CIO: Focal points for the new year

December 16, 2020 | David Daly 5 Mins read

As we approach in new year, CIOs at multinational organizations around the world will be taking stock of what has happened in this extraordinary coronavirus year and also thinking heavily about plans for 2021. As always, technology and digital transformation will be at the forefront of their minds as they look to help their organization navigate the challenges happening now, and those coming down the line.

The role of a CIO is a complex and multifaceted one, so there will always be numerous things on the mind of this person at any given time. Juggling several responsibilities while listening to key IT leaders and stakeholders is all part and parcel of the job.

In this article, we will look at a few things that will be on the minds of CIOs in the next few months as they look to make sense of a global pandemic dominated year, while also considering how best to prepare their IT organization for 2021.

New technology

Every new month is a month in which a CIO will hear about some new innovative technology that has the potential to solve a range of business problems. As much as they expect and anticipate hearing about technology, the relentless pace of change always remains a challenge.

Next generation digital tools, innovative cloud platforms, robotics, artificial intelligence and automation technology will be on the minds of CIOs all the time in 2021. This is as it should be, because these technologies can dramatically alter business processes, productivity and cost savings at a multinational organization. It then becomes a question of choosing which of the many new technologies out there are most suited to delivering these benefits and business value at the specific organization the CIO works for. Company culture, product range and go to market methodology will play a key role in this selection and a CIO will be required to consider any investment in technology against the long-term strategic goals of the company.

Choosing wisely

The market is filled with technology innovations, all of them with bold claims about being the next best thing and many stating that companies will be making a major mistake if they fail to choose their specific technology.

It can sometimes be difficult to cut through the hyperbole and over the top marketing and gain a genuine understanding of what a specific piece of innovative technology can do for an individual department within an organization. Part of the CIO’s job is to access as much information as possible that helps lead to an informed decision making. The CIO will be thinking long term and asking questions about the ability of a piece of new technology to be flexible and adaptable enough to cope with inevitable change and deliver long-term return on investment.

Influencing culture

‘The only constant is change’- this is a mantra that CIOs must continue to iterate to receive buy- in from business leaders in the C-Suite leadership team as well as the general workforce.  This is about embracing change as a general mindset and attitude.

The CIO will be keen to root out and remove any resistance to culture change, as such resistance can be counter-productive, the nature of change is that it does not stop. For this reason, the CIO will have influencing culture as a priority because widespread, unilateral buy-in will be required to respond to market change and deliver on a mandated strategy decided at board level.

To influence company culture in a broad and impactful way, the CIO may choose a range of different ways to communicate the benefits of innovative technologies under consideration. They will look to highlight the productivity gains and cost savings, as well as deeper opportunities for collaborative effort and accelerated delivery of products and essential business services. It is about framing technology innovation in the context of wider business benefits and the customer experience as well as benefits to the ways in which employees work.

Creating dynamic teams

The CIO will want the IT department to feature nimble teams of qualified professionals, fully capable of adapting quickly to change and moving with a new approach if required. The chief information officer may wish to consider if the current IT department structures in place are a little too conventional to support teams of dynamic IT professionals needed to thrive in an environment of constant change.

This is more about the structure of the teams and their attitude to evolving change as opposed to simply investing in new technology. Financial support may be important, but it often does not lead to structural change within IT functions. The CIO will want dynamic clusters or teams filled with qualified people who are encouraged to try new things and given free rein to experiment and fail in the search for a game changing approach.

Explain and clarify

Technology innovation and digital transformation projects can sometimes result in information overload – employees as part of a global workforce can become weary of change add less receptive to more and more information about digital innovation.

The CIO will be called upon to explain and clarify on a regular basis – they will need to help a global workforce understand what the ultimate goals of technology innovation is. They will need to explain it in a way that is meaningful too employees who are asked to change direction on a regular basis.

The CIO needs to lead on a culture of innovation and change, explaining how it helps with adapting to new market forces and disruptive trends, and use their best judgment around technology innovation to help the company and the workforce thrive in a changing environment.

Global employees do not need to become IT or technology-services experts, they don’t need to understand how the nuts and bolts of innovative technology works- but they do need to understand the bottom line. A CIO needs to clarify and explain how the workforce will benefit from technology, how it will improve the go-to- market strategy and how the user experience of the consumers of the company’s products will benefit.

Data Protection and Privacy

You would think that this should be the responsibility of someone else, but the explosion in big data and the sheer volume of consumers who are sharing their data with large multinational organizations today means that the responsibility for data protection and customer privacy is also a consideration for a CIO.

It can be a question of ethics – a wonderful new innovative digital product can be capable of collecting, storing or sharing more customer data done previous iterations of the technology. in this case, there is added responsibility- as a leader, a CIO must consider cybersecurity competencies and take the time to stop and ask an important question- ‘are we doing the right thing here’?

Consumer trust takes a long time to build but it can be shattered almost instantly- and failing to protect customer data is a quick way to lose trust and cause customers to vanish.

The role of a CIO was varied and complex long before the covid-19 pandemic hit. This new normal has brought with it several new considerations Data chief information officer will have to contend with in 2021. But we have outlined above that there are also several other considerations, unrelated to the global pandemic, that will continue to occupy the minds of CIOs at multinational corporations around the world.


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