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Sashi Binani, CIO, Dropbox, CIOSEA News, ETCIO SEA | #cloudsecurity | #hacking | #aihp


Sashi Binani, Chief Information Officer, Dropbox

The rapid adoption of the cloud for enterprises and SMBs to sustain their business chain values and revenue growth is changing the way organisations are willing to invest into and approach varied cloudification tactics. In a digitally transformed world, cloud solutions are the backbone of data storage, computing power, and information backup. This requires proper implementation of cloud management strategies, cloud security deployment, and the development of customisable business-oriented cloud solutions.

In an exclusive interview, Sashi Binani, Chief Information Officer at Dropbox, the cloud services giant, deliberates on modern software development, cloud computing and spending trends in APAC, cloudifying SMBs, innovation in cloud products, Dropbox’s futuristic vision to develop them, and the best practices for tech leaders to up their cloud game.

With a history of leading major transformations, implementing creative and disruptive operating models, and creating strategic business and IT partnerships, Sashi provides insights and perspectives informed by comprehensive experience, competitive landscape and emerging trends to facilitate innovation. He identifies and implements initiatives that drive productivity, delights users and advances mission-critical enterprise priorities with speed, agility and efficiency.

Here are some of the most interesting excerpts from the interview:

Sashi, in a world where the various benefits of SaaS trump traditional software, what are the ways in which its customisable services can help organisations?

The emergence of SaaS has enabled organisations to focus on their core business rather than having to worry about their technology infrastructure. SaaS takes care of a number of business technology needs, such as being able to access your content anywhere, whether that is to scale your infrastructure up or down, backing up your data and more; so people can spend more time focusing on their work.

The natural next step that companies need to solve is how to keep users more in flow with their work and make it easier to find information, so people can move work forward seamlessly. Customisable services help address these challenges by empowering people with the flexibility to build optimal ecosystems that best serve their business.

However, we also see rapid proliferation of SaaS applications, which unfortunately requires users to know which application to use, as opposed to what job needs to be done. This makes finding information in this highly distributed landscape more difficult than it ever was. We have to bring the focus back to the ‘jobs to be done’ vs. the current scenario of ‘applications to use’.

In a world where organisations are focusing on excessive data collection and analysis, give us an overview of how SMBs are investing in the security, backup, and maintenance of data storage, cloud storage and computing, and its growing importance.

Modern work is now more distributed than ever across a variety of applications and devices. This proliferation of work poses security risks not only within a specific app, but also across an integrated landscape. For SMBs, the ability to access and share company data securely and conveniently has become tablestakes for operating a business. Further, SMBs are generally not equipped with large IT teams to troubleshoot these issues, so it’s important for them to be able to save, store and recover their most important files and data easily.

Over the years, Dropbox has focused on creating solutions that help customers stay secure online. For example, Dropbox Passwords allows people to create and safely store account details, making it easy and secure to sign in to websites and apps. Dropbox Passwords remembers usernames and passwords on all devices to take the guesswork out of logging in for users.

Another example is Dropbox Backup, a secure cloud backup and recovery solution that helps our SMB customers automatically backup important files onto devices, such as computers and external drives, and makes it easy to restore content whenever needed.

What are some overarching cloud computing and cloud spending trends, both globally and in Asia Pacific?

As a result of the recent pandemic, we’ve seen many of our customers increasingly adopt cloud technology to enable new and decentralised models of work such as hybrid and/or remote work.

This evolution has made modern work more distributed than ever, and work often takes place on mobile devices. In fact, we have seen an exponential increase in the usage of Dropbox’s mobile app. However, businesses can’t just keep transitioning desktop applications to mobile devices to keep up with this evolution. Companies will need to create native mobile capabilities from the ground up.

At Dropbox, we live and breathe this change in work with our ‘virtual first’ approach. Our teams are given the flexibility to work from a location of their choice instead of being tied to a physical office. Naturally, this requires a flexible, agile, and resilient technology stack that can support a distributed workforce — and cloud technologies have become the backbone for enabling this shift. From security to storage, collaboration to communication, cloud services have changed the game as more organisations see it as mission-critical for business resiliency and continuity, enabling them to keep operating during major disruptions.

In your view, what are the key focus areas to keep in mind while choosing an optimal cloud computing strategy? Which aspects of business most require cloudification?

Cloud computing is an essential driver for the productivity, efficiency and growth within a number of areas of modern workplaces. Some of the key focus areas to keep in mind when choosing an optimal cloud strategy are:

  • Focus on having fewer governed applications that will mean less context switching for workers, thus making them more productive. This in turn becomes a more responsible spend and a more secure ecosystem.
  • Cloud computing offers businesses the flexibility to scale up or down depending on changing business needs. This agility is vital for companies that are anticipating peaks and troughs in their growth.
  • Be open to continuously learning and iterating to understand the technology trends that will drive the future of work, and adapt the business accordingly.

As a cloud-hosting service provider, what are some innovative products the cloud space needs in the modern digital market for optimal IT management? Could you give us some insights into Dropbox’s future plans t0 develop them?

Over the past few years, knowledge workers went from working in an office to living and working out of a digital screen. But when you look at what’s on that screen, it’s a huge mess – we’ve grown used to the multiple apps and notifications we deal with on a daily basis.

This new way of working needs new tools — there’s a ton of potential to improve the current state of knowledge work. It can take on a lot of the heavy lifting and busy work we do in the background, and act as sort of an AI co-pilot, so our minds are freed up to focus on innovation.

At the highest level, Dropbox wants to create one organised place for your digital content and all the workflows around it – that’s what we’re focused on. The opportunity is not to add another thousand tools, but to better organise what we already have. In recent years, we’ve made strides in expanding our workflow capabilities with our acquisitions of HelloSign, so people can send their files for e-signature directly from Dropbox, and DocSend, so people can securely share and track some of their most important files.

We’re also seeing the acceleration of several trends, such as spikes in rich media and video content, the rise of the freelance and creator economy, and an accelerated shift to the cloud. We’ve quickly responded to these trends with a number of brand new product innovations, including Dropbox Replay for video editing and Dropbox Capture for video based collaboration.

Before we bid adieu, Sashi, mention some best practices for CIOs and tech leaders to seamlessly execute their cloud game.

  • Be mindful of the balance between ‘best of breed’ applications and broader platform applications. CIOs typically prefer fewer apps, so they can effectively manage applications cost and security, as well as can scale their resources better. On the other hand, business leaders generally prefer best of breed apps that give them the best functionality for their business areas. Close partnerships between CIO and business leaders is crucial to align on what’s right for the organisation.
  • The present rate of technological innovation is faster than ever before, so the best approach today may not be the best one tomorrow. For example, trends like AI, blockchain and the metaverse are opening up interesting possibilities. CIOs and tech leaders must be agile and continuously evaluate the innovations happening in the industry and assess their relevance within the context of the organisation.
  • The employee experience, in addition to the customer experience, is also emerging as an important area that leaders should prioritise. These experiences are often made up of multiple technologies and applications stitched together. CIOs and business leaders need to make it easy and intuitive for people to move through their workflows and access the information they need across all these disparate systems.
  • Above all, a growth mindset and iterative delivery model is crucial to ensure a business is constantly learning and tracking progress. It’s also essential to keep in mind the different stakeholders and varying needs across those audiences. Tech leaders should take into account these different factors and be open to learning and growing through the process to ensure workers can continue seamlessly moving work forward in this evolving landscape.

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