The Future CIO 2021

The Future CIO 2021 - Raconteur

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How can CIOs build momentum from the pandemic?

The onset of the COVID pandemic has brought to light the importance of the role of a CIO. Previously CIOs were not necessarily seen as strategic leader but with the move to home working and a distributed workforce, ensuring technological congruity within the organization for effective working.

The shift to digital which was previously a slow-moving progression has now been accelerated to maximum speed to ensure companies can remain competitive during the pandemic. The evolving role of the CIO can now move towards a value-adding strategy such as aligning the organization’s technology strategy with growth plans as well as building in risk mitigation. The introduction of digital solutions should go deeper than just one layer or only be embraced as a reactive measure, the CIO can now be proactive by ensuring the organization becomes more agile through embracing new digital strategies.

The Skills of the Future CIO

Rebuilding the workforce foundations

With COVID, came significant workforce disruption almost overnight. Most organizations were able to respond to this relatively well but there is always room for improvement. A future needs to have flexibility at its core so for most organizations, this means restructuring the core of the workforce. With a distributed workforce comes security risks. Existing security models do not account for such a widely spread workforce, so to ensure data is being managed correctly, security approaches will need to adapt to this new way of working. Increased use of the cloud and other shared information platforms puts data at risk, especially when the amount of data being processed through these applications has now increased significantly. An increase in visibility is also critical for this new work model.

75% of high performing organizations believe remote working will represent a competitive differentiator
Vanson Bourne on behalf of VMware and Dell 2020

Humans and Automation

Automated workforce is a controversial topic for a lot of people, with thoughts often turning to the likelihood of redundancies but, there often needs to be a human at the end of the line who can fix the automation if it goes wrong. Full-scale automation does not always mean an absence of humans, these technologies often work best in parallel. This can be through facilitating repetitive tasks so the humans can focus on the more abstract tasks that automation cannot do. To be effective, automation requires strong data, without it, automation will not be much use. So, an organization needs an effective data strategy before they should consider investing in automation, poor inputs lead to poor outputs. Embracing technology skills within the organization will help an organization sustain progress into the future.

‘Companies that have enabled technology skills and ways of working across the wider organization will sustain progress’
Roxane Heaton Director, Government Digital Service Advisory Board member

Value in digital transformation

The increase of digital projects over the last 12 months as a result of the pandemic have revamped a lot of organizations attitudes to technology. Technology projects are often costly so therefore ensuring value is generated from them is critical, previously, digital transformation exercises have been seen as ‘box tickers’ which often added little value due to the way they were implemented. Organizations need to get out of the mindset of digital transformation for the sake of it, the projects need to be specifically selected to bring value to the company and enhance the ways of working. A transformational CIO needs to understand that in this new environment, to perform at their best, they need to build a strong team around them with varied skills that cover all of the critical aspects of the digital operation. The CIO needs to be able to drive new transformation projects froward that drive value for the organization and further the strategic goals of the organization.

47% of IT leaders permanently sped up digital transformation post COVID-19
Harvey Nash/KPMG 2020

Cyber Security

A threat that has been emerging rapidly over the last 1.5 – 2 decades is that of cyber attaches. Most firms receive more than 100 threat alerts a day relating to attempted breaches. Tackling these and ensuring the organizations information remains secure is a critical task for the CIO. The pandemic made clear the flaws in cyber security that a lot of organizations had. A recent study, conducted by Kroll, VMware Carbon Black and Red Canary among 500 security and legal leaders, found 93% of large organizations have suffered at least one incident that led to a compromise of data over the past 12 months. 

55% of organizations said they need to improve the time taken to contain and remediate threats, with the same number wanting to increase automation of the incident response process, yet half lack in-house expertise or technology to do so.

CIOs and the workforce

With an increase reliance on technology as a result of the distributed working COVID has brought, a CIOs role has now become a key driver in the employee experience. Ensuring that the workforce is well enabled for home working is critical, a poor technologically enabled workforce can have a detrimental effect on organizational performance. The role of the CIO can now be utilised to drive workforce change in order to increase productivity and flexibility within the firm. Ensuring the workforce has access to the right hardware is a good starting point but going further, the introduction of advanced collaboration tools and networks are what will help an organization drive value from the new working situation.

57% of IT leaders believe that enabling employees to work flexibly
and remotely will improve the adaptiveness of the business
Forrester Consulting 2021

Hybrid work and the role shift of a CIO

The role of the CIO has also further shifted to now include the responsibility of driving deep cultural and technological transformation in order to best enable the new hybrid workforce to perform their jobs effectively. They need to be shaping new technology-based cultures within the organization where workers can embrace and fully utilise the benefits of technology to ensure their hybrid working model proves effective.

83% of global employees do not want to return to the office five days a week
Slack 2020
Considering clean rooms

As it’s a CIO’s role to embrace new technology and ideas, it is important for them to consider the concept of a ‘Clean Room’. This is an area where two organizations can share data that can help develop insights for each other but there are both security and legal concerns to contend with. These rooms can help develop strong insights and have primarily been used by marketing business in the past to gain better consumer insight. They have the potential to provide excellent information but pose complex security and legal risks which will be unique to each organization. 



The pandemic has present both challenges and opportunities for organizations but there are five key priorities that CIOs need to focus on:

  1. Regulatory Compliance & Security
  2. Modernise IT infrastructure and systems
  3. Ensure real-time visibility of critical data
  4. Engage and educate the workforce
  5. Make full use of cloud computing


Read the original article and report here.

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