A CIO’s work, it seems, is never done. For that matter, neither is the worry associated with most of it. It’s a big job, and one that seems to get bigger just about every day: New technologies, new security threats, new business challenges, and new opportunities alike conspire to consume more of our attention and more hours of our waking lives (and at worst, keeping us up at night and intruding on sleep time as well).
That’s nothing new, right? Being charged with stewardship of a company’s data – and thus, its lifeblood – is no small task, and it has been for as long as the position of CIO has existed. For that matter, the same range of worries tend to keep CEOs pacing the floor as well; when the two positions and their concerns aren’t deeply intertwined, they are usually one and the same. It amounts to a lot of responsibility that demands a lot of attention – and if you’re to manage it successfully, you’d better have knowledge, strategy, and experience on your side.
Here are some of the issues I’m talking about:
- Security. Security, security, security. You’ve heard me say it before, and you’ll probably hear me say it again. Despite the leaps that have been made in improving data and network security, the “bad guys” have been making their leaps too, and there is always a fresh threat or concern lurking around the next corner. (Just ask Yahoo: losing control of 500 million customer accounts through a data breach can happen even in the most careful, highest-profile organizations).
- Productivity and Efficiency. You know it’s true – the demand for ever-increasing productivity and efficiency is putting pressure on companies of all sizes, and that pressure is usually passed straight into the hands of the CIO. It’s a given that you have to ensure that your network and infrastructure have to keep pace with business demands – but these days speed and efficiency gains are expected to come from IT, reasonably or not, and whether or not other parts of the company are keeping pace.
- Cost containment/reduction. Technology is expensive. So are the people you need to hire to manage and maintain it. Beefing up security, increasing productivity, getting the latest tech into the eager hands of employees, and driving efficiency improvements all cost money; nonetheless, cutthroat competition and the lingering effects of the last recession leave companies less than eager to get the checkbook out. Nice double-bind you’ve got there.
- Business transformation. All but the most oblivious in senior management now understand that business transformation is a continual process. Bluntly put, companies either adapt or die. Those looking to adapt are looking to IT for guidance – and looking to technologies such as cloud solutions to make it possible. By making technology do more and do it better, you make the company do more and do it better – and when you don’t, you have a problem.
- Digital Transformation. No matter what business you’re in, chances are yours is an increasingly digital business. Think about it: Even the most hands-on work (bricklaying, landscaping, plumbing – you name it) increasingly involves planning, scheduling, ordering, billing, and communicating with customers via digital means, creating a proportional reduction of the physical work involved. That involves more devices, more apps, more data, more tools – and more headaches for the CIO managing them all.
- 2017 Planning and Prioritization. Seen correctly, this is the “all of the above – plus some” category. Chances are that the pressing issues facing CIOs and CEOs aren’t going to be met with a conclusive solution in the next couple months. The question becomes which issues to prioritize, where to allocate human and capital resources, and what new challenges to consider: Is bimodal IT on your radar yet? What about development of a “digital ecosystem”? If not, chances are they will be. Your 2017 plan and priority list won’t just guide your company for the year ahead – it will impact its course for years to come.
Whether these are actually problems or opportunities is entirely a matter of perspective. If you’re under prepared, understaffed, underfunded, or if you are operating without a solid strategy for dealing with technological change, all of these can seem incredibly daunting. Shift that perspective slightly, though, and another possibility quickly emerges: All are opportunities to strengthen, improve, expand and grow a company, its capabilities, and its potential – and ultimately its revenue.
Here at Red Level, the answer is decidedly the latter. Turning challenges into opportunities is the very core of what we do, and we have the knowledge, experience, and technology to do it. It might mean we get a little less sleep at night – but we get a lot further the next day.