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5 more lessons that CIOs learned in 2017 (Part 2)

EducationSummary: As we start a new year, it helps to reflect on (and learn from) the past year. In this two-part article, we take a look at the past year from an IT leader perspective. What are the most important lessons that IT leaders and CIOs learned (or should have learned) in 2017? What important takeaways from the last 12 months will help you succeed in the coming year? In the second of our two-part article, We answer those questions (and more).

They say that those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it. We must learn from the past if we hope to create a better future.

So, what lessons can we learn from 2017?

In this two-part article, we’re taking a step back and reflecting on the past year from a CIO perspective. In the first part of this article, we explored 5 important lessons:

  • Cybersecurity needs a larger portion of your IT budget (and focus)
  • The best CIOs challenge the status quo
  • The line of business can take on some work
  • Faster patching can keep you out of the headlines
  • Don’t put all your eggs into one cloud basket

Today, let’s go a step further and look at a few more. Here are 5 more lessons that CIOs (should have) learned in 2017.

Lesson #6: Technology is still a people business

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We’re in the midst of rapid technological change. Businesses that don’t keep up with changing technology will quickly find themselves falling behind the competition.

This is a driving force behind the Digital Transformation movement. Business leaders realize they must transform their organizations and adopt technology/processes needed to operate in a digital world.

However, as many CIOs and IT leaders are realizing, digital transformation isn’t just about technology. Sure, it requires massive technological shifts. But, these projects cannot succeed without a change in culture.

MIT Sloan and Deloitte has a great analysis on this topic: “The history of technological ad­vance in business is littered with examples of companies focusing on technologies without in­vesting in organizational capabilities that ensure their impact. In many companies, (failures are) classic examples of expectations falling short because organizations didn’t change mindsets and processes or build cultures that fostered change.”

It’s a great lesson, and one that we cannot ignore in the coming years. Despite the push towards digitization, businesses cannot succeed if they ignore the people aspect.

“Technology is a people business – our raw materials are talent,” says Phil Tee, CEO of Moogsoft. “Finding great people and scaling the business go hand in hand. We have to be careful to change our processes accordingly at each stage of the company – what works for a Series A start-up is not what works best when you are at a Series C. Embracing that change and leading the people through the scaling of a business is naturally the biggest challenge.”

Lesson #7:Traditional technology may not be the best fit for your organization

Despite the rapidly evolving technology landscape, many businesses get stuck in ruts. They opt for the familiar, traditional technology they’ve always used.

In doing so, they ignore the amazing opportunity in front of them. As technology evolves, new (better) options emerge on a regular basis. Those CIOs and IT leaders who aren’t constantly on the lookout for better solutions and processes are doing their company a disservice.

Am I saying that you should constantly switch technologies? Not at all. But, you should stay on top of the changing tech trends. You should evaluate new options on a regular basis. In today’s ever-evolving world, sticking with the familiar will put your organization at a disadvantage.

Here’s a great example from an IT leader of a school system. Rather than stick with the familiar technology they had always used, they explored newer options and realized they offered far more benefits.

“As an experienced K-12 IT leader, the most important lesson I learned from 2017 revolved around Chromebooks,” says Mike Daugherty, Director of Technology & Information Systems at Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools. “Our students have been in a 1:1 model for years. Every student in grades K-12 has been provided a Chromebook to use at school and at home for several years now. Our staff had been using traditional Windows laptops for all the traditional reasons. We piloted a program where they switched over to a 15″ Chromebook instead of usual device. The perception was that these devices couldn’t handle the day to day tasks of a professional, but we learned that the benefits of the Chromebook made it an ideal device for many of our staff members. Over 50% of our staff have made the switch to using a Chromebook as their primary device. This switch includes teachers, interventionists, principals, and even myself as the IT leader. Chromebooks are continuing to change the face of education in many different ways.”

Lesson #8: You can’t afford an inefficient IT department

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As technology changes, the IT department’s role is transforming. These days, keeping the lights on is no longer good enough. The modern IT department must innovate and drive the business forward.

As explained by Forrester, “CIOs and tech teams play critical roles in enabling organizations to use technology and deliver on customer promises. One of the most important success factors is the ability to drive innovation and move your team at the pace that customers and the business demand.”

The fact is, technology now plays (and will continue to play) a larger role in business. That means that IT departments now play a larger role than ever in a company’s success. Your IT department’s ability to deliver projects efficiently isn’t just a nice thing to have. It’s now a necessity.

“The successful 2017 IT leader learned a lot about the importance of IT project delivery,” says Darrin Lang, CEO and Co-Founder of LABUR, LLC. “What I mean by that, and what we saw at LABUR last year, is there are real tangible conversations happening around the importance of metrics in IT project delivery – and not just in measurements of time, but in level of effort, or LOE, and in project and task estimation. And this is important because of the average amount of money organizations are wasting in failed, or failing, IT projects. The Project Management Institute put out some numbers that suggested for every dollar an organization is spending on their IT projects, nearly ten cents is being wasted – and that’s an improvement for 2016. In 2018, IT leaders need to continue to hone in on project management and quality assurance so they can improve these numbers even further. The success of the enterprise largely depends on it.”

The big problem: IT departments across the globe are already understaffed and overworked. To make things worse, many companies can’t afford to expand their existing IT team.

How can IT departments operate efficiently, despite these challenges? I won’t get into the details here, as it’s a topic that we covered in a recent article. The key takeaways from that article: IT departments must take advantage of available tools.

For instance, self-service tools will let them offload certain tasks to end users, which frees up time for more important tasks. Development tools eliminate tedious coding, which improves their delivery speed. The list could go on, but the point is this: As their workload mounts, IT departments cannot afford to ignore productivity tools.

Lesson #9: Your data backup plan is more important than ever

If you followed the news at all last year, you’re familiar with the rise of ransomware. The WannaCry ransomware attack last year infected hundreds of thousands of PCs, holding their files hostage until the ransom was paid.

The bad news. We’ll see more and more of this in the coming years. A recent report finds that ransomware saw a 15x increase since 2015. It’s expected to grow even more in the near future.

What can CIOs and IT Leaders learn from this? Obviously, keeping your machines patched and updated is more important than ever. But, as explained in this article, this also means your data backup plan is more important than ever.

The problem is, not every company has a solid backup plan in place. As stated in the above article: “To save money, some organizations don’t include all their important files in their backups, or don’t run their backups often enough. Others don’t test their backups and find out that the systems don’t work only when it’s too late. Finally, some companies put their backups on network drives that ransomware can easily find and jump to and encrypt.”

What can you do? The article provides some great tips on how to properly setup a backup plan. The most important tip: Once it’s set, make sure you test it regularly. It’s easy to set it and forget it, only to realize it wasn’t working when you need it the most. As CIOs learned in the last couple of years, this is an area that you can’t afford to ignore.

Lesson #10: Relying on email to share high-value information is too risky

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If you followed the political news over the last couple of years, you’ve heard about some pretty high-profile security breaches involving email. Leaked emails were a hot topic in the presidential election, and continue to make the headlines.

What most people don’t know, however, is how prevalent this is becoming. One study found that 85% of businesses were targeted by Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks in the first quarter of 2017. That doesn’t mean all of those attacks succeeded, it’s just important to understand how much it’s growing.

What can the savvy CIO take away from these facts? Email is not the proper channel for confidential information. As explained below, businesses must look into secure collaboration platforms to share valuable information.

“2017 taught us that communications security needs to be a priority,” says Joel Wallenstrom, CEO of Wickr. “Last year, the FBI started tracking business email compromise as a separate crime type, a $5 billion industry. It’s not just businesses, high profile targets like Clinton and Macron saw their organizations’ email hacked and leaked. We learned the hard way that relying on email to share high-value information is too risky. Advances in ransomware like we saw with WannaCry makes it even more critical to not fall victim to sophisticated phishing or social engineering schemes that serve as common entry points. Businesses should be evaluating secure collaboration platforms to share valuable and private information and place stricter controls around what communications are kept and for how long to reduce the exposure when a breach occurs.”


In these two articles, we’ve explored 10 lessons that CIOs learned in 2017. Would you like to add to this list? Feel free to comment below!

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