5 big challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in 2018

Original Article Posted: 5 big challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in 2018

Summary: As business technology goes through a fundamental shift, the role of the CIO is changing. In the coming years, CIOs will face new challenges and take on new roles. The most successful CIOs are those that recognize and adapt to these changes. In this article, we explore 5 such challenges that CIOs must face in the near future.

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Driven largely by digitization, new technologies, and rapidly increasing data volumes, modern CIOs face a growing set of challenges. Gone are the days of simply “keeping the lights on.” The modern CIO must deliver business value. They must drive innovation.

In short, the responsibilities placed on the modern CIO and IT Leader are rapidly changing. Some view these changes as a problem. They disrupt the status quo. They present an added degree of difficulty for the IT department.

But, others view them as an opportunity. With the increased role of technology in the business, CIOs and IT leaders have the opportunity to deliver more value than ever before. The most successful CIOs are those that recognize and adapt to these evolving challenges.

So, what are these challenges? What areas and priorities must CIOs focus on in the coming year? As this is such a broad topic, we’re breaking it up into two parts. We’ll cover the first 5 challenges today, and the rest in a future article. Sound good? Okay, here are 5 of the biggest challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in the near future:

1. Turning data into a competitive advantage

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Over the last few years, data has been the name of the game. The modern business now has access to more data than ever before.

The problem is, many companies don’t know what to do with their data. This article over on Forbes sums up the problem nicely: “But in the rush to avoid being left behind, I also see that many companies risk becoming data rich but insight poor. They accumulate vast stores of data they have no idea what to do with, and no hope of learning anything useful from.”

The focus going forward isn’t about gathering data (though that’s certainly important). It’s about turning that data you’re gathered into something useful. It’s about transforming that data into meaningful management information. Those who can capitalize on their data in this way will have a significant advantage.

“A lot of companies are focused on big data and how to gather it and analyze it,” says Erick Harlow, Principal of Forensic IT. “The real key for companies moving forward is not only compiling it and segmenting the data for marketing purposes, but accurately using it for operations to help grow their corporation. Data does not lie. But there is a forensic way to apply it to maximize operations and efficiencies. By locating inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the manufacturing and/or delivery process, a company can eliminate problem areas, speed up production and get more product to market in a shorter time span. The result is an increase in productivity, overall efficiency, and an increase in profitability. As we talk about technology needs moving forward, this is a key area of focus for 2018.”

2. Enabling consistent innovation

You’ve probably read quite a bit recently on the growing need for innovation. I’ve seen many people saying that the modern CIO must become the “Chief Innovation Officer.” That’s all well and good. No one will argue that innovation is important.

But, I think it goes beyond innovation.

Forrester shared a shocking statistic a few years back: “Seventy percent of the companies that were on the Fortune 1000 list a mere ten years ago have now vanished–unable to adapt to change.”

Think about that. Strong, successful companies fell because they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) alter their course. They didn’t adapt.

In other words, only the agile survive.

So, the modern CIO must not only drive innovation. They must drive consistent innovation. It’s not good enough to innovate once, and sit back.

The modern CIO must set up processes to constantly adapt to new changes. They must deploy platforms that allow for rapid solution development. They must deliver the ability to pivot quickly as needed. More than ever, it’s the agile businesses that will succeed.

“At a tactical level – keeping pace with changing technology, building future proof solutions to the extent possible will be the key challenge,” says Jigyasa Chaturvedi, Founder of 82ism. Why do I say this – the cost of building technology is significantly lower and the next new solution is right around the bend. In that landscape, thinking 10 steps ahead of the competition is key and being able to imagine solutions that will enable outcomes is key to winning that race. Hence the challenge is to move quickly, be nimble and agile, obtain proof quickly and pivot.”

3. Balancing security with accessibility

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“The biggest challenge for CIOs and IT leaders in 2018 is the strategic protection of PII and data for their enterprises,” says Ray McKenzie, Founder and Principal of Red Beach Advisors. “The well-publicized increase in security breaches and vulnerabilities within companies is extremely damaging to companies, executives, and their customers. The decrease in trust by customers in these companies and the loss in value of companies is something that must specifically be up front for CIOs and IT leaders to address. IT leaders must place a strategic focus and budget money to address protecting their company information. Data protection specifically around security events and vulnerability awareness will be at the forefront of technology and cybersecurity strategies in 2018.”

You can’t write about CIO challenges in 2018 and ignore security. With massive data breaches occurring on a regular basis, I don’t think any CIO will ignore security in the coming year. This hopefully doesn’t catch any CIO or IT Leader by surprise.

However, I want to take this one step further. The challenge facing CIOs in 2018 isn’t just security, it’s how you handle security. The real challenge is delivering strong security while maintaining agility and data access. It’s about securing data in a way that doesn’t hinder the business or harm accessibility.

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