Tessian Spotlight: Giampiero Astuti, Group CIO, Astaldi

Giampiero Astuti has served as Group Chief Information Officer at global construction company Astaldi since 2003. Before joining Astaldi, he worked as CIO in different industries (financial services, IT, and pharma / biotech) both in Italy and abroad.

What are your principal responsibilities at Astaldi?

My role is to define Astaldi’s information and digital strategy and, consequently, plan the evolution of the Group’s information systems. I am supported by a team of around 50 people, spread across different functions and countries. A vital part of my job is to enable better information management and communication across the business: Astaldi operates more than 250 sites in 20+ different countries, so our information requirements are quite complex.

How do you manage security risks in such a complicated global business?

Astaldi has more than 50,000 different active suppliers worldwide: we have a very varied range of product and service partners. This creates inevitable security risks. We also need to be careful when working with other construction companies on joint venture projects, which is a very common occurrence in our industry. We could be working together with a company on one project, but simultaneously competing with that same company for another separate tender. This makes information governance extremely important.

What are some of the most interesting problems CIOs in the construction sector have to tackle?

It’s worth stating that every sector has its own particular opportunities and threats, of course. But considering the fact that the construction sector can be quite traditional and conservative, CIOs have to maximize innovation by focusing on great change management and creating value from relatively limited IT budgets.

So how has the sector changed since you started working at Astaldi?

When I joined Astaldi there were no web apps or content management solutions: some information was still being shared by fax. Inevitably, much more of our activity is digital these days.

There are so many fascinating new paradigms becoming more and more popular in the sector, such as BIM (Building Information Modelling) and Industry 4.0. These are great opportunities for us, but they are also significant security threats. As more and more devices and machines are connected to networks, the potential risks increase dramatically. In construction, we must also think of physical safety as well as data loss, so the risks are magnified even more if systems are corrupted or hijacked.

There are also challenges bringing these new ideas into our work. We are experimenting with the possibilities of machine learning and other next-generation technologies, but when competing to win contracts it can be tricky to persuade a customer that a newer technology is going to be practical and cost-effective. Our projects range from hundreds of millions of euros up to multiple billions of euros: this scale can make the implementation of new technologies very expensive and complex.

Lastly, what are the key qualities of the best CIOs?

Firstly, I think it’s very important that CIOs are much more than just technical experts. I studied economics, for instance, and I think a broad understanding of business and project management is very important in this role. Technology knowledge will always be important, but CIOs must also have good soft skills like motivation and leadership. In my view, these are just as important as IT expertise.