Netskope CEO Sanjay Beri: Why the best CIOs are brokers, not blockers

Netskope CEO Sanjay Beri talks technology, security, leadership and why the words you’re most likely to hear from today's CIO are ‘yes – but’ rather than ‘no’.

sanjay beri - Workplace from Meta

When Sanjay Beri talks about the changing role of the CIO, he does it with over 20 years of perspective as a leader in the cloud, networking, and security industries. In other words, if Sanjay identifies “a big difference between the old world and the new,” he’s probably worth taking seriously.

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“It used to be that a CIO mandated the applications that people use because you would literally need space in your data centre to install it,” he says.

“Today, the reality is that the IT department no longer dictates what apps people use. They’re chosen by HR, Marketing, Engineering, Sales. The goal of a CIO is to collaborate with them to make sure that when they make that choice they wrap a governance layer over it. You broker a win-win for both sides.”

That’s where Netskope comes in. Netskope is a security company focussed on enabling people to use some of the best applications out there. As a result, Sanjay has been in a lot of rooms where this change is playing out in real time.

“There’s a customer of ours that had locked down all cloud usage,” he recalls. “They’d actually told their company, ‘We’re going to use this one application. That’s it.’ Their employees revolted. They were like, ‘What are you talking about? The culture we want and the company we want to work at is a company that lets us use these great applications.’"

“In the end there was an all hands. The CTO stood up in front of 20,000 employees and said, ‘Look, we understand. We’re going to let you use the applications you want so that we don’t have this fighting. But you have to let us verify it. We’re going to make sure that there isn’t sensitive data exposed publicly. We have to monitor that.'"

“Their employees went, ‘I get it. I understand that you want to protect sensitive data and you don’t want to put the company at risk. We don’t want to either.’ They found this happy medium where there was visibility but it was a trust verified culture.”

For Sanjay, the moral of the story is clear: “Most CIOs now believe they’re not here to say ‘no’. They’re here to say ‘yes – but…’ Yes – but here’s the controls. That’s a big change.”

““Most CIOs now believe they’re not here to say ‘no’. They’re here to say ‘yes – but…’ Yes – but here’s the controls. That’s a big change.”

Of course, it isn’t quite that simple. Saying ‘yes – but’ creates its own challenges. The number of enterprise apps inside large organizations is exploding. More apps means more data, more dashboards, and more threats to monitor. But IT teams are more likely to be shrinking than growing.

According to Sanjay, that’s why simplification and automation are top of every CIO’s agenda.

“I can’t tell you how many CIOs are shocked when they realize their business is using 600 applications. They can’t even name 20,” he says.

“They want simplification. They want integration. They want hubs of applications that talk to each other. But then they don’t want just visibility anymore – they want automation. It’s not just about knowing there’s a problem, it’s about automatically removing or remediating it.”

This is why the partnership between Netskope and Workplace is so powerful. Sanjay and his team already knew that Workplace was one of the apps that employees at large organizations were clamouring to use because he’d seen it first-hand.

“I was literally sitting in the room with the CIO, CTO, and CRO of one of the largest insurance companies in the world. Someone said, ‘Hey, did you hear? We’ve rolled out Workplace.’ And the CIO went, ‘What?’ They said, ‘The CEO has mandated it. Our users are already bought in.’”

He quickly realized that there was a unique opportunity to enable CIOs to say ‘yes’ while solving their ‘but’. “Workplace is an accepted collaboration tool. Netskope is an accepted security tool. If you put them together that’s very powerful. And that’s what we’re able to do through this integration.

“Workplace is an accepted collaboration tool. Netskope is an accepted security tool. If you put them together that’s very powerful.”

“The APIs that Workplace was able to expose in their application were such that our product could find sensitive data integrated into their security system, remediate it, look at chats and posts and so on and make sure that the company wasn’t unduly exposed with content. The next phase of our engagement was the APIs to automate it.”

The result, says Sanjay, is a win-win for CIOs and their end users. “Now you have a joint solution where you can go to the head of HR, the head of Marketing, the CIO, and there isn’t any reason they’re not going to put a check mark to say, ‘I got what I need.’"

"They can protect sensitive data. They can collaborate. They can enable BYOD. And they can do it in a secure way.”

That’s the essence of the ‘better together’ philosophy. “The whole industry now accepts that you need to integrate. You need to have all of these tools collaborate together so that they give the end user and the admin a holistic view."

"So it isn’t just that I believe in better together. The end users believe in better together. The CIO believes in better together. The head of HR… They all believe in better together.”

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