5 big challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in 2017

EducationSummary: As business technology goes through a fundamental shift, the role of the CIO is changing. In the coming years, CIOs will face new challenges and take on new roles. The most successful CIOs are those that recognize and adapt to these changes. In this article, we explore 5 such challenges that CIOs must face in the near future.

photo credit: skeeze via pixabay cc

photo credit: skeeze via pixabay cc

What is the biggest business technology trend this year? Is it mobile? The Internet of Things? Digital transformation? Big data? Virtual Reality? AI?

The fact is, you could make an argument that any one of those are the biggest tech trend. I’m sure there are other trends not mentioned that could lay claim to that title as well.

Now, I’m not trying to start an argument about trends. I bring this up to highlight an important point: We’re going through a fundamental shift in technology. Can you remember a time when we had so many disruptive technologies converging on the business world at the same time?

For the modern CIO and IT leader, these tech changes present both opportunities and challenges. As technology plays an increasingly important role in the business, CIOs and IT leaders have the opportunity to deliver more business value than ever. Successful CIOs are those that recognize and adapt to these evolving challenges.

What are these challenges? What areas must the CIO be prepared to address in the coming year? Today, let’s explore that topic. While the list could certainly be longer, we’ve compiled 5 of the most important challenges and outlined them below.

Challenge #1: Keep up with the evolving security landscape

photo credit: pixelcreatures via pixabay cc

photo credit: pixelcreatures via pixabay cc

Last year, we witnessed some of the largest data breaches ever. Unfortunately, 2016 has kept up with that pace, with multiple high-profile data breaches occurring since the start of the year.

Going into 2017, security presents a challenge on two levels. First, there’s the current security risks. Protecting business data from security vulnerabilities is a goal that businesses have worked towards for years. However, it’s still an area that many businesses still struggle with. As explained below (and in this article), many companies unwittingly leave their data open to common vulnerabilities.

“Hands down security is the biggest challenges that CIOs will face,” says Marc Sollars, CTO at Teneo. “Specifically, companies are still suffering with old-style hacker breaches. Prevention is the new focus and will grow in importance next year.”

Secondly, in 2017 you’ll face yet another growing security challenge: The Internet of Things (IoT). As more devices connect to the web, we have brand new security threats to monitor. Not only does this open up businesses to new attacks, it presents a relatively new security challenge that business must rush to understand.

“Just last weekend we’ve seen how the combined power of millions of hacked CCTV cameras brought down half of the Internet,” says Konstantin Savenkov, CEO Intento, Inc. “That’s the early signs of an upcoming storm. Currently such cooperation of IoT requires hacking and using device exploits. Soon we may expect IoT devices being much more capable of communications, given that large companies are working on the universal protocols for IoT communication (see NEST Weave for example).”

“That will affect the entire approach to the enterprise security, as the IoT introduces the whole new dimension of attacks. Be it more restrictions on the company perimeter or new security standards, that’s definitely keep CIOs nervous and busy for the upcoming year.”

How should you approach these security challenges in the coming year? Sollars shares some tips below:

“Organizations should consider more ‘aggressive’ security postures, for example by activating information security strategy right across the business, enforcing policies (internal checks, spoof ‘whaling’ and ‘phishing’ messages from the IT department, etc.) and fully engaging and motivating staff (e.g. using new innovations in mobile 2FA that involve staff in security process rather than constraining them). They should also be looking to better utilize external experts to specific aspects of security, as a managed service globally, can take the strain off in-house IT teams.

Prevention is the new focus and will grow in importance next year. However how do you know the prevention policies are working? Companies need to look at what’s hiding inside the network moving from east to west, extracting data slowly. Many businesses suffering from security breaches had no idea they were losing data.”

Challenge #2: Drive the digital transformation

photo credit: BenjaminNelan via pixabay cc

photo credit: BenjaminNelan via pixabay cc

Over the last couple of years, the concept of “digital transformation” has exploded. A recent survey found that 80% of businesses view it as a priority. The fact is, the digital business is now a reality.

Gartner sums it up nicely in their CIO agenda report: “While the meaning of digital revenues and processes is open to interpretation, it’s clear that digital business is a reality now and expected to be a very significant aspect of achieving competitive advantage and differentiation using information and technology.”

As digitalization becomes a competitive advantage, it presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the modern CIO. This is an opportunity to become the digital leaders in their organizations–to drive the digital transformation.

The challenge: It’s a slow process. As Gartner reports, the number of CIOs that have taken the “digital leader” role is increasing, but still under 40%. In 2017, CIOs and IT leaders must take over this role if they hope to truly drive digital transformation efforts within their organizations.

Challenge #3: Win the talent war

photo credit: nuggety247 via pixabay cc

photo credit: nuggety247 via pixabay cc

What do CIOs say is the single largest barrier to success? Talent. As mentioned here, “Talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives.”

Is this a new challenge? Absolutely not. But, as technology changes faster than ever, the skills gap is widening. Businesses are having more trouble finding IT pros with the skills they require.

“The ability to attract and retain talent is increasingly becoming a top priority for companies,” says John Cassimatis, Co-Founder and President of TayganPoint Consulting Group. “With aging workforce populations many companies will see a significant percentage of their employee population retiring and will need to be able to attract new talent. Employees just beginning or in the first 5-10 years of their career are looking for different benefits out of their career and employment than previous generations.”

The big question: How can you address this skills gap? While we’ve outlined a few tips in this article, Cassimatis shares some great tips below:

“Here are some ways in which organizations are evolving their talent strategy to achieve top business goals and drive talent innovation:

  • Culture – there is a saying “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch”. Culture is everything and to compete for talent, companies need to have a clear sense of purpose and a set of shared values. That purpose and shared values not only needs to be communicated but also demonstrated by the behaviors of senior management.
  • Change Management – most companies are going through significant transformation and those that effectively manage change and shorten the communication tree from the c-suite to the floor and communicate effectively to employees will have a competitive advantage over other companies
  • Employee Engagement and Skill Development – employees want to be engaged and feel like they are making a difference. Companies are turning the mirror inward and finding new ways to build talent and prepare all levels of workers for the skills and competencies to remain relevant in the organization. There is a great deal of investment being made in empowering employees to challenge the status quo, lead at all levels, and promote the notion that it’s never too late to learn a new skill or change your job focus.”

Challenge #4: Get a handle on your (growing) data

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

I hesitate to include this point, because it’s nothing new. For years now, CIOs have worked on capitalizing on their data.

However, I include it for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s still an issue. We hear from IT leaders on a regular basis who struggle with data access. I hear business leaders regularly share the same complaint: They can’t access their data when they need it. In fact, if you check CIO priority surveys over the past few years, you’ll find BI/analytics sitting right at the top.

Second, we live in a data-driven world. As a business, you have more data (in more places) than ever before…and these data volumes are only growing. More and more, your ability to turn that data into meaningful management information becomes part of your competitive advantage.

The challenge facing CIOs: How can you capitalize on your data? How can you take an avalanche of data and turn it into something useful? In my experience, those businesses who solve this problem have a considerable advantage.

“In order to provide real time insights to business priorities, the capability to combine internal data with real world data (external to the company) is critical and one of the largest technology investments companies are making,” explains Cassimatis.

Challenge #5: Become an innovation center

Over the past few years, the IT department has moved from a business cost to a business driver. Modern IT departments aren’t there to simply keep the lights on. They drive the business technology.

As technology evolves, and businesses recognize the importance of technology, the CIO becomes an innovation driver. While they still must “keep the lights on”, they’re also in charge of pushing the business technology forward.

“In 2017, IT leaders will be challenged with the realization and consequences of IT no longer being a silo in support of the organization, it is and will continue to be a primary part of every organization, just as it is with finance,” says Travis Good, MD, MBA, MS, CEO and Chief Privacy Officer of Catalyze, Inc. “IT leaders will be called to engage more with business and strategic leaders. In order to succeed, IT will be tasked with constant assessment and prioritization of efforts to optimize overall business objectives. This is the only way that organizations will succeed in markets that are changing quicker than at any time in history; that pace of change is due to technology. This is not unique to IT product organizations, as all organizations now rely on IT as a core part of their operating infrastructure.”

With this position, the modern CIO must dedicate more and more resources towards innovation. The problem is, it isn’t happening. As mentioned in this article, “According to a Deloitte survey of over 900 CIOs, almost half dedicated less than 10 percent of their budgets to innovation. And when the field of IT is evolving as quickly as it is, this is a dangerous precedent that’s going to need to change in the next few years.”

It’s absolutely true. In today’s technology driven world, the status quo is no longer good enough. Going into 2017 (and beyond), the modern IT department must drive innovation if they hope to stay relevant.


These are just a few big challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in the coming year, but the list could certainly be longer. Would you add anything to this list? If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.

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7 thoughts on “5 big challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in 2017

  1. “What is the biggest business technology trend this year? Is it mobile? The Internet of Things? Digital transformation? Big data? Virtual Reality? AI?” I believe that this is the Digital transformation because it is the core of IoT, Big Data, Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence. And by the help of digital transformation, we can transform the other segment of Information Technology.

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