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Businesses worldwide are facing times of uncertainty. As they continue to adjust to industry shifts and recover financial losses brought on by the pandemic, resources are being squeezed and innovative solutions are in high demand.
Technology, as result, is becoming all-encompassing and important for basic company operations as well as development. This means the role of the CIO is expanding, requiring a greater variety of skills to oversee and manage people, processes, and technology while developing cost-efficient strategies and procedures in line with business goals.
In their key role in leading technological innovation and revenue generation within organizations, CIOs face a wide variety of challenges as they find new ways to empower success in the digital age.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced companies of all sizes and industries to rethink their business strategies and operations to survive amid changing restrictions and economic downturn. Amongst the major shifts has been the move to remote and hybrid working, a transition that has remained widely intact despite the return to normality.
While remote working offers many benefits, including convenience and flexibility, the increased demand for technological devices, such as laptops, has contributed towards a global microchip shortage – and profoundly affected the supply of devices that use them, including data centre assets.
Intel predicts that the semiconductor shortage could last until 20241 , meaning CIO’s must continue to apply pre-emptive strategies within hardware management to plan equipment needs ahead of time, and establish strategic relationships with chip suppliers and vendors to mitigate extended lead times and delivery delays to find a balance between supply and demand.
In the context of product scarcity, CIOs face the possibility of greatly inflated costs when upgrading their systems, and so should look to establishing partnerships with companies that offer alternative methods of acquisition, such as refurbished assets.
A large part of a CIO’s role in helping the company to achieve its targets involves working closely with multiple departments. Therefore, the fragmentation of the working environment also poses a logistical challenge to them, which is why it’s essential that CIOs effectively implement advanced video collaboration tools and platforms.
To strengthen collaboration between workers in different environments, CIOs are expected to adapt business operations in line with use of the hybrid cloud, an IT infrastructure which connects on-premises private clouds to public clouds. By 2022, it was predicted that more than 90% of global enterprises2 will rely on the hybrid cloud with an estimated $480 billion spent on public cloud services 3 a shift that can help CIOs adjust their operating models and work towards building a seamless and highly functional digital platform to enhance their company’s efficiency and performance post-Covid.
Closing the skills gap
As well as being facilitators of collaboration across different departments through the implementation of hybrid working environments and related technologies, CIOs are responsible for hiring and retaining employees with the hard and soft skills that will drive further digital transformation projects that will support company success.
However, currently 67% of global digital leaders 4 struggle to keep up pace with change due to lack of people with the right technical skills and knowledge. While IT and computer-related occupations are on the rise, there is stiff competition on the market to acquire and retain staff who can meet ever-changing interpersonal and technical demands.
To find the right people, CIOs may consider hiring from non-traditional backgrounds, such as those with internship and apprenticeship experience, who already have the soft skills and are willing to be technically trained to improve their hard skills. Developing in-house skills can also help close the skills gap and is as a cost-effective way to motivate and retain employees by providing them with opportunities to maximize their potential and further their careers.
Looking to the future
As companies make the digital shift towards cloud computing, it’s necessary to establish sufficient security, protection and risk management by finding the right vendors to host to cloud-based end points.
The risk of cyber threat is increasing as the number of devices connected to the IoT continues to grow. For this reason, in 2021 the global cyber security market size was worth $184.93 billion 5, and is expected to expand in the upcoming years. CIOs face challenges in ensuring strong cyber security and protecting valuable company data. Initiating training programs, expanding IT budgets, and gaining access to more resources can help CIOs provide increased protection from cybercriminals and other security threats.
To strengthen security and keep up with digital transformation, many companies are also moving towards Zero Trust security, which requires all users to be authenticated and authorized before gaining access to applications and data. Zero Trust can support local, cloud or hybrid networks, which explains why in 2020, it was reported that the covid pandemic prompted 60% of enterprises6 to push Zero Trust networking strategies.
Other emerging technologies can also leave companies vulnerable to greater security risks to intellectual property and company data, such as AI, machine learning, DevOps and robotics. Rapid technological changes mean that CIOs require knowledge that goes beyond traditional technology management and should be willing to adapt their skillset accordingly to continuously acquire greater technical competence and awareness of developing trends.
The role of CIOs in driving secure digital transformation also requires cross-functional collaboration and communication across the company. To excel, CIOs must build strong relationships with CEOs and GMs to collaborate as strategic partners to encourage security surrounding technological evolution within the organization.
While CIOs should aim to keep up with future technological developments, they must also consider the environmental impact of technology and their responsibility as part of the efforts to reduce it.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important as awareness surrounding climate-change grows, and pressure is building on their shoulders to adopt environmentally friendly practices to boost brand reputation, improve sustainability scores and protect their company against any potential future regulations.
Businesses’ deepening dependence on software and online channels for daily activities means energy demands are increasing to run the data centres needed to store and process all this information – already accounting for 1% – 2% of global electricity consumption 7 . Consequently, CIOs should make efforts to collaborate with energy-efficient and environmentally mindful partners to power data centres and drive investments to improve overall energy efficiency within their company.
To further action sustainable IT practices, CIOs can opt for third-party maintenance (TPM) schemes as a cost-effective solution to prolong the life of their IT equipment and cut carbon emissions produced by the manufacturing and transportation of new equipment. Alongside TPM, CIOs should also look for ways to reduce the impact of their business’s use of technology by working with responsible & certified partners to carry out hardware refurbishment, buy-back and recycling.
In addition, efficient methods of tracking ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) data need to be established to analyze corporate sustainability factors, such as energy consumption, workforce diversity and fair labour practices throughout the organization. This is key for CIOs aiming to develop the best practices and policies within the company by evaluating and leveraging data.
Due to the expanding scope of their role, CIOs are likely to encounter various challenges and responsibilities which encompass many aspects of the company. Technological developments and changing demands will force CIOs to become adaptive and vigilant.
However, if CIOs can embrace the evolution of their position that now extends beyond technical IT management and utilize new technology alongside technical and social skills, these advancements can provide CIOs with a variety of solutions to challenges, such as security, sustainability, and rapid digital transformation.
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