There are many challenges facing the CIO today: finding and retaining talent, a hybrid workforce and the resulting security issues, and supply chain shortages.
Meanwhile, CIOs are being asked to take on more than ever. They, and their teams, are becoming the facilitators of organizational strategy and innovation as IT is now largely responsible for digital employee experience.
On top of everything else, supply chain issues have dramatically impacted CIOs, who at times have struggled to acquire technology assets to address challenges and initiatives.
“Not only are they responsible for keeping their digital workplace teams on track for technological support, but they set the tone for how their team approaches strategic challenges,” says Yassine Zaied, chief strategy officer at Nexthink.
He says while the CIO role has always been on this path, the pandemic certainly sped up the timeline.
Joe Leonard, CTO of GuidePoint Security, adds what was once a primarily centralized environment has become much more of a distributed one.
This is due to the rapid adoption of the cloud during the pandemic, which changed the traditional IT landscape and how businesses work.
“Many organizations are now relying on a workforce, where much of it is working remotely,” he says. “To bring in the best talent, the CIO must consider hiring employees regardless of their location to fill the needs of the organization.”
Hybrid Workforce Adds Layer of Complexity
Leonard points out that managing a hybrid workforce adds additional complexity and responsibility for the CIO.
“An employee working onsite versus an employee that works remotely are going to have different requirements to perform their daily job functions,” he says. “New technology may need to be evaluated to help enable employee productivity and collaboration with other team members and customers.”
As EY chief global innovation officer Jeff Wong explains, the pandemic gave leaders and workers permission to shift traditional thinking around work and redefined the tools employees need to be successful.
“CIOs have played a critical role in helping C-suite leadership identify new ways of work by recognizing what was possible through future-focused technologies that allow employees to work more effectively and efficiently -- regardless of their physical location,” he says.
With hybrid work here to stay and organizations continuing to ramp up technology investments, executive leadership will continue relying heavily on the CIO to lead technology operations across the enterprise.
This means CIOs must ensure an organization’s people continue to have the technology solutions and platforms to seamlessly collaborate across different rooms and physical spaces.
This means their office workspaces should be designed with inclusive and innovative tools, for example big screens for video conferences and rollable tablets for collaborative meetings.
CIO Relationship to IT Security Changing
“The CIO and IT security should be collaborating and working together on a comprehensive security strategy to protect any new IT assets that are added in the environment,” Leonard explains.
He points out cloud adoption, IOT, and the remote workforce have increased our attack surface and created more opportunities for malicious intruders to gain access to the network resources.
“It is imperative that the CIO and IT security work together on a strategy and test the security controls put in place to validate its effectiveness,” he says. “Each IT resource is now on the Internet and is a target, so it is important that the proper security controls are in place and tested.”
Wong adds CIOs must ensure their organization’s platforms remain up to date as outdated technology platforms are vulnerable to security attacks.
“While future-focused technologies like Web3 and the metaverse promise a host of business opportunities, they also come with risks of crypto jacking and phishing,” he says.
Right now, Wong says the industry is at a pivotal stage in shaping the future of these technologies. “CIOs must play a role in early-stage development and adoption of these technologies to ensure they’re secure and useful for all users.”
Many CIOs Lack Technical Acumen
Wong says while those in the C-suite are eager to implement technologies, generally, they lack the technical acumen to understand the possibilities new technologies provide.
“With a nuanced understanding of these technologies, CIOs are well-placed to move an organization forward as technology decisions become business decisions,” he says. “They could answer richer questions from the C-suite around which technologies can deliver value, how those technologies work, and how to tactically integrate them into an organization’s business model.”
For example, a CIO's understanding of the metaverse allows them to answer questions that are critical to unleashing the metaverse’s business potential. These questions might range from the regulatory risks and which cryptocurrencies an organization should use to the bandwidth processing requirements and legal risks.
“My advice for CIOs? Know your organization’s business model and customers inside and out,” Wong says.
Deepening knowledge of an organization’s operations, financials and culture is critical to uncovering how emerging technologies fit into a business strategy and how they can uplift employees. “Similarly, understanding the end-consumer’s values and habits will help uncover new business opportunities to reach customers through technology,” Wong adds.
CIOs Need Training Support as Portfolio Expands
As much as it is up to a CIO to seek out training to develop new skills for their role, it is equally important for their organizations to give them the resources.
“Though our research has found that organizations understand the DEX [digital employee experience] and organizational demands on the CIO, they must elaborate on that knowledge to provide the necessary trainings to set their CIOs up for success,” Nexthink’s Zaied says.
Holding regular status updates with finance, HR, and operations departments can be a great step in getting CIOs familiar with the challenges and expectations from these departments and giving them the freedom to apply those learnings to their work.
GuidePoint Security’s Leonard adds that each organization should do a skills assessment and identify the gaps that need to be addressed.
“Once the gaps are identified, the CIOs are going to need to identify the training needed to develop and grow employees,” he says. “In some cases, you may be able to hire the skills you need, but there is a chance the available skills are in short supply and may need to be developed.”
Leonard says the training resources provided to each CIO will vary depending on the outcome of the skills assessment.
According to Wong, the biggest training resource organizations can provide to a CIO is a front-line seat at the C-suite table.
“Including CIOs and their insights in board-level decisions ensures that they have visibility to every and all business areas within the corporation,” he says. “This inclusion in top leadership circles will put technology at the core of the organization, while also creating synergy between innovation and the overall business strategy.”
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