January is a natural time to press pause and establish the priorities that you and your team will need to focus on during the coming year. Separating high-priority issues from all the other things that clutter an IT leader’s already busy schedule requires time, insight, and a healthy dose of intuition.
To make the job easier for you, here’s a quick rundown of eight key areas that should be at the top of your agenda.
1. Strengthening cybersecurity skills
CIOs, working with their CISOs and other enterprise leaders, need to address the cybersecurity talent issue and place developing and training a deep talent pool at the top of their 2022 to-do list, says Leo Taddeo, CISO of data center, interconnection, and colocation provider Cyxtera and president of the firm’s federal group.
“It’s not a matter of just throwing money at the problem, but rather investing efforts into talent acquisition, deployment, and retention,” he explains, adding “it takes both time and money.”
There’s currently a cybersecurity skills shortage plaguing many public and private sector enterprises. Today’s technical talent wants to work for organizations that are agile, flexible, and can move quickly. “You’ll lose top-notch candidates if you’re slow to hire,” Taddeo warns.
2. Improving digital dexterity
IT teams need to be liberated from manual processes so they can become more productive. “The stakes are so much higher now,” says Jay Upchurch, CIO at analytics software firm SAS.
The days when a team member could simply walk down the hall with an important contract and have a colleague physically sign it are over. “Now you have to digitize and share the document so people on the other side of the world can sign it,” Upchurch says. CIOs need to streamline processes. “Our digital reality means digital efficiency and security are more important than ever to keep organizations running at full speed.”
“We are discovering new ways every day that we can automate functions to better utilize resources and talent,” says Ramesh Babu, CIO of electronic components supplier Digi-Key Electronics. “We’re encouraging our team to find and propose new ways that we can automate; we’re welcoming suggestions from everyone involved.”
3. Advancing automation
To accelerate their organization’s digital transformation, CIOs in 2022 should launch a proactive automation strategy, recommends Olivier Saucin, vice president of global IT solutions at Computer Task Group, a digital transformation consulting company. Automating redundant, cost-inefficient processes will not only help enterprises accommodate evolving customer needs following the pandemic but also better position organizations to affordably meet increasing business expectations, he notes.
The goal of implementing fully autonomous systems is likely a step or two away for many CIOs, so the transition doesn’t have to happen immediately, Saucin says. He suggests beginning by prioritizing areas where automation is already built into platforms and applications. Such an approach, Saucin notes, “will quickly show proof of success in terms of speed, savings, and quality before moving to more autonomous capabilities.”
4. Committing to sustainability
For many enterprises, IT spending represents the bulk of their carbon footprint, says Aron Brand, CTO of enterprise network software company CTERA Networks. The energy required to operate data centers, servers, network, storage, end-point devices, and various support services mounts up quickly. “All of these considerations are now part of the agenda of IT organizations, especially large enterprises, as their customers and stakeholders become more and more interested, even concerned, about their ecological footprint and what they are doing about shrinking it,” he explains.
The overarching theme of the health of our planet and its ability to sustain humanity going forward makes sustainability a top priority for CIOs, Brand says. “In fact, now that we are reviewing the latest recommendations for accountability coming from the COP26 Climate Summit, sustainability is now [more] prominent in organizations’ roadmaps for the future,” he states. “IT teams at companies of all sizes understand the mandate and will be implementing sustainability programs for reducing energy consumption, decreasing electronic waste, and achieving carbon neutrality.”
Moving to the cloud is one of the easiest ways for an organization to reduce the environmental impact of its data center and IT operations. The cloud reduces waste. “The cloud provides a pool of resources where an enterprise can ‘pay as it goes’ and utilize only what it needs,” Brand notes “In-house data centers are built with spare capacity to allow for future growth,” he says. “That extra [capacity] typically built in becomes a non-issue when moving to the cloud.”
The cloud also offers access to greener data centers. “Cloud providers have already heavily invested in making their data centers sustainable,” Brand says. “With strong incentives to reduce their costs, cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google use more efficient cooling systems and locate their data centers in areas where they are close to green energy sources.”
5. Upgrading talent recruitment and retention
CIOs who make their organization a career destination by attracting talent to build modern engineering capabilities with a focus on innovation have the best chance to get ahead of competitors and drive business strategy, says Lou DiLorenzo, managing director of strategy and analytics at Deloitte Consulting. “For many CIOs, this requires careful consideration of their personal brand, a significant shift in culture, mindset, career paths, and reframing the perception of IT within their organizations.”
By strategically prioritizing hiring and retention efforts, CIOs can ensure they will have the right talent and skillsets to focus on mission-critical technology priorities. DiLorenzo suggests developing a plan that’s tied to achieving what matters most to the organization, anchored in customer centricity. “Strategic steps can help CIOs prioritize the truly differentiating technology skillsets and develop a laser focus on hiring and retaining top talents,” he notes. “From there, they can outsource, automate, or partner for skills that they don’t have in-house.”
6. Committing to the cloud
CIOs should be on the front line of evaluating and integrating new cloud technologies, suggests Steve Hagerman, CIO of consumer lending technology and cloud integration at Wells Fargo. “CIOs need to stay on top of the latest product developments to determine which will be most helpful for their company’s digital transformation,” he says.
Hagerman says his organization’s cloud transition is set to begin in a few months. The migration will feature a hybrid private and public multiload architecture. “We are making cloud transformation a priority because we see the many benefits it can offer our community and customers, including a more scalable workload, innovative practices, and an enhanced customer experience,” he says.
Due to security concerns, financial companies are among the last enterprises to embrace the public cloud. “Our transition to public cloud integration has been deliberate and strategic — ensuring that security plays a crucial role in our transformation journey,” Hagerman states.
7. Reinforcing privacy
IT leaders need to double-down on privacy to protect customers, clients, partners, and employees. “We, as CIOs, need to be thinking about privacy now more than ever,” says Chily Fachler, CIO of mobile ad attribution platform provider AppsFlyer. “First and foremost, we need to think about protecting people’s rights to privacy and being extra vigilant in our responsibilities in this area,” he explains. “We need to ensure that our strategy, policies, and processes are focused on protecting our data and our customers’ privacy, and guide and steer our decisions along these lines.” Fachler adds that enterprise systems must be constructed to remove any temptation to use data inappropriately.
8. Coping with COVID
As healthcare experts continue to alert the public to current and future viral variants, CIOs are working to support the needs of both home and on-site-based employees.
Rahul Mahna, managing director of accounting, tax, and business advisory firm EisnerAmper, says his research team doesn’t expect COVID’s impact to change significantly in 2022, but he does anticipate enterprises moving to support more cross-fusion work, such as on-site conference rooms designed to accommodate the needs of hybrid employees.
With COVID continuing to afflict employees and operations, Mahna says CIOs will need to adapt to evolving environments and work requests. “Back in 2020, when people were first sent home, the initial phase was to empower all workers to work away from the office,” he notes. “This next phase will be to create robust hybrid work environments that function effectively and still facilitate secure platforms and delivery systems.”