5 challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in 2019 (Part 1)

EducationSummary: As technology evolves at an ever-increasing pace, it brings major challenges to the IT department. Modern CIOs and IT leaders must recognize and prepare for these challenges if they hope to remain competitive in the coming years. What challenges can we expect in 2019? In this article, we examine 5 challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders.

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Over the past few years, we’ve seen significant changes to the IT department. The cloud has changed how we think about software. Mobile has changed where and how we work. The ongoing push towards digital transformation is changing the business as a whole. The list could go on.

While these changes bring benefits to the IT department, they also bring challenges. As technology continues evolving, CIOs and IT leaders must stay ahead of the curve. The most successful CIOs are those that recognize new challenges and adapt accordingly.

So, what challenges will CIOs and IT leaders face in the coming year? As this is such a broad topic, we’re breaking it up into two parts. We’ll cover the first 5 challenges today, and the rest in a future article. Sound good? Okay, here are 5 of the biggest challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders in the near future:

Preparing for the voice revolution

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I read an interesting article on CIO.com recently about Digital 2.0. In short, Digital 2.0 goes beyond mobile devices/apps and into an anywhere, anytime, any platform mindset. It’s about putting information and support at the customer’s fingertips, wherever they are.

The driving force behind this change: Voice interfaces. We’ve seen it coming for a while now, starting with “smart” speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Now, more and more devices are shipping with voice controls. As explained below, this is the wave of the future.

“It’s no wild guess to say that voice is the next major wave,” says Jeremiah Rizzo from Nettology. “Advocates like Gary Vee have stated that in the same way the television revolutionized the American home, starting in just a few homes, and scaling to multiple TV’s in just about every home, voice will follow the same pattern. At the end of the day, voice saves time. And anything that saves time, is going to be sought after and adopted by customers. It’s much easier to listen to an audiobook while commuting to work than to read one in your nighttime hours. It’s easier to digest information through a podcast than to comb through internet articles. Platforms like Alexa have made it easier than ever to leverage voice for your company’s product, and to connect with your customers on their various home devices. This, along with the momentum we see in machine learning advancing self-driving cars, customer service bots, etc., will be two major areas that CIOs need to focus their time and make sure they’re both staying competitive in, and leveraging for the benefit of their customers. It feels very much to me like an atmosphere where you could be a major company or major player in a given space, who ends up losing out in 5 years if you don’t stay current with voice, machine learning, etc. and being where your customers want you to be.”

Now, will everything switch over to voice interfaces in 2019? Of course not. But, it is the wave of the future, and modern CIOs must start preparing now.

Security and Customer Privacy

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The New EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went live on May 25th of this year. It created a law to enforce European data protection & regulation rules, and the right to personal data protection.

How does it apply to IT? Or perhaps a better question: How does it apply to IT departments outside of the EU?

First, GDPR applies to any organization that does business with EU residents. Second, while GDPR is the first of its kind, we can expect regulations like this to crop up in the US as well.

While we won’t get into all of the details in this article (as the topic is very broad), here’s a short overview: GDPR provides strict guidelines on how organizations use and protect personal data. It also means that customers have the rights to have their personal data deleted upon request. That means IT departments must understand where sensitive data is located, how it’s protected, and who has access to the data.

This makes issues like Shadow IT and data security even more important. IT departments can’t afford to have data floating around that they can’t monitor. Businesses can’t afford to have sloppy data security habits.

Why is it so important? Violations of GDPR can lead to massive fines. If your company operates in the EU, or even collects data on EU citizens, this is something that cannot be ignored.

“I feel the biggest challenge for 2019 would be security and customer privacy,” says Amna Rizvi, CEO of TechCrunchX. “Nowadays, after many big incidents involving huge companies like Facebook, Dept of Homeland Security, FedEx etc, not only do consumers care more about their data, even governments worldwide are doing a lot, e.g. Europe’s GDPR law taking effect. As more and more things become digitized, increasing IoT devices, security will still be the #1 challenge for IT leadership in 2019.”

Capitalizing on your data despite growing regulations

At a recent conference, we heard a common refrain from multiple CIOs and IT leaders: “We’re data rich but insight poor.” They have lots of data, but aren’t capitalizing on it.

Now, this isn’t a new challenge. It’s been an ongoing struggle for CIOs over the last few years. How can you turn your data into a competitive advantage?

I mention it again this year for a couple of reasons. First, it’s still incredibly important. Those that can capitalize on their data have a significant advantage of the competition.

Second, new regulations (like GDPR) make this more challenging. These days, you must keep a data trail for all personally identifiable data. Where did it come from? Did the person consent to have their data collected? Can it be completely removed from your system if they request it? Not only must you turn your data into a competitive advantage, you must follow strict guidelines or face hefty fines.

“Data has been the biggest business word for the last couple of years,” says Nate Masterson, CMO of Maple Holistics. “Last decade was all about synergy, this decade is all about data. Data collection is one of the most important functions of a company, but once you have that data, what can you do with it? With GDPR it’s become a much more complex answer, add to that, the fact that technology systems are becoming more advanced every year. The question for the coming year will be how to take advantage of the data you have without getting into liability issues. It will also to make your company GDPR compliant in preparation for whatever data regulations are placed on the US-based and run companies.”

Automation

Automate

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In today’s business environment, agility is more important than ever. Why? This article in Forbes sums it up nicely:

“In today’s market, not only is change happening quickly, it’s forcing businesses themselves to change quickly. It’s a constant flow of innovation, disruption — and sometimes chaos — that is moving us ahead, even faster than we ever imagined. Many say agility is the key to surviving in the age of technological hairpin turns. In fact, 68% of companies identify agility as one of their most important initiatives.”

The problem is, many businesses are still stuck with manual processes that kill agility. In fact, one of the biggest productivity killers across the business world stems from a lack of automation. In companies around the globe, IT departments waste their time performing manual tasks that could (and should) be automated.

What do these processes look like? Here are a few common examples:

  • Manual data re-entry: Employees are stuck manually entering and re-entering data into multiple systems.
  • Paper or email-based workflows: Business processes require a lot of human interaction to complete.
  • Heavy spreadsheet usage: Spreadsheets are required to move data from one system to another, or run reports.

To meet these demands, Modern CIO’s and IT leaders must place automation at the top of their priority list.

“In 2021, the CIO that did not have AI and Automation at the top of their 2019 agenda will no longer be the CIO,” says Ian Aitchison, Senior Product Director at Ivanti. “Organizations that continue to operate un-unified IT Ops silos will be losing in their markets to their automated competitors. Those companies that do not automate IT Operations will be gradually replaced or acquired by those that do.”

Attract and retain the right skills

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the massive growth of new technologies. Areas like machine learning, AI, data science, etc… have now become important skills in the business world.

As a result, more businesses face an IT skills gap–a shortfall between the supply of qualified IT professionals and the necessary IT skills.

How bad is it? The research firm, Forrester, found that while 75% of businesses have a digital strategy, only 16% claim to have the skills to deliver it. Another study finds that a whopping 93% of businesses indicate they’re facing a skills shortage.

The big challenge facing CIOs: Address this skills gap while staying current with the ever-changing tech trends. After all, your business won’t stop and wait while you fix the skills gap. The competition won’t take a timeout while you search for modern skills. You must bridge the IT skills gap while operating at full speed.

“The biggest challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders heading into 2019 is being able to attract and retain quality staff,” says Dylan Robertson, Chief Growth Officer at CoinJinja Co., Ltd. “Failure in this area can destroy a business of any size. Having disengaged staff and turnover cost an organization much more than just dollars.

The keys to this are self-awareness, empathy, and communication. IT leaders often come from a technical background and struggle with these soft skills.”

Summary

These are just a few challenges to address in the coming year, but the list could be much longer. Would you add anything to this list? Feel free to comment below!

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