5 (more) big challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in 2018

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 more challenges that CIOs must face in the near future.

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Modern CIOs and IT leaders face a growing set of challenges. Gone are the days of simply keeping lights on. These days, they must innovate. They must stay ahead of the curve. The most successful CIOs are those who adapt to the constantly changing trends and challenges.

What are these challenges? In the first part of this article, we explored 5 big challenges that CIOs and IT leaders will face in the coming year:

  • Turning data into a competitive advantage
  • Enabling consistent innovation
  • Balancing security with accessibility
  • Finding the appropriate talent
  • Merging old and new

Today, let’s take things a step further. Here are 5 more challenges to expect in 2018.

6. Achieving CEO objectives

Over the past few years, the role of the IT department has shifted. In the past, IT departments were viewed as a back-office function. Their main responsibilities: Support the business and keep the lights on.

These days, that has changed. Technology now plays a critical role to all aspect of the business. Modern IT departments must shift their focus from maintenance to innovation.

Gartner sums up this challenge nicely here, “The quickening pace of digitalization and technological innovation are changing the CIO role from delivery executive to business executive.”

As a result, modern CIOs have seen (and will continue to see) their responsibilities change. As technology becomes necessary to remain competitive, CIO objectives are evolving. As explained below, CIO objectives and business objectives are quickly merging.

“In my view technology is no longer an enabler it is the competitive edge for businesses, it’s the differentiating factor between disrupting or being disrupted,” says Jigyasa Chaturvedi | Founder of 82ism. “Therefore CIOs, CTOs and technology leaders in general, are, and if not, should be tasked with achieving CEO objectives, such as revenue growth, new business models, enhanced customer experience, and satisfaction etc. This is a paradigm shift in the way CIOs and CTOs have executed their responsibilities in the past. The difference is leading the charge together with the CEO as opposed to following. But this leadership cannot happen unless there is innovation. The challenge then for the CIO is how to innovate and stay at the cutting edge of technology, grasp the latest technology and apply it to the unique problems and needs faced by their CEOs.”

The most successful CIOs aren’t those who just sit around and wait for their objectives to change. Rather, they are proactive. They actively seek out ways they can improve the business through technology.

7. Managing the “cloud vs on-premise” dichotomy

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Cloud computing is a funny trend. I remember back when it first emerged. Experts and industry analysts crowned it as the next big thing. It was going to revolutionize business.

The problem: Adoption was slow. Concerned about security, many businesses avoided the cloud. It just didn’t grow as fast as the experts predicted.

Fast forward to the present, and it feels like the sentiment has completely changed. Cloud computing has largely shed its vulnerable image, and is now viewed as more secure than on-premise. These days, businesses are rushing to the cloud.

How big is this trend? According to Gartner, “More than $1 trillion in IT spending will be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to cloud during the next five years. This will make cloud computing one of the most disruptive forces of IT spending since the early days of the digital age.”

The problem is, not everything belongs in the cloud. However, with perceived benefits of agility and cost savings, modern CIOs are under more internal pressure than ever to shift to the cloud. The challenge: Find the appropriate balance between cloud/on-premise while managing internal pressures to move everything to the cloud.

“Not every application belongs in the cloud,” says Tom Leyden, VP of Corporate Marketing, Excelero. “IDC’s Enterprise Cloud Computing survey of fall 2016 predicted that 40% of IT resources will reside on premise. These often high-performance computing (HPC) class applications are seeing a significant number of innovations in software-defined options, low-latency techniques, adaptations of the NVMe networking protocol and more. That means certain use cases actually run better and more efficiently by staying on premise, and CIOs and CFOs can’t automatically presume that cloud-enabling an application represent a cost or agility improvement.”

Application architecture becomes even more important in this cloud-driven world. Future-proof applications must run on-premise or in the cloud, and port easily between the two. CIOs and IT leaders must focus on delivering portable solutions that are platform and database independent.

8. Juggling the budget for the present and the future

For the modern CIO, balance is the name of the game. IT leaders must increasingly strike a balance between innovation and overseeing routine IT duties.

According to the 2017 State of the CIO report, 72 percent of respondents said that balancing business innovation and operational excellence is an ongoing challenge. Additionally, half of the respondents said they identify with the “transformational CIO” role.

The fact is, modern CIOs must drive business growth and innovation, while keeping the business’ technology up and running.

The problem: Budgets are often tied up with “keeping the lights on.” It’s estimated that 80% of IT budgets are dedicated to maintaining the status quo. However, as we mentioned earlier, innovation is critical to overall business success.

The challenge: CIOs must figure out how to shift their focus from maintenance to innovation, despite limited staff and budget. As explained below, they find ways to permanently shift a portion of their budget from “keeping the lights on” to emerging technology if they hope to avoid being disrupted.

“For most CIOs and IT leaders, their most important day-to-day focus is on supporting the current lines of business that are bringing in the revenue,” says Nic Grange, CTO of Retriever Communications. “At the same time, they know that the impact of emerging technologies means that these lines of business are likely to get disrupted in the near future and that they need to accelerate their initiatives to innovate and help the business find new streams of revenue.

Juggling these is difficult enough but in some companies, different executives will have varying opinions on how soon the disruption will come. Some executives will believe the current revenue streams will continue indefinitely, while others will believe the disruption will occur in the next 12 months.”

To break out of the 80/20 spending trap, CIOs and IT leaders must deploy technologies that improve efficiency and enables self-service. This will free up IT resources to focus on innovation, while improving overall IT productivity.

9. Improving Internal Security

Like a chain, your data security is only as strong as its weakest link. You may have the strongest security protocols in place. You may have the best disaster recovery plan. But one small misstep can compromise your entire system.

The big problem: Security missteps are more likely to occur from the inside. An IBM study found that 60% of all attacks were carried out by insiders. That’s not even counting security mistakes that employees commit unintentionally.

In 2018, CIOs and IT leaders must focus on their internal security threats just as much as external. As explained below, most organizations are unprepared for these insider threats.

“There is a preconceived notion within information security that to keep data secure you must make it impossible for outsiders to get in, however, most organisations are significantly unprepared to deal with the huge problem of data loss through human error,” says Tim Sadler, CEO & Co-Founder of CheckRecipient. “Research by IBM found that 95% of all security incidents involved human error (IBM Global Technology Services 2017). Email is the main artery of communication for any firm as it provides many benefits like the speed, clarity and ubiquity but these benefits are also attributes that make it such a big threat to a company, its employees and its data.”

How can you improve your internal security? We cover a few steps in a past article, which you can find here: Is your business data really secure?

Of course, you can’t ignore application security. With over 96% of applications containing a serious vulnerability, this is an area that must be addressed. Here’s another article that explores why this happens, and what you can do about it.

10. Balancing governance with self-service

In the past, the IT department governed technology and data access. They controlled which software made its way into the business, and who had access to that software. They were in charge of delivering new solutions to the business.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the pendulum swing in the opposite direction. Self-service tools have exploded in the business world. More and more, business units purchase and use software on their own–behind the IT department’s back.

The problem is, this creates security risks. If employees (or entire departments) purchase and use third-party solutions, IT has no way of managing and securing that data.

Both the IT departments and the business leaders are realizing that neither option is good. The business can’t go back to waiting on IT for all technology needs, yet they can’t bypass IT altogether.

What’s the answer? In the near future, we’ll see these two options merge into a controlled self-service approach. The job of the CIO andn IT leader: Give users the self-service options they need while controlling data and user access.


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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