As we are determining the topics of CIONET's 2019 events, we go through a thorough process with our members to understand their top concerns and the most urgent challenges they need to get advise on from their peers, in short: what keeps them up at night.
The process started with a brainstorm with over 20 leading Belgian CIOs and IT professionals, which led to a long-list of 16 topics:
These 16 topics were submitted to all the Belgian members in order to discover the most urgent topics for 2019. We asked them how vital these trends are for their overall (IT) operations, as well as how interesting these subjects are to them as a CIO.
Some topics didn't make it under this close scrutiny. Shadow IT or Blockchain, to name just two, are either too distant a future for most CIO's to learn more about, or are not as much an issue at all.
The 8 most important subjects CIOs need to know more about in order to maximise their impact on the overall business, are: (based on % of 'High' scores on the questions how interesting and how vital these subjects are to them):
(1) Clearly, understanding the overall business strategy, and evaluating their exact role in it, is a major concern to most CIOs. This goes far beyond the 'IT-business alignment' imperative. It is about being at the heart of business strategy, even initiating it from the start, rather than being the executor of it. Technology is at the forefront of any future-looking business, and the CIO undoubtedly has a major role to play in it, but not every CIO is totally confident in having all the right tools, or even skills, to make this happen.
(2) One explanation for this discomfort lies in the 3 subjects CIOs have the most interest in, beside the business strategy. They all, to a large extend, deal with the practical implications of the new role CIOs are having in their business, and the very tangible challenges that come with them:
(2.1) 'Generating business impact vs cost reduction'. Despite (expected) rising IT budgets in 2019, most IT executives are under pressure in the way this budget is spent. Legacy systems need to perform optimally at a minimal cost, hence freeing budget for technology innovation. Easier said than done. Outsourcing is an option, but come with specific challenges as well. CIOs need to prepare to make tough, high-impact choices.
(2.2) 'Re-engineering IT'. Which is the optimal organisational model to prepare the IT division for its future role? How to find the right skills and competencies for the future-proof organisation? Is a bi-modal IT the way forward, or should the IT division be separated in two distinct groups, each with specific roles and responsibilities? While CIOs need to keep an eye on operational efficiency, they also need to keep an eye on the future. As they do so, they increasingly understand that a thorough revamp of their organisation is an imperative.
(2.3) Predictive analytics and automated decision making. Unsurprisingly this is the hottest challenge keeping CIOs awake. Big data, not limited to collecting data, but using it to increase business performance, is the most visible impact a CIO can have nowadays, and certainly one that raises the attention of the Board, as well as of other Business Units. Where exactly the responsibility lies can very from company to company, but it undeniably has an important technology component to it, and hence it is a point where CIOs carries a huge responsibility.
3. Entailing the challenges above come a wide range of specific, somewhat more tactical issues. How to deal with Cloud (or better: how to learn from their pitfalls), how to find specific skills to make the transition toward a future-proof IT division, how to work with and, perhaps integrate startups in the technology roadmap, these are all vital questions for the future growth, perhaps even the survival of the company.
What is striking to this year's results is the increasing need of CIOs to think outside the boarders of their own organisation. In previous years CIOs thought of the overall business impact of their organisation, for sure, but they are now increasingly eager to start thinking about their organisation from the outside-in, not only adapting their organisation to the directions the business is taking, but determining which direction the business should take.
There is clearly no more challenging, but equally no more fascinating time to be a CIO...