What modern-day CIOs must provide startups, according to the Fintech Award CIO of the Year

HashChing

Left to right: HashChing co-founders Atul Narang (CIO) and Mandeep Sodhi (CEO).

Today’s startup culture is faster paced than ever, and CIOs play a crucial role in keeping the company on an even keel. It isn’t just about aligning the company’s technology strategy with its business strategy anymore. Any CIO worth their salt needs to be bringing innovative ideas to the table and actively engaging with stakeholders to bring them onboard. Here are a few key areas that the CIO of a tech startup needs to focus on to stay ahead.

Agility and speed

Speed is imperative in order to acquire and maintain market share. Being able to discard unnecessary processes and legacy systems is critical for startup survival, because the second the business starts lagging is the second that the competition leapfrogs ahead and steals customers.

CIOs need to ensure that they maintain an agile culture, which means being able to pivot quickly based on customer feedback and implement continuous integration and deployment. This in turn enables the business to ship products and features continuously.

Information technology is changing every day, and CIOs need to stay on top of the latest developments in the industry. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time. Knowing when to invest the startup’s own resources into development versus white labelling an existing product is an essential skill, and a lot of time can be saved by adopting the latter strategy effectively. HashChing did this recently with the launch of its verification of identity feature, enabling it to be the first to market with this breakthrough technology.

Future vision

Every CTO/CIO should look at the broader vision of the company and plan backwards, ensuring that the application and infrastructure is highly available, scalable, resilient and secure.

But having the complete solution ready to go from the outset isn’t a realistic endeavour, especially for a startup. CIOs of an emerging company need to take an incremental approach to development, with the idea that it needs to be able to scale as the business grows.

Using HashChing as an example, the platform was started with a basic AWS infrastructure, which was then upgraded as the business expanded. Using AWS as the foundation was strategic, as the IT team was able to keep the platform robust, scalable and resilient with the help of AWS services. Along with that, the introduction of DevOps processes for continuous integration and deployment kept the speed of the system up.

Security

Security isn’t typically a pressing issue for startups in the early days, but it’s important to have a strategy in place to implement the right security measures at the right time. Having customer data compromised can be disastrous for a startup, and could well make all the difference between its success and failure.

As well as the standard security measures such as SSL certificates, isolating application/database servers, data encryption and VPN secure access, CIOs should also be thinking about local security, which includes securing the data on the local machines and local network.

Opportunities abound

FinTech is very much the buzz word of the day, and there are plenty of areas in the financial sector that are ripe for disruption and improvement. For those that can focus on one problem and come up with a great solution, the sky is the limit. This was the go-to-market strategy for HashChing, and even now, it is continuing to find verticals that align with its business model and provide further opportunity for disruption.

Incumbents are keen to partner with startups as well, which can multiply growth if they become a distribution channel for the business.

Really, there has never been a better time to jump into this space. The regulatory sandbox launched by the federal government last year will enable more financial services to test the market, and it is working on many more incentives to help FinTech startups grow and succeed.

CIOs who can plan for the future, stay ahead of consumer trends and competitors, as well as innovate, disrupt and automate internal processes, are on the right path for steering their startup to success. In a fast-paced field where everyone is moving quickly, the trick is to move that little bit quicker to stay ahead, and a good CIO will be instrumental in facilitating that momentum.


About the author

Atul Narang is the co-founder and CIO of online home loan marketplace HashChing. He was recently awarded CIO of the Year at the 2017 FinTech Business Awards (22 June).