Kevin Ruthen, CTO at support.com shares insights regarding challenges & adoption of latest trends in digital transformation
Kevin Ruthen is Chief Technology Officer at Support.com, as of May 2019, and is responsible for product, engineering, information technology, hosting and critical systems. He is focused on spearheading innovation and growth strategies for internal, enterprise-customer, SMB and consumer use, harnessing his extensive experience in digital transformation and delivery excellence. Kevin is a technology thought leader who is passionate about providing a stellar tech support experience for all customers.
Previously, Kevin served as Head of Technology for the American Institute of Physics Publishing, and prior to that was a Global Managing Director for Unisys. Over the course of his career, Kevin also held several senior technology positions at PriceWaterhouse Coopers Consulting, IBM Global Services, and Prudential Securities.
Kevin holds a Master of Science in Information Resource Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Information Management from Syracuse University.
Sajid Khan: Kevin, thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview. You’ve been a Chief Technology Officer and being involved in originating, launching and managing successful global business IT strategies. What is your definition of governance as it relates to technology amid COVID-19 Pandemic??
In today’s environment you need to be sure you have governance that is agile. Traditional Technology governance has been about providing a rigorous framework of processes and rules for a stable standard set of organizational technology. If it’s one thing this pandemic has proven is that any organization that is going to survive and thrive must be ready to quickly adapt to whatever is thrown at them.
Many organizations struggled with the transition to support work from home staff. Their governance did not pertain to all these remote devices, especially a bring your own device environment. This often caused breakdowns and pain points.
It is critical that your governance model can adapt and support proper asset management and identity governance for a remote workforce. It needs to be sure systems and data that might not have regularly been accessed remotely are able to be made securely available. I suggest leveraging multi-factor authentication to validate employee identities and VPN’s to prevent unauthorized access. Modified rules and processes must be quickly put in place. The policy must specifically state compliance expectations, including equipment standards and the internal IT processes to validate, as well as timekeeping and response expectations (e.g. chats and phone calls). It must specify confidentiality requirements, such as the expectations of privacy and a closed-door environment, and should include the ability for managers to remotely review an employee’s office set up regularly and without notice.
In addition organizations need to consider being prepared for a flexible changing model of certain staff working on-site on certain days while others are remote and then vice versa, as well as staggered shifts. There is a risk of opening offices but then having to shut them down again. As such you may not want all resources to be able to access sensitive systems and data remotely on the same days and times.
Without a proper technology governance that reflects the current state of the world, you really run the risk of bad actors and security breaches, as well as losing track and proper administration of assets.
At Support.com, we were able to bring to bear our ever evolving agile governance framework for our predominantly remote workforce. We quickly assisted and guided our enterprise and SMB clients towards a successful transition during this unprecedented time.
SK: In your opinion, what have been some of the biggest challenges faced related to technology consulting firms globally during the last few years?
Digital transformation is the biggest challenge in my opinion that technology consulting firms have had to face. A technology consulting firm is relied upon for their expertise and guidance towards implementing strategic change for others. There is so much power and opportunity with digital transformation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence as well as IOT devices. Key opportunities include: mining and harnessing data in new strategic ways to add value and transform organizations; evaluating existing processes and business lines and then applying the vision and insight on leveraging technologies in new ways to transform the current state of business. Companies that don’t look to embrace digital transformation are ripe to be disrupted by someone else. Traditional barriers to entry are being rapidly ripped down, and the companies that will thrive are the ones that can transform. This is a huge challenge and opportunity for technology consulting firms to enable digital transformation for an organization.
SK: What is your take on Cloud Strategy & Data Privacy and the fundamental steps/solutions to make it more effective in organization’s technological shift?
Any effective Cloud Strategy and deployment must encompass strong security and protection of data. The only way Data Privacy can be achieved is if the data is properly restricted and protected. A key first step is a complete data inventory and mapping. Often I see many organizations that are not even aware of all the data they have, especially in silos, in testing environments, and archive environments. This only gets compounded when dealing with multiple cloud environments and shifting of data for temporary cloud virtual machines. It is essential that you have proper identity governance, controls, and processes to manage data privacy for cloud data. I strongly recommend a centralized data governance tool and repository to manage user opt-in/out settings as well as requests related to their data. In addition many organizations do not even properly recognize, classify, and manage user personal information such as IP address, geolocation, etc. It is essential these days to be able to properly associate and manage all related user data.
SK: Would you like to share some of your key initiatives that you implemented related to the innovation and growth strategies for internal, enterprise-customer, SMB and consumer use by harnessing your experience in digital transformation and delivery excellence?
Some key digital transformation initiatives I have led were:
- Launch of a Tech Solutions e-commerce site, serving as new revenue engine at Support.com. This is a new model and segment for direct to consumer access to our self-help dynamic tech support as well as an authoring tool for submissions.
- Currently exploring leveraging AI to augment tech support agents by mining internal and external open source data repositories to accelerate and improve quality of troubleshooting a customer issue.
- Block chain smart contracts for managing research institutions access rights to American Institute of Physics publications, as well as associations of digital research assets to authors.
- Data Exchange Platform that enabled the creation of 360 degree view profiles of customers. This resulted in new products and services and overall new services delivery model.
SK: What’s been your greatest achievement in your career thus far?
My greatest achievement is to have the privilege of becoming the CTO for Support.com and leading transformational change across multiple areas. This included new agile delivery of direct to consumer and SMB products and new revenue generating engine e-commerce platform, recognizing that our data is a strategic asset that can be leveraged in new ways and products. It is extremely satisfying to be part of a dynamic organization in which I am at my best being able to directly impact positive disruption, wearing multiple hats, including a culture shift of accelerated agile delivery and a new level of collaboration. It is extremely satisfying to hear feedback and appreciation of how much more the technology area is engaged as a true business partner, driving transparent collaborative communication that did not exist previously. There is a new level of energy, excitement, and ability to collaborate and support each area to be able to succeed as one overall organization. This provides me great personal satisfaction.
SK: What advice would you offer to our readers who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
Just like what is necessary for positive change and success considering the state of the world now, the best advice I can give is embrace empathy. Most folks lead, design, deliver, and interact based upon their own limited views. The way towards real success and change in everyday life as well as in business is to be able to have empathy and truly take the time to think through, actively listen, and appreciate other stakeholder perspectives. For example, what are their needs and what is the best way to enable them for success? A very common pitfall I see by technology folks is that they are quick to jump into solution building without taking the time to really understand the requirements, the business impact value, and what is the view and perspective of both key stakeholders and the target audience. Focus on asking the right questions, and being open to mind shifting ways of thinking and tackling a problem. This will actually reduce risk, and lead to greater overall success.