Major 2016 Concerns of IT Chiefs

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Chief information officers are being pulled in numerous directions at once. What are the most critical areas that should not be neglected in 2016?

  1. Keep increasing digital sophistication.
  2. Leverage cloud to enhance flexibility.
  3. Recruit for changing IT dynamics.
  4. Protect your own position.
  5. Reduce grunt-work time.

In the coming year, as always, CIOs have to figure out how to best use their time to help their businesses grow. It’s easy to get involved in challenges that are complex but don’t have a lot of value. To establish focus in the new year, here are five of the most important concerns for CIOs in 2016.

#1 – Keep increasing digital sophistication.

CIOs have to be keeping pace with technological developments because the digital aspect of business is becoming a more powerful revenue stream all the time, with Gartner predicting that the cash generated through digital means will rise from 16% to 37% through 2020.

The Gartner researchers note that a side-effect of the expansion of digital business is that CIOs now must meet the needs of more diverse populations, such as the company’s leadership, outside partners, and the organization’s clients.

The shift to cloud and diversification of infrastructure are ever-present elements of IT now and in the future, comments GLH CTO Chris Hewertson. “”The technology’s evolved since we’ve been doing our transformation,” he adds. “It’s not like we’ve got 10 systems – we’ve got hundreds.”

#2 – Leverage cloud to enhance flexibility.

The old model of information technology had parameters that were more firmly established. Hardware, data centers, and resources were more strictly delineated. Now, adaptation is easily accessible through the cloud.

While the third-party virtual computing offered through cloud services has become much more common in recent years, many think that the industry is fast approaching a period of exponential growth.

That’s backed up by the numbers. While legacy systems accounted for 81% of IT in 2014, they will only handle 65% of workloads by 2020, according to a Barclays poll of IT chiefs. Most of that computing is headed to the public cloud, which is forecast to account for 17% of enterprise needs in 2020, up from 5% in 2014.

The conversation about cloud has not yet reached the point of maturity, explains former ABN Amro CIO Geert Ensing. “On-demand technology will be adopted more and more,” he says. “Once you reach scale, external service provision can provide big benefits to the business.”

One key piece of that conversation is the quality of different cloud providers. For instance, a public cloud hosting service that deserves the business of enterprise should set itself apart by providing distributed rather than centralized storage, InfiniBand rather than 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and no overselling for guaranteed performance.

#3 – Recruit for changing IT dynamics.

Contracting with third parties is helpful for many businesses, but there are also times when it’s important to hire people to develop apps and perform other tasks. In fact almost a quarter of IT chiefs (22%) say that not having direct access to people with certain competencies is an obstacle to their progress.

The main areas in which CIOs feel their departments are deficient are analytics, big data, and IT administration. This is a continuing problem: those are the same categories cited in a 2011 Gartner report.

People who really excel at these areas are highly sought-after, which in turn drives them to switch workplaces frequently. The attrition rate in the technology sector averages 20%.

It’s critical to value these employees, notes Adam Thilthorpe of BCS. “You’d better start believing people are your best assets in the digital age,” he says. “[T]hey are fundamental to your success.”

#4 – Protect your own position.

IT leaders should also think about how they plan to adapt to the changing landscape. The roles of many CIOs are shifting rapidly as they start to take charge of new areas such as operations.

In a broad sense, there are three ways that tech chiefs are struggling to meet the demands of their role:

  1. Sway among the company’s top executives
  2. Hiring and retention of engaged, productive staff
  3. Ability to guide the company with a mind toward innovation.

#5 – Reduce grunt-work time.

There is a drive for the heads of IT departments to shift their focus directly toward development and to spend time brainstorming new apps, especially given the growth of cloud computing and the removal of related in-house infrastructural concerns. Unfortunately, more IT staff are employed than ever before.

Plus, there is a big difference in perspective toward the priorities of IT moving forward. IT leaders believe that the top concerns should be digital, analytics, and internal knowledge, says Hewertson. “At the same time, c-suite executives are expected to think beyond the present and to evaluate a broad range of leading edge technologies, such as robotics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.”

Now, the CIOs are right that analytics are critical to the organization’s success, although the Internet of Things is part of that effort. Gartner argues that IT departments should be focusing themselves on algorithmic business – creating platforms and integrating the IoT strategies of sensors and wearables will become increasingly important.

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