CIO Spotlight: Ian Pitt, LogMeIn

What's the best career advice you ever received? ""Everybody Sells." To a young helpdesk analyst, that seemed strange, but it set my path through consulting, selling and ultimately reaching the C-Suite."

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What was your first job? My first job was as an L1/L2 helpdesk analyst for NCR, solving UNIX support cases for their Tower minicomputers. It taught me a lot about customer engagement, researching issues, and introduced me to computing in the corporate environment.

Did you always want to work in IT? As with any young person, it took some time for me to become interested in IT and know that was the right path for myself. I went through the journey of wanting to be an astronaut, a forensic scientist and an engineer. In fact, I have a joint major degree in Electronic Engineering and Physics. It wasn't until my last year in university, and thanks to an internship that brought out my passion for coding and system design, that I started thinking more about IT than Physics.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Physics from Lancaster University in the UK. Although thanks to my job and the people I work with, I haven't stopped learning. I hope to someday have the time to work on a master's degree and obtain further certifications.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. The first few years out of college were all about solidifying skills in the corporate world and systems consultancy helped with getting exposure to many organisations at once. I believe this approach was extremely beneficial for my growth, given the scope of the challenges I was exposed to early on.

My career evolved into sales consulting, a step that took me around the world and into several startups. For personal reasons, I stepped back from the large global team leadership, a small detour that allowed me to focus on evolving technologies and SaaS delivery which set me up for the next round of growth. While it could be seen as a backward step career wise, it wasn't, as it ultimately led to broader roles. All new roles were a progression and added something extra to the mix, so I don't regret any of the choices I made, though I do wish I had gotten into ‘management at scale' a little earlier.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? The global pandemic and the sudden, drastic shift to remote work we have seen in the past few months has undoubtedly driven the focus of our IT investments for the remainder of the year. While we're already an organisation that is well practiced in remote work given the nature of our business, many of our investments will focus on bolstering that remote work infrastructure for our employees, as well as improving and streamlining offerings for our customers.

To simplify employee access and connectivity from afar, we are continuing to advance our use of SaaS and reduce our on-prem footprint. We already have a heavy SaaS model, with only 10% of our applications requiring a VPN, but with a more dispersed workforce we have accelerated the process to further improve our structure, address large-scale remote work needs, or execute potential M&A in the future.

On the customer side, due to stay at home policies we have seen an unprecedented increase in traffic including a 300% increase in use of our remote access products. Video conferencing and meetings usage has spiked 10x over 2020 norms, and remote support usage is surging 50% week over week. As a result, one of our key initiatives is capacity validation - adding bandwidth and refreshing hardware as needed. While all products, including our remote access tools, are designed for scale, we are currently increasing the volumes of activity they can support through extra servers, vCPU allocations, memory and network capacity. Consequently, on the other side of this pandemic, we will have new capacity baselines and new hardware to support our platforms.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Prior to the mandatory shift to remote work, our team, like many other IT teams around the globe, was focused on creating efficiencies and streamlining processes, improving infrastructure, and strengthening our organisation's compliance and governance. Our 2020 priorities shifted the second the global pandemic took shape. Since the rapid transition to remote work across the globe, our team's top priorities have been to ensure business continuity for our company and to help equip our customers with the tools they need to enable seamless remote work for their employees. Our business continuity plan proved invaluable and helped us prioritise essential activities in the rapidly changing environment.

Now as we expect an end to the full remote work - hopefully soon -, our IT priorities have continued to evolve to better support the business. We've learned a lot from the significant spike in traffic we've seen in recent months, and we have been able to add capacity as needed. Our capacity management teams continue to review utilisation across the platforms on a daily basis and are monitoring in real time.

We've also found many customers wanting to buy across our entire portfolio to enable not only video conferencing, but also remote access and support. We're prioritising better connecting our business processes and applications together to make this a more seamless process for our customers.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? What is a ‘conventional CIO' these days? We're all governed by our individual companies which leads to a variety of responsibilities. By talking with my peers, it's clear we have a core set of responsibilities such as keeping the lights on, setting the pace for digital transformation, and stimulating collaboration across all functions. However, the needs change from one organisation to another, and those needs set up the specifics for the role.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Digital transformation is at the core of what we do at LogMeIn for both our customers and our employees. For us, digital transformation is not just backend digitisation of assets and processes, it's enabling a digital user experience where technology drives greater productivity and engagement. However, digital transformation, whether for internal users or customers does not come without challenges - namely user buy in. Creating a friction-free digital experience is key to securing that buy in. This requires a delicate balance between user preferences as well as security and governance requirements. Striking this balance and providing a consumerised IT experience is critical to success.

We are in a unique position as a company, as we produce some of these tools that facilitate digital transformation ourselves, so our employees turn into early adopters and it becomes part of our culture. In order for true digital transformation to take shape, I believe you need this level of immersion and engagement.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? From an IT perspective, we look at a broad number of KPIs and use OKRs to help improve those. A figure would be considered ‘classic,' for example, when we track the number of digital customer interactions - both inside and outside the company - when we manage to drive traffic to our chatbots rather than raising cases, or when we streamline the supply chain by delivering devices directly to the hands of the users without passing through IT, improving the degree of automation of common processes.

Furthermore, while LogMeIn was born in the digital era and strategise to advance internal and external services, we also have an M&A strategy that so far has gifted us an environment with plenty of opportunities for continued improvement.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? A positive work culture is one of the most valuable assets an organisation can offer and it's especially critical in times of crisis. LogMeIn prides itself on the transparency and ability to engage in discussions across levels, driving the culture from the top. We've been highly distributed as a company, which put us in a great spot when COVID-19 hit and we had to shut the offices down. Collaboration and communication continued even though everyone was isolated, a testament to the open and flexible culture within teams and the company as a whole. 

We are proving we can all be productive working from home. It is the reason why after we go back to ‘business as usual,' I don't see all employees heading into our physical offices. I'd even expect we'll be operating in a semi-remote mode, potentially forever. This will not change the culture at all, it will merely shift the working approach to a very flexible location choice, selected at the individual level. It will also open up the opportunity for hiring where the talent is, which is exciting and beneficial for us.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? In conversations with many of my peers, we think that finding good security and DevOps experts available in the right location can be a challenge. Moving forward, in a post-COVID-19 world where there's a much greater appreciation for work-from-anywhere, we can anticipate this challenge will reduce since we'll be looking for talent regardless of location.

What's the best career advice you ever received? "Everybody Sells." To a young helpdesk analyst, that seemed strange, but it set my path through consulting, selling and ultimately reaching the C-Suite. Every role involves selling something, whether it is products, concepts, or budget requests, so from all the advice I've received along the way, this has been the most long-lived and always applicable.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. It's probably fair to say I have the framework of one in place and any of my direct reports can step into looking after the organisation if I was unable to. Each of the leaders I work closely with are experts in their domain and my key focus on succession planning is to ensure that there is frequent communication across the teams to create sufficient visibility across all lines. We work to fill in any gaps in experience, the challenge is how to do so without diluting the domain expertise that makes each team member unique.

At the end of the day, being a CIO is all about mapping the business needs to the teams and helping the organisation achieve their goals - which is something my leadership team can undertake at a moment's notice and as needed.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? IT decision makers must have a seat at the table. To do so, they should be proactive rather than reactive. Get ahead of the business, learn what's trending and productive in the marketplace and stay connected to team members across the organisation. Move away from the "We've always done it this way" mentality, but also stand your ground when challenged to adopt a new solution simply because a user or team has decided that's what they want without considering existing applications. A small group of users with a loud voice should not undermine a longer-term strategy of integration and overall company productivity. Leaders need to bring solutions to the senior management and transition into a trusted advisor role; otherwise, they will forever be reactive. Failing to evolve into this strategic leadership position can lead to an IT decision maker's extinction.

What has been your greatest career achievement? This is a tough question - just when I think I've achieved my biggest goal so far, something even more challenging comes along. Each stage of my career has brought milestones along with it, though LogMeIn is among the top ones, with some very substantial challenges and deliverables. To some extent, I am hoping that the COVID-19 pandemic sets the high bar for ‘real-time reaction to disruptive influences,' so we don't have to relive those interesting weeks of transition again.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Looking back at my career path, there is very little I'd change, other than getting into ‘management at scale' a little earlier. Having a team of 500 teaches you a lot about humility, perseverance, and understanding that would have been beneficial earlier in my career. The variety of roles I gained early on have proven priceless and I wouldn't change those for the world.

What are you reading now? Without the commute to provide some quality reading time, I'm making do with a variety. The Art of War by Sun Tzu is my flick through book. The Darkness Beckons by Martin Farr is also keeping me sane until the scuba diving crowd can get back together.

Most people don't know that I… can make 25lb / 12Kg of sausage blind folded. My wife and I try to cook ‘from scratch' as much as possible and that spreads a long way back into the supply chain.

In my spare time, I like to…Scuba dive. There's nothing quite like floating through caves and shipwrecks. It requires a team that you can trust eyes closed for complex dives and a mindset to keep calm in totally alien situations. This is on hold for now since no boats are running, most beaches are shut down and travel options are limited. Although, it might be the greatest form of social distancing when dressed in a drysuit and using a closed-circuit rebreather underwater. Looking forward to going back to it, soon!

Ask me to do anything but… give up travelling. My entire career has seen periods of extensive travel around the world and once I learned that there was more to business travel than going from an airplane, to the office, to a hotel and back to an airplane, it became a great opportunity to absorb many cultures and build an understanding of the global landscape. These last couple of months have been the ‘driest' of my life, as I have not been outside of my town since the lockdown started. Google Earth, with its VR add-on, is great but it's not the same as drinking Palinka in Budapest or grabbing some street food in Bangalore.

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