When it came to cybersecurity projects, Daniel Uzupis could always count on executive and board support during his tenure as CIO at Jefferson County Health Center in Fairfield, Iowa.\n\n\u201cAny cybersecurity initiative I wanted to do, they didn\u2019t argue with it; they always did it,\u201d Uzupis says.\n\nIn fact, Uzupis says he has seen over his years in IT how leadership has become more security aware and, with that, more enthusiastic supporters of security-related initiatives.\n\n\u201cPeople are coming to the conclusion that compliance isn\u2019t security,\u201d he says.\n\nAnd as CIO at Jefferson County Health Center, he saw a \u201ca growing trend to protect data and keep it safe as much as you would protect the patient.\u201d\n\nThat translated into a slew of cybersecurity initiatives built around the CIA triad \u2014 that is, projects focused on protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data.\n\nRecent and ongoing initiatives include designing and delivering a more robust backup system to boost resiliency and ensure that the organization could continue operations \u2014 whether hit by a tornado or a ransomware attack.\n\nProjects also include the introduction of multifactor authentication; security, orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR); extended detection and response (XTR); and security information and event management (SIEM) software, according to Uzupis, who left his position in spring 2023.\n\nUzupis\u2019 focus on cybersecurity could be considered a sign of the times, as a majority of CIOs responding to CIO.com\u2019s annual State of the CIO survey said they were focusing on such initiatives.\n\nWhen asked, \u201cWhich areas do you anticipate your involvement increasing over the next year?\u201d 70% of CIOs put cybersecurity \u2014 making it the most universal area of interest by a wide margin. Other top 10 initiatives seeing increased CIO involvement include the related areas of data privacy and compliance (at No. 3, with 55% of responding IT leaders listing this area) and risk management (at No. 9, with 47% involved in such).\n\nIn general, responses to the State of the CIO question indicate that CIOs are continuing to focus on the technologies that have dominated their agendas in recent years. In addition to the higher attention to cybersecurity, privacy, and risk, CIOs said they\u2019re anticipating increased involvement in:\n\nA shift in emphasis to business value\n\nWhile most of the above key initiatives may be familiar to anyone working in IT, CIOs, advisors, and researchers say there\u2019s more to the story. Today\u2019s focus on these initiatives is more about optimizing the use of technologies to deliver measurable value in those areas, rather than just delivering the technologies themselves. It\u2019s a shift in emphasis that makes all the difference.\n\n\u201cThis is all about delivering business value. That\u2019s what we\u2019ve been seeing, that\u2019s what\u2019s really changing,\u201d says Chirajeet \u201cCJ\u201d Sengupta, a partner with research firm Everest Group.\n\n\u201cIt has been years since we came up with the term digitalization, and we saw a tremendous rate of investment in the building of new tech solutions and new tech platforms. But today many enterprises are taking a pause and asking if they\u2019re getting value out of the investments they\u2019ve made; they\u2019re also trying to squeeze more value out of the investments they made. That is really the mood of the market today,\u201d Sengupta says.\n\nThat attention to value shows up in different ways, depending on each organization\u2019s level of maturity, its position in the market, and its objectives, Sengupta says.\n\nFor example, organizations further along in their cloud journeys are now moving to platform-based models \u201cthat are being optimized and continuously improved,\u201d he says.\n\nThat in turn is changing how IT operates. Instead of teams focused on specific areas, such as networking, many IT departments are moving to a \u201cplatform-led IT operating model\u201d where there\u2019s a team to run each platform, with those teams working closely with the business departments using those platforms.\n\n\u201cThis is the ultimate cumulation of the agile movement, and this helps IT make sure it\u2019s delivering business value,\u201d Sengupta says.\n\nIn addition to the shift to platforms, Sengupta sees many CIOs and their teams focusing more attention on cloud computing as they seek to effectively and efficiently scale their investments there.\n\n\u201cCloud continues to be a big area of investment, but it\u2019s a different kind of investment,\u201d he explains. \u201cWe have been pushing a lot onto the cloud but the next generation of [work] is around how to run things at scale once I\u2019m in the cloud, how do I run things more seamlessly in the cloud, how do I run interoperable clouds, and how do I run IT operations with a cloud foundation,\u201d he says.\n\nThere are similar trends when it comes to data and data-related initiatives, Sengupta adds. CIOs have already laid the groundwork toward developing more data-driven enterprises but are now maturing their overall organization\u2019s data programs by pushing for more rationalization to get to that long-sought single version of truth, strengthening data governance, and working to make data more accessible to users.\n\n\u201cAll that,\u201d he adds, \u201cpoints to the conversation around how can IT bring more business value.\u201d\n\nMaximizing the value of ongoing IT deployments\n\nShane McDaniel, CIO of the City of Seguin, Texas, is among those IT leaders shifting their focus to maximizing the value they\u2019re getting from ongoing technology deployments. Seguin has migrated its legacy infrastructure to a modern IT environment as the first step in its digital journey and is now moving to the next phase.\n\n\u201cWe have completed upgrading our technology infrastructure over the past five years, but as the momentum of the city continued to gain speed, we began to transition from not just infrastructure enhancements but also managing operational efficiencies through technology,\u201d he explains.\n\nSeguin\u2019s modern infrastructure has enabled the city to move more of its services online, to mature its cybersecurity capabilities into an award-winning program, and to advance some operational technologies, notably its geographic information system (GIS) system, McDaniel says.\n\n\u201cThat said, despite having made substantial progress through technological innovation does not mean we are anywhere close to being done,\u201d he says, adding that IT is \u201cconstantly evolving and you do what you can to keep up with the ebb and flow of it all.\u201d\n\nMcDaniel says several key areas of focus for his IT team moving forward include cybersecurity and data-related initiatives, noting that because of the transformation over the past several years \u201cwe have such a greater volume of data cycling in and out of the city today.\u201d\n\nSuch initiatives mirror what other research has identified as IT trends for this year. The 2023 IT Priorities Report from Snow Software, for example, listed a range of priorities, including reducing IT costs and security risks, delivering digital transformation, improving customer service and satisfaction, and driving innovation for competitive advantage, as well as helping make the company more sustainable and employees more productive.\n\nJohn Ang, CTO of EtonHouse International Education Group in Singapore, says the key initiatives shaping his IT agenda today, in order of priority, are data analytics, cloud migration, the digital marketing customer experience strategy, and AI, including ChatGPT.\n\n\u201cAnalytics is the No. 1 priority as we will be using data to understand and predict our business needs and student enrollment numbers, resource allocation, etc.,\u201d Ang says, adding \u2014 in a nod to the fiscal realities facing more and more IT leaders today \u2014 \u201cevery dollar counts.\u201d\n\nAs for the focus on the digital marketing and customer experience strategy, Ang is looking at \u201chow we can accelerate tech and use it for business opportunities [and better] customer acquisition,\u201d he says. As part of this initiative, Ang and his IT team are looking at AI as a possible component, with a plan to investigate its use internally first before rolling it out for customer-facing use cases.\n\nLike others, Ang says these initiatives are ongoing, noting that EtonHouse has been focused on migrating to the cloud for several years and that the other initiatives are carried over from 2022. But the emphasis now is more on how such uses of technology impact EtonHouse\u2019s core mission.\n\nAccelerating on what\u2019s next\n\nMarcus Murph, head of CIO Advisory for KPMG, says his work with CIOs as well as KPMG\u2019s own research sees similar trends around IT leaders\u2019 key priorities and how those priorities are shifting focus.\n\nMore specifically, Murph says CIOs are continuing to replace their legacy tech with software-as-a-service (SaaS) options and optimizing their cloud purchases. But for many CIOs that now means modernizing past prior lift-and-shift projects.\n\n\u201cWe\u2019re seeing some clients who are beginning to modernize even after they\u2019ve migrated to the cloud,\u201d he says, noting that for some this means moving to serverless and composable architecture \u2014 a new phase in their cloud transformations.\n\nMeanwhile, other CIOs are \u201clooking at costs, seeing if they\u2019re spending at the right levels\u201d in the cloud, he says, adding, \u201cIt\u2019s a journey, right? It doesn\u2019t end the moment you land on the cloud.\u201d\n\nMurph also sees CIOs increasing their investments in data-related products and services. Purchases range based on the maturity level of their organization\u2019s data programs. Some are building out cloud-based data fabrics, while others are supporting more advanced data initiatives such as deploying more AI in the enterprise. \u201cBut they\u2019re all figuring out how to get access to the data in a way that helps them the most,\u201d he says.\n\nAnd nearly everyone is increasing their focus on cybersecurity, with significant investments in security tools happening. \u201cThat has been on the top 3 list for CIOs for a very long time,\u201d he adds.\n\nCIOs, however, also have their eye on newer and emerging technologies such as edge computing, blockchain, and other Web3\/metaverse capabilities, noting that they generally believe they\u2019ll be on their roadmaps sooner rather than later.\n\n\u201cI think we\u2019ll see some acceleration on those \u2018What\u2019s next?\u2019 questions,\u201d Murph says.\n\nStill, he sees some continuation of today\u2019s trends as CIOs move forward. IT leaders remain firmly focused on delivering for their organizations, looking at creating more agility and customer centricity with their investments while also improving security and reducing risks, he says.\n\nAnd all that, he adds, rolls up into creating value.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s now really about articulating technology in terms of the value it brings,\u201d he says.