degrees of authority. When it comes to finance, marketing, legal…they are all ultimately under one leader while IT seems to be fragmented in some organizations. The only potential exception is an area responsible for the overall risk, liability and governance for the entire business…they could be outside IT with strong collaborative partnership with the CIO and their leadership team.
Q: How do you see the security landscape changing over the next 12 – 18 months and how are you preparing?
A: Robots are taking over. From machine learning to artificial intelligence, people can’t keep up with the volume and complexity of threats so continuous investments in tools and technologies is expected. We are experimenting with robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning and will continue to stay current with what is available.
Q: How worried are you about the “human element” when it comes to security?
A: It is the weakest link in this chain. People make mistakes in opening emails, sharing data, configuring technology (both software and hardware)…the list goes on. Cyber security awareness training should be mandatory across all organizations and should be part of one’s employment record at some point in time.
Vice President & Chief Information Officer
SAINT PETER’S UNIVERSITY
I believe that everything begins and ends with leadership. Leaders have the greatest responsibility for the impact and influence over the people they lead and the outcomes of their organizations as a whole. Furthermore, I am passionate about IT being a trusted strategic partner and an advisor (a service broker) to the entire organization as technology must drive innovation across organizations and provide both strategic and operational business solutions.
I have 20 years of experience in leadership, innovation strategies, technology implementation & business development while my formal education is a blend of science, technology and business. My journey in the Information Technology (IT) profession started in 1997 and over the past 20+ years I have worked on nearly all aspects of IT. I got underway with networking/cabling installs; tech support to programming in C++, C#, Java; web development; system/network security/administration to my most recent positions of leading teams of amazing people providing technology solutions and services while supporting a multitude of organizational needs. Finally, it is essential to always focus on people first, as they matter the most in everything we do.