3 lessons that CIOs learned in 2018

EducationSummary: As we start a new year, it helps to reflect on (and learn from) the past year. In this 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 2018? What important takeaways from the last 12 months will help you succeed in the coming year? We answer those questions (and more) in this article.

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“Study the past if you would define the future.”
― Confucius

They say we shouldn’t dwell on the past. But, we can (and should) learn from it.

As we begin a new year, let’s take a step back and reflect on the past year. What can we learn? What key takeaways from last year will help you succeed this year?

Today, we’ll explore this topic from a CIO/IT leader perspective. What lessons can you pull from 2018 that will help you succeed in 2019? While the list could be much longer, here are 3 lessons that CIOs should take from the last year.

When it comes to security, proactive beats reactive

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You wouldn’t wait until your car breaks down to change the oil, would you? Of course not. You (should) proactively change it on a set schedule to avoid larger problems.

The same is true for cybersecurity. A proactive approach can save you from major problems down the road. Unfortunately, too many organizations still take a reactive approach to security. They focus on cleaning up the mess rather than preventing the breach in the first place.

The problem: It’s an expensive mess to clean up. A recent study found that the average cost of a data breach in 2018 was $3.86 million, up 6.4 percent from 2017.

Despite these costs, far too many companies aren’t taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity. How can you tell? Just take a look at the list of major breaches from last year. Many of them stem from known security issues like unencrypted data, unpatched software, common vulnerabilities, etc… In other words, issues that could’ve been corrected with a proactive approach to security.

In the coming years, security breaches will only increase. Companies that take a reactive approach to security will be in for a rude awakening.

“As we’ve seen in 2018, security is one of the most important technology-driven aspects in your company’s future,” says Mike Hendrickson, VP, Technology & Developer Products at Skillsoft. “As organizations start to use data, capturing more and more user demographics, credit-card numbers and identifying information, companies cannot afford to have this valuable information compromised, exposed or stolen.

2019 must be the year that organizations truly grasp and deploy effective measures to mitigate risks. Organization-wide, staff must be educated on security risks and resulting policies surrounding BYOD, printing, third-party software, remote workers, legacy equipment, vendor management, social engineering, outdated-training and security policies, and public or poorly protected WiFi. The consequences are real and put your company at risk for attack, lost revenues and a bad reputation.”

CIOs must get out of the weeds

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As technology plays an increasingly important role in the business, the IT department’s role is transforming. These days, keeping the lights on is no longer good enough. Business leaders now expect more value out of their IT departments. The modern IT department must innovate and drive the business forward.

The problem is, too many IT leaders (and their departments) are stuck in the weeds. They still spend the vast majority of their time and budget on maintenance and support.

Now, am I saying that IT shouldn’t support the business? Of course not! But, they spend time on tasks that they could offload to end users. For instance, tasks like reporting, BI, and basic application development are still handled by IT departments in many businesses. As this demand increases, IT departments can’t keep up.

How can you get out of the weeds? Offload these types of tasks to the end users. With the rise of no-code/low-code development platforms and self-service analytic platforms, business users can easily create reports and basic applications. These tools let IT control data and user access, while giving users the ability to create their own solutions.

“IT Leaders should have learned that they can’t succeed at being the support center for every end user application,” says Paula Fredericksen, Founder of Veras Partners. “The focus of IT Leaders, CIOs and their teams in 2019 and moving forward should be on their strategic initiatives, not on building reports or answering end user support questions.

A report by Sky High Networks states that “Every company is a Software company” and that companies with less than 1000 employees run an average of 22 custom applications. The rate at which new applications are added in today’s business world gives the IT Team little time to become experts or even gain basic knowledge before the application is rolled out to end users. A company’s IT staff was hired for a specific reason and their skill sets should be used to move the company towards its goals.”

Digital Transformation isn’t a buzzword (it’s a state of being)

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Over the last few years, the buzz around “digital transformation” has reached peak levels. But, what does it mean?

There’s still some confusion (and frustration) surrounding the topic. As explained in this CIO.com article, “Contemplating the concept of digital transformation has become an agonizing feat for CIOs, many of whom view it as a catchphrase that has become confusing at best and meaningless at worst.”

How did we reach this point? While the list could be longer, here are a couple of reasons:

1. It’s a complex topic, surrounded by inconsistent definitions. If you try to find a concise definition, you’ll run across a variety of “answers”. To make matters worse, technology vendors have jumped aboard the “digital transformation” train, defining the term in a way that best positions their product as the solution. I’ve seen software being sold as THE solution to digital transformation.

2. It’s unlike other projects, trends, etc… Digital Transformation isn’t your typical project. The reason: It doesn’t end. As Forrester explains in this article, “Firms think they are transforming – but many don’t realize that transformation will be a permanent state of being.” It’s not about the destination. It’s about constantly adapting and putting your organization in a position to do that.

So, what is digital transformation? The article mentioned above has a great definition: “Digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people and processes to radically change business performance.”

In other words, the world is going digital. Businesses must adapt their technology, processes, and culture in order to keep up. It’s not a buzzword that can be ignored. It’s the future of business.

If you haven’t started your digital transformation journey, where do you begin? I won’t get into all of the details here, as we’ve covered the topic in a couple of articles, which you can find here:

The Digital Transformation Checklist (Part 1)
The Digital Transformation Checklist (Part 2)

Summary

These are just a few lessons that CIOs can take away from 2018, but the list could be much longer. Would you add anything to this list? Feel free to comment below!

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