Summary: Over the past couple of years, CIOs and IT leaders have faced a pop quiz of sorts: How quickly can your company adapt to unexpected challenges? Assuming you navigated through the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the next question is: How will you address the challenges in the coming year? In this article, we explore 5 challenges that CIOs and IT leaders should watch in 2022.
Over the past two years, CIOs and IT leaders have seen all types of unprecedented (and unexpected) challenges. They had to support a sudden shift to remote working. Many were forced into digital transformation as it suddenly became a necessity.
Overall, I feel like the last couple of years have illustrated one important point: The importance of agility. We’ve heard about the need for agility for years now. I’ve written about it regularly…maybe too much. But, agility can feel like another buzz word until something happens that makes you realize how important it is.
The pandemic was like an agility pop quiz. How quickly can your company respond to unexpected challenges? From my observations, most organizations fell into one of three buckets:
- They seamlessly adapted: They had the tools in place to work from anywhere, and the development platforms to quickly fill in the gaps with new web apps as needed.
- They adapted but struggled: These companies threw solutions together quickly to get by. Many were temporary patchwork solutions that were created out of necessity, and used far longer than expected.
- They didn’t adapt: They didn’t have the tools in place, and couldn’t move fast enough. Many of these businesses are no more, or struggled significantly.
The question: How has your experience over the last two years changed your approach? What is your company doing now to become more agile? How are you preparing to adapt to the unexpected?
These are important questions to ask, as you’ll face a new set of challenges in the near future. Many come as a result of the pandemic while others are driven by new technologies that you can’t afford to ignore.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the more important challenges to watch for in the coming year. Of course, I can’t possibly predict every challenge you’ll face. But, I’ve identified some important areas to focus on which will better prepare you for the future.
1. Understanding and preparing for web 3.0
You’ve probably heard about cryptocurrencies, NFTs, DAOs, etc… They’ve made a lot of noise recently and continue to pick up steam.
Of course, there’s a lot of disagreement about these topics. Some view them as the next big thing while others view them as a scam. I’m not here to argue one way or the other. I want to make you aware of a bigger underlying trend that’s driving everything…and one that you cannot afford to ignore.
You see, we’re in the beginning stages of something huge. It’s a fundamental change in the way the web works. We’re entering the world of Web 3.0.
What does this mean and why is it important? In its current state, the web operates with middlemen. We use social sites like Facebook (a middleman) to keep in touch with friends. We can send money electronically through our banks or apps, which operate as middlemen. I could go on.
The problem with this approach is trust and security. Sure, social networks let us communicate with others…but they own our personal data. Sure, we can send money through various applications, but we’re entrusting our financial information with a third party. What happens if/when they have a security breach?
Web 3.0 is all about a move away from middlemen. It’s about creating a decentralized web that moves control over to the user. The important part: It’s all driven by the blockchain.
Now, I’m not trying to give you a full explanation of Web 3.0, blockchain, crypto, or anything like that. I’m just saying that change is coming. Some say this is the biggest technological shift since the internet. Regardless of your business or industry, it’s something that you should understand. Here’s a nice article that goes into far more detail if you’d like to learn more.
What can you do about it? This is the time to understand everything you can about what’s coming. Read all you can about the blockchain, web 3.0, and tokens. It might be hard right now, but try to understand how this can change your business.
2. Managing the fallout from COVID
The pandemic changed the workplace, forcing companies into (what they thought was) a temporary remote work environment. Then, a funny thing happened. First, this “temporary” move to remote work lasted a lot longer than anyone expected. Second, many companies realized a few things:
- Working from home was good for business: According to recent studies, employee productivity largely improved while working remotely.
- It’s a nice employee perk: Many employees don’t want to go back to working in the office full time. They enjoy the option of working from home, even part of the time. This becomes a valuable employee perk when trying to attract new talent.
- It opens up more options for employers: When you include remote workers, your job pool grows exponentially. Rather than being limited to talent in a specific location, you open up your company to a larger pool of applicants…which leads to better hires.
With all that taken into account, it’s no wonder that most businesses say they will use a hybrid work model going forward. While this brings benefits, it does come with more infrastructure challenges as explained below:
“I believe that trying to permanently support hybrid work models will be a challenge for CIOS and CTOs well into 2022,” says Susanne Tedrick, Azure Infrastructure Specialist at Microsoft. “Line of business leaders have seen productivity gains from the work at home model, and many employees love the ability to work from home, but there are just as many employees that are ready to come back into the office to maintain a sense of normalcy. For CIOs and CTOs, being able to support both models requires discussions on if the current IT infrastructures will support this or if additional technology investments (hardware/software) are needed, ensuring that all devices and networks are properly secured, regardless of location, and costs – how to support a hybrid working model without IT costs spiraling out of control.”
3. Finding skilled IT professionals
We’re seeing a perfect storm of sorts when it comes to finding skilled IT professionals. The increasing importance of technology combined with the demand for digital solutions and the need for remote work over the past couple of years has created a domino effect.
This article explains the problem in more detail. Now that remote work is more prevalent, big companies with big budgets are driving up wages for talented IT professionals. As mentioned above, the hiring pool is now global. While this can be good for your company, it also increases your competition for qualified employees. You’re not competing with local companies anymore. You’re competing with anyone who offers remote work.
“The IT labor market is currently erratic,” says Wade Hughes, CEO of 5Q. “Stress/illness extended related leaves, demands for pay exceeding competency, and pure shortage of skill in all areas are creating an extremely difficult environment to provide services. In this new environment, skilled employees are hopping from one company to the next for more pay leaving voids in operations that CIOs and IT Directors are left struggling to fill. The IT organization has always been seen as an “overhead” function and a “black hole” for costs in many companies. With new dynamic, costs are increasing dramatically and more so than ever, IT professionals are having to do more with less.”
4. Adapting to evolving security threats
If there’s one topic that permanently holds a spot in this list every year, it’s cybersecurity. The scary part: It’s not the same security risk every year. Cybersecurity threats are increasing and evolving.
According to Forbes, data breaches this year have already far surpassed those of last year. Guess what. It was the same story last year, and will probably be the same next year. As more and more life and business moves into digital formats, data breaches will increase.
What other types of security risks are on the rise? According to the article, ransomware is still on the rise, supply chain attacks are increasing, and IoT attacks will grow. All of that is on top of general cybersecurity attacks.
“As information technology globalizes, there are increasing risks to businesses of cyberattacks, especially from international attackers where there may be little to no legal recourse,” explains Calloway Cook, President of Illuminate Labs. “Online businesses risk not only their own IT infrastructure and sensitive data, but also the data of their customers which can subject them to lawsuits.”
“I believe that the best way to mitigate this risk is with a comprehensive cyber insurance policy. No matter how secure your backend is, there are increasingly creative ways to hack it, and acquiring cyber insurance allows your business to avoid a black swan event which could cause you to go bankrupt.”
All of that being said, the biggest security risk every year remains the same: People. According to a recent survey: “The weakest link in cybersecurity continues to be humans. Rather than using purely technical methods to crack into a business, hackers use social engineering tactics such as phishing to get information from unwitting employees.”
I bring that up because it’s often overlooked. Businesses spend lots of money on cybersecurity but ignore the biggest threat. It’s important to educate your employees regularly on cybersecurity risks and how to avoid them.
5. Deliver solutions faster and better with limited budgets
These days, speed is the name of the game. CIOs and IT leaders are under more pressure to deliver solutions quickly–without sacrificing function or security. In speaking with CIOs, I hear the same story again and again. They’re being asked to deliver more value with limited resources and insufficient budgets.
The problem: When you’re asked to deliver solutions faster with the same resources, quality often suffers. You’re cutting corners in some way to meet deadlines. Most importantly, you’re creating technical debt.
“If I had to pick one word to describe the previous ten years, it would be “faster!”,” says Jay Bats, Co-Founder & Developer at ContentBASE. “Lead periods for new applications and technologies that are today considered barely acceptable were unheard of only a few years ago, especially since the popularity of continuous releases has grown. The biggest stumbling barrier is technical debt. The business’s demands for speed create a trade-off between great goods and short schedules, and the updates and rework that result can be suffocating.
Offloading technological debt can be as simple as increasing developer efficiency without additional resources and standardizing app delivery. But saying it is easier than doing it. And it is the CIOs who are expected to make this miracle happen.”
The big question: How can you deliver solutions faster without cutting corners and building your technical debt? There are a couple of options:
1. Hire more employees: If you’re facing a bottleneck, the simplest solution is building your team. However, I realize this is the most expensive option, and most businesses can’t afford to hire a bunch of new employees.
2. Use software tools to get more out of your existing team: Over the past few years, we’ve seen major growth in the low-code development software space. One of the driving forces behind this growth is the whole “do more with less” challenge. Low-code tools help your existing team create web applications 50-80% faster. How? The speed boost is driven by a couple of factors:
- They eliminate coding in most projects: Most applications are built-in minutes or hours, without code. More complex applications might take longer, and have the option to add custom code if needed.
- They reduce testing: Since low-code tools create use pre-tested templates and components, testing time is dramatically reduced.
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to learn more about this option, here’s an article that goes into more detail: Low-code development 101: Understanding the basics.
Of course, this list of challenges could easily be much longer. Would you add anything? If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.