Strategic Priorities for Forward-Thinking CIOs in 2021

Strategic CIO Priorities

2020 was a year of realizations for almost everyone on the planet. 

For consumers, it was a reminder that all it takes is a minuscule virus to disrupt life as we have been accustomed to for centuries. For businesses, they had to learn the hard way to manage an unexpected health crisis that required their employees to be restricted in mobility. Not only that, but the business models had to shift completely from the past to adapt to the latest needs of customers driven by the pandemic effect. 

Digital transformation became a mainstay across industries as enterprises were left with no choice but to open up new digital channels to connect with customers who were glued to their homes. For instance, all retailers had to open up an online ordering and delivery mechanism for their business as people were reluctant to move out of their homes for fear of infection. And they had to do this transition at breakneck speeds. 

2021 has rolled out and the pandemic looks to be on a downward trajectory – thanks to mass-scale vaccinations happening across the world. But life is expected to only slowly crawl back to normalcy. For businesses, a good portion of 2021 will be as same as the previous year as economies are expected to only gradually lift restrictions on public gatherings and eliminate needs for social distancing. 

For enterprise CIOs, the lessons in digital transformation learned in 2020 will be useful to build a sustainable growth path in digital adoption for 2021 as well. With consumers showing no sign of decline in their lockdown habits such as online shopping becoming a de-facto option, CIOs need to plan their strategies accordingly. 

Let us examine the top strategic priorities every forward-thinking CIO must evaluate in 2021:

Accelerate Cloud Push

In the first quarter of 2020 alone, cloud spending by global companies increased by a massive 37% from the previous year, and culminated at nearly USD 29 Billion. Having migrated to the cloud, several businesses have experienced agility and seamless technology scalability like never before. Hence, the trend is not likely to go down in importance. Several companies realized their mistake of maintaining strict in-house hosting and infrastructure for their digital ecosystem. When the pandemic forced employees to work remotely from their homes, managing the in-house tech infrastructure posed a huge challenge. With cloud, this worry can be put to rest and, hence, CIOs need to prioritize moving more of the organization’s technology into the cloud. This will help them face future disruptions similar to the pandemic, with confidence.

Read: Don’t Fall Prey to These Cloud Migration Misconceptions 

Focus on Heightened Cybersecurity

As the digital economy thrives globally, more digital information is available for cybercriminals to exploit. Any vulnerability in a business’ digital channel can be a recipe for disaster. The SolarWind hack story that unfolded towards the end of 2020 is a great example of how digital platforms that have deep access within the business or even government systems can turn into a hotbed for cybercrime. CIOs must take steps to ensure confident or sensitive data are never stored in a vulnerable digital environment. New guidelines need to be issued to staff to make them aware of newer fraudulent means deployed by criminals to compromise digital channels and gain access to critical data. There might be a lot of re-thinking involved to prepare a new cybersecurity policy that has to be implemented across the organization.

Read: Keeping Security at the Center of your Cloud Strategy 

Foster Digital Collaboration

The pandemic proved that nearly all desk-based office jobs can be performed by employees from literally anywhere. With vaccination programs expected to last the entire year for most countries globally, it is likely that any organization would risk calling back all their employees to the office unless their physical presence is necessary. New hires and new job responsibilities would have to happen virtually, and so are all employee communication, collaboration, and engagement activities. With more employees working remotely, CIOs need to ensure that they have seamless access to the organization’s business streams through digital channels. They also have to guarantee the security of such channels, as confidential customer data are likely to be handled by employees through these channels while working from home. 

Read: Business During Crisis – It’s ‘Employees First” For Us

Spearhead Hyperautomation

With so much digital activity on the cards for CIOs to conquer in 2021, there is a need for the entire organization’s business workflows and technology ecosystem to be responsive. Relying extensively on cumbersome manual and redundant processes and workflows will only push the dreams of achieving digital supremacy further away. CIOs must prioritize Hyperautomation or the concept that focuses on automating any activity that is capable of being automated without leaving any stones untouched. These may include reshaping entire business processes, creating new workflows, and deploying new technology solutions covering a large spectrum of operations across the enterprise.

In the past, several organizations had a 2020 vision in their corporate presentations and outlook wherein they hoped to transform their entire businesses with innovation. Up until the beginning of 2020, most of these claims were simply lying on paper. However, the COVID-19 pandemic created a paradigm shift in the way companies had to innovate. It accelerated digital growth and businesses now are one step closer to reaching their digital ambitions. 

With IDC predicting that 65% of the global GDP will be digitalized by 2022, CIOs need to get their priorities right as outlined above. Only the most competent will survive the race to winning customer hearts in the new world normal.
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