What Forward-Thinking CIOs Are Focusing On in 2020 & Beyond

Regardless of sector or company, every Chief Information Officer (CIO) shoulders immense responsibility as the professional responsible for driving company wide digital strategy — in addition to aligning technological efforts with business outcomes as a whole.

The ability to envision the future is a must, as CIOs must often act as the agents of change in the present — even when implementing such innovation is uncomfortable for many. Successful CIOs firmly reject the adage “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” because they know even tech efforts that seem fine for now will soon leave their organization lagging a step behind innovative competitors.

Here are some of the major considerations upon which forward-thinking CIOs are focusing for 2020 and beyond.

Using Change Management to Forge a Data-Driven Culture

Getting people on board with the shift is just as critical as deploying the right technology for digital transformation. Employees may be hesitant to embrace new technology — or may even harbor fear that artificial intelligence or automation will alter their roles, if not eliminate them.

As one expert writes for Forbes, a “high degree of change” can be “fundamentally disconcerting to employees.” In forging a digital-friendly and digital-first company culture, CIOs must establish why such changes are important and demonstrate to employees it benefits them to embrace the new order.

CIOs are prioritizing effective change management as a tool to help get the workforce on board with various aspects of digital transformation, like upgrading legacy business intelligence tech to the products of data analytics companies capable of empowering front-line employees through search- and AI-driven analytics.

Employees may at first feel they lack the know-how to confidently use these tools or analyze data insights as part of their routine decision-making processes. It’s the CIO’s job to anticipate these anxieties, design effective training programs, communicate openly about organizational changes, offer a workable timeline and integrate digital strategy into business operations.

Demonstrating the benefits of getting onboard with digital change — like better business outcomes and smoother access to relevant data — is a central part of the role.

More Closely Aligning IT & Business Strategies

Many organizations experience some degree of disconnect between specialized IT roles and the rest of the business. CIOs are responsible for prioritizing better alignment of IT and business strategies moving forward.

As CIO & Leader cites, IT departments on average spend less than one-quarter of their time (24 percent) “acting in a strategic capacity” alongside business functions. CIOs can seize on this opportunity to better support IT teams in their daily roles so they have the capacity to engage on a strategic level — and help open lines of communication between IT leaders and everyone else. Thus, 41 percent of CIOs say they’re now updating their strategic IT roadmaps at least every month.

Filling Digital Skills Gaps

Successful CIOs have a finger on the pulse of emerging digital skills gaps — and a plan to address them before they start holding the company back from innovation. This may look like any combination of outsourcing certain services to third parties, hiring new roles and training existing employees. CIOs need to know what the workforce knows and what they don’t know, then come up with a comprehensive plan to quickly address any deficiencies.

As one CIO notes, leaders must often adjust their own skill sets and those of team members in order to stay ahead of the competitive curve. The biggest risk in letting the digital skills gap grow is to “become a legacy system.”

Integrating Automation into Workflows

As CIOs are at the forefront of digital transformation within their organizations, they play a leading role in integrating automation into workflows. For instance, many CIOs are deploying or expanding the use of robotic process automation (RPA) to take over rote tasks that used to command time and effort from human employees. With a load of repetitive tasks of their plates, workers are free to focus on higher-order jobs. But the degree to which an enterprise harnesses automation, and how, starts with the CIO’s vision and budget.
Forward-thinking CIOs are constantly balancing strategy, skills and culture — addressing people and technology in their quest to innovate and optimize outcomes.