CIO Spotlight: Oded Blatman, ClickSoftware

CIO Spotlight: Oded Blatman, ClickSoftware

Name: Oded Blatman

Company: ClickSoftware

Job title: Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer

Date started current role: August 2018

Location: Israel

Oded Blatman has over 20 years of experience in various positions in IT and cyber security, including CEO, CTO, and IT management roles in large government organisations, enterprises and startups. Before joining ClickSoftware, Blatman served as the Chief Cyber Security Architect and CISO of Israel's largest defence company, where he spearheaded an innovative cyber security architecture and implemented a new cyber defence centre program, reducing cyber risks and significantly increasing security visibility and operations.

What was your first job? IT Manager & Architect at Israeli Aerospace Industries.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, IT and specifically infrastructure always fascinated me as it provides the platform for all applications and system users.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science & Management from The Open University of Israel as well as Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certification and other technical certifications.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started my journey as an IT manager on an international, multi-million-dollar project for Israel's largest defence company. After implementing new technologies and automation I decided to focus my career in the cyber security world. I designed and managed Israel Aerospace Industries' cyber security directorate which delivered a world-leading Cyber Defence Operating Center. My next challenge was to merge my IT and cyber security knowledge in the CIO and CISO position at ClickSoftware and implement innovative IT solutions with world class security in a cloud company.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? ClickSoftware will invest in two main areas this year:

IT and DevOps Security - Our customers' data and privacy are our top priorities. We constantly evolve our security resiliency to meet current and future cyber security threats, for example in the areas of authentication and identity, access and network, monitoring, analytics and incident response.

IT Automation - Specifically we are providing internal customers with a self-service portal with full automation and orchestration provisioning to deploy necessary workloads. This will deliver all IT services in a timely manner using pre-approved resources, thereby reducing the need for IT intervention, and will reduce expenses, as well as enhance security, monitoring and visibility. This automation will consolidate all IT resources in hybrid environments (Amazon Web Services (AWS) and on-prem datacentres) within a single managed IT private cloud.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? The priorities for the upcoming year are focused on cyber security and IT automation. Click is going through a revolution in the IT and Security domains. Initiatives include building an internal cloud to support all the different business units at Click and enable a fully automated, secure, self-service environment.
Security initiatives place Click in the vanguard of cloud security including innovative strategies in both production and corporate environments.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? Some CIOs manage product development. Rather than take on this role, I think CIOs should focus on Information Technology, COTS Applications and Security - and not code development for products and services. Security is an integral part of any IT platform. CIOs must understand it's their responsibility to implement security and lead digitisation efforts. CIOs are responsible for continually improving and increasing the agility of their organisation while simultaneously improving the value they give to the business.

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? Yes. Click uses cloud technologies to centralise all IT environments and improve customer experience - a transformation driven by both operational efficiency and security. As a result, efficiency has increased up to 40% for our IT resource utilisation and significantly decreased IT expenditure.

Another aspect of Click's digital transformation is the business insight we get from existing Big Data repositories. As we continue to improve our visibility and data analysis, we implement analytical/BI technologies that enable internal stakeholders to make better decisions. 

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? Click's maturity level is relatively high. Our customer facing platforms have a high maturity level and well-defined KPIs. These systems include a high-end community portal which consolidates, analyses and provides insights to our customers on different KPIs. KPIs for the IT environments are monitored continuously and augmented by periodic customer satisfaction surveys where results are analysed, and improvements implemented as appropriate. I believe that the combination of automatic KPI monitoring and manual surveys (to "feel the pulse") is the best recipe for good service measurement.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Fortunately Click has a "digital mindset" and culture and digital transformation changes are accepted naturally. Improvements in services, processes and technologies are welcomed.  Of course, this means that the CIO must think ‘one step ahead' in providing value from data technologies and processes! As digitalisation provides visibility and control of business processes, CIOs must combine business requirements with technology that provides insights and value from various data sources (CRM, ERP, DB's etc.) to drive competitive advantage. A digital transformation journey needs a staged approach with a clear roadmap communicated via a steering committee, involving a variety of stakeholders, for each project.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Roles in the AWS engineering and AWS security are more challenging to fill. There is a shortage of experienced cyber security architects and engineers on the AWS platforms.

IT system admins (or DevOps) with extensive understanding of operating system and coding capabilities are also challenging to hire. Adding salary and location (distance to commute) into the equation only adds to the challenge!

What's the best career advice you ever received? Put your customer's requirements and satisfaction as top priority.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. We identify key areas and capabilities we need for different departments within the CIO office (IT, applications, security etc.) and positions (technical leaders, engineers, managers etc.). Our documentation wiki's are used as a central knowledge base. In addition, we train our experts in a couple of ways. The first is generic to all employees in the CIO office and includes baseline training (e.g. AWS technologies or how to manage technological projects). The second is domain-specific training for each subject matter expert (e.g. security forensics, CRM/ERP, ITIL etc).

The performance of our employees is assessed quarterly as part of the management by objectives practice and feedbacks is provided in the spirit of continuous improvement. When this all comes together, you have a great mechanism for self-improvement.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? I would encourage them to look at the wider picture and the critical importance of their responsibilities. I truly believe that IT / DevOps provide the foundations for the services provided by the company. As such, their ability to execute has a direct impact on the business. This is an enormous challenge but also an opportunity to make a huge difference to the company. I would also encourage aspiring leaders to manage in an agile manner and be thoughtful and flexible.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Designing and implementing innovative technological and security solutions that brought significant value to the business - this really makes a difference!

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have joined Click earlier.

What are you reading now? "Practical Cloud Security: A Guide for Secure Design and Deployment," by Chris Dotson. 2019, O'Reilly Media

Most people don't know that I… have hobbies like cooking and drawing.

In my spare time, I like to…cook Italian food and do astronomy activities with my kids.

Ask me to do anything but… clean the kitchen after I cook…


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