The past one year has almost re-defined the priorities for any CIO. As the world took a pause, the problems created by the pandemic brought to light the necessity of being agile, the necessity to have a modular design, the importance of security and most importantly the need for being connected in a virtual world. The inevitability for being available from across the globe has put the CIOs on high alert and has left them with no choice other than transformation.
While digital transformation has always been necessary, the current pandemic has forced CIOs to quickly transition to a new way of working. This unprecedented and overnight transition has given nightmares to even the biggest of IT organizations. Remote working now has become a way of life, and short term measures taken now, can become permanent fixtures. The pandemic has given a wake-up call for all CIOs, and has forced them to think about new priorities.
Based on my experience, I would like to suggest six key areas of focus that will be crucial for CIOs in the new normal:
- Cloud, Cloud and Cloud!
“You need to get to the future first, ahead of your customers, and be ready to greet them before they arrive.” — Marc Benioff, Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Salesforce
- The above statement beautifully sums up the how quickly an organization needs to move to stay relevant and take a competitive edge in this new normal. In this new world where remote working is the norm, the cloud is playing a pivotal role in the pandemic, thanks to its proven abilities of scale, resilience and reach. The cloud is also a top choice for CIOs as it can help them in undertaking digital transformation initiatives at rapid pace with faster innovation. With ready to use services and infrastructure, the cloud has become a model of choice for driving digital transformation.
- Data Privacy, Cybersecurity and Compliance
As the world moves towards a more convenient way of working, the dangers of coming under cyber attacks have increased. Data security, privacy and compliance can be rated as one of the top priority items on the checklist for every CIO, as even a slight glitch in data privacy and security may lead to serious security breaches.
- New Ways of Working
Today, it seems highly unlikely that we will be able to see the earlier way of working in the future. Work from home policies are expected to remain in effect for a major part of 2021. CIOs will be required to strengthen their remote working policies. From reviewing remote access policies and tools, migration to cloud data centers and SaaS applications to defining protocols for remote meetings, there is a lot that needs to be done and that too with an eye on cybersecurity. CIOs will be required to integrate remote working in their enterprise processes. This will require collaboration with the HR department and the senior management.
- Data and Analytics
Today, data surrounds us. The dependency on data has been like never before, with organizations relying on data, and specifically the insights that arise from data, to navigate a new path forward.Due to high volatility in the ecosystem there is an increased need to make data-led decisions. Thus, data and analytics will be amongst the top most priorities for any CIO. This coupled with cloud Infrastructure usage will define the future path for organizations. Being on cloud will enable solutions across many of the areas (e.g. data warehouses, data science platforms, real-time business-friendly analytics) to be deployed faster as compared to doing a greenfield implementation on-premise.
- Modular Architecture
‘Composable business means creating an organization made from interchangeable building blocks’ — Gartner
- The pandemic has exposed many loopholes in the business models that organizations once thought to be efficient. Organizations that had a more modular setup were the ones that bounced back quickly to face the challenges posed by the outbreak. CIOs need to look at this aspect with a long-term vision and transform their organizations to a more composable and modular setup. The modular setup enables a business to reorganize and reshape as required depending on multiple internal and external factors including a shift in customer values, change in market dynamics or sudden change in supply chain or materials. Apart from a modular design, application and infrastructure modernization is one major area that will require a hard and long look by the CIOs. Reducing the technical debt, lighting the application portfolio, leveraging API driven architecture, moving to cloud and moving away from legacy and mainframes will drive the future agenda for growth.
- Investment in Emerging Technologies
Invest now and invest big. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of emerging technologies specially the ones that enable remote working. With social distancing technologies coming into play, more and more automation will be required. The cloud and AI will remain the first choice of technologies. Other equally important technologies include IoT, Big Data, Analytics, Robotics etc. For the future, CIOs need to pay attention on the next set of technologies that will take the businesses forward. Some of these may include technologies like Formative AI, Edge Computing, Data Fabrics, AI Augmented Development, Secure Access Service Edge (SAFE) etc.
With limited capital in hand to invest, CIOs must take a judicious call to invest in the right technologies, as this will play a crucial role in charting their organization’s future growth.