Written by Amit Dattani, Director of Technology at Conosco

At the end of each year, technology leaders look to assess how the year has panned out and more importantly look ahead to what challenges need to be overcome in the New Year. In this blog, we dive into the top 7 CIO concerns for 2021 and beyond. Within Conosco’s strategic consultancy division, Conosco Advantage, we like to ensure that these are at the forefront of our mind when consulting with any clients.

  1. Security
  2. Data
  3. Digital Transformation
  4. Emerging Technology
  5. Talent Acquisition
  6. 5G
  7. Budgeting

Security

CIOs and CTOs continue to invest in a plethora of security solutions and practices to ensure defences are up and mitigation is effective. 2021 is likely to see an increase in demand for security solutions, new and existing, especially due to the evolution of the workplace. For example:

  • Mobile working will continue to thrive blurring the network edge
  • Zero trust cyber security will see authentication policies become stricter
  • New technology such as IoT will create a larger attack surface
  • Multi-cloud and network solutions will mean data is more distributed and micro-service driven which opens up more opportunities for security threats

Alongside ensuring technology landscapes remain secure, CIOs have the added dimension of information and cyber security. Embedding mature processes and governance frameworks are as important now than ever before. This could be industry mandated or not.

Data

Businesses collect a vast amount of data every day. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of the world’s total amount of data was created in the last 2 years. Many organisations leverage data to ensure that targeted and personalised marketing can be applied to increase ROI on their investment.

As data becomes more distributed, ensuring it can be easily collected, indexed and analysed will allow organisations to drive new revenue opportunities. An example of this would be to gather data from across your business to obtain a deep understanding of 20%-30% of the most loyal customer base and then identify opportunities within the remaining 70%-80% who show similar characteristics.

However, the challenge CIOs will face in 2021 is how to extract these powerful insights by removing data silos to better understand their customer base and make smarter IT investments.

Businesses can tackle data silos by:

  1. Creating a roadmap of all data entry points into the business
  2. Understanding how different department’s data interacts and unifying all data management systems
  3. Changing company culture and promoting visibility and transparency
  4. Integrating systems where possible e.g. CRM, emails, marketing platforms

Ensuring customers are retained is more cost-effective than customer acquisition which further underpins the importance of robust data management.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation will remain an ongoing CIO concern in 2021. Successful digital transformation projects should be aligned to the overarching business strategy and accompanying IT strategy. This is essential if you want to achieve business buy-in (both culturally and financially) which (if executed correctly) will lead to core improvements. These could be new lines of business, hyper-scaled efficiencies, or pivotal streamlining of the business, to name a few.

Digital transformation initiatives remain the ownership of CIOs and cover all areas within the business. New technology should be durable, adaptable, resilient and future-proof. Any solution you implement should be fit-for-purpose now and for years ahead.

Emerging Technologies

CIO’S and CTO’s are constantly addressing new and developing business challenges. Where there is a need to introduce new technology, making the right decision can be difficult. Many emerging technologies take advantage of the latest advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT). As businesses compete to stay ahead of the evolutionary curve it has become almost mandatory to adopt the latest innovations.

As we enter 2021 it is important that CIOs and CTOs look beyond the latest trends. They must develop a mindset that enables them to identify a problem that is looking for an answer and not a new technology initiative that is looking for a problem. Any decision to pursue a new technology must be based on business strategy, budget, and future growth.

Talent Acquisition

The rapid evolution of technologies, the ability to drive data-led decisions, and the need to keep information secure and within governance, requires organisations to upskill their teams and hire new talent. According to a report by PwC, more than half (51%) of executives plan to add full-time cyber security personnel over the next year and more than one-fifth (22%) will increase their staffing by 5% or more.

The investment in existing culture and people is paramount to all CIOs as they need to ensure innovation is being driven forward whilst maintaining existing systems and solutions (keeping the lights on). Without the right talent, training investment, and acquisition of new skills, CIOs face a negative impact on key strategic initiatives. According to a UK government report as many as 653,000 (48%) businesses have a basic skills gap (firewall configuration, storing personal data, malware protection) and 408,000 (30%) businesses have an advanced skills gap (penetration testing, forensic analysis, etc).

As technology continues to develop rapidly, the ability to hire more skilled, technical roles will become a key concern for CIOs in 2021. It is likely that we will see CIOs searching for the following skills in potential candidates:

  • Cloud solutions
  • Security intelligence
  • Data management
  • Network configuration and protocol
  • Software development
  • Project management
  • Analytical skills
  • Financial and risk analysis

5G

The broad coverage of 4G and the rapid expansion of the UK’s 5G network has enabled businesses to take advantage of high-speed connectivity, low latency and broader coverage. This is fuelling greater innovation and enabling IoT to become an integral part of personal and business life. For consumers, 5G will permit faster downloads on popular platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and streaming games will become the new normal.

For businesses, it will enable real-time, data-driven decisions and put connectivity at the heart of digital transformation. 5G will be the force behind IoT enabling businesses to connect sensors, consumer electronics and remote devices via the internet. This will lead to more proactive/forward-facing transformational questions (what would happen if…?, how can we prevent…?). With these being able to be addressed via data from connected systems, overlaid with AI and ML solutions, we move into a more advanced technology-driven planet.

However, the advances in 5G and IoT will bring new challenges and their own set of concerns for CIOs in 2021. With 5G still in its infancy, CIOs must assess when the solution will be at an optimal level for their adoption and how they will manage, store, integrate and leverage the data derived from IoT over 5G.

Budgeting

In a distorted 2020, company revenues have impacted IT spend, with some completely frozen – surprising given many businesses are facing greater technical challenges. Whilst 76% of businesses plan on long-term IT changes as a direct result of Covid, only 33% are planning to increase their budgets. In 2021 the CIO will need to spend wisely, ensuring security, whilst remaining agile and getting more ‘bang for their buck’ through prudent selection of technology solutions and partners.

Round-Up

Businesses have quickly realised that technology is the glue that keeps their operations flowing and their employees connected. At the start of lockdown, there was a spike in the number of businesses migrating to the cloud in order to give employees access to critical workloads and data. As we move into the New Year it is likely that CIOs will by searching for ways to improve their IT infrastructure, making it more resilient to security threats and better equipped to deal with the demands of a remote workforce.

As we face the impending Brexit deadline and the continued uncertainties of Covid, CIO concerns around security, data management, digital transformation, emerging technologies, staffing and budgeting will lead to a greater focus on building a robust IT strategy with the agility and durability to withstand change.

At Conosco, our strategic consultancy team is comprised of experienced vCIOs, vCTOs and vCISOs who have the expertise to help you overcome the challenges ahead and plan for a successful 2021. If you are interested in working with us to align your IT strategy and overall business objectives we’d love you to get in touch.