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6 CIO Concerns and Challenges to Expect in the 2020s

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What is in store for CIOs in the near future? As the digital landscape continues to change, so will the CIO’s priorities and challenges. Below, we’ll highlight some of the top CIO concerns to expect in the years ahead. 

6 CIO Concerns and Challenges to Expect in the 2020s

The role and responsibilities of the CIO will continue to evolve in 2021 and beyond, so it is important to adapt to these changes and to tackle the challenges that come with them.


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Here are a few concerns that should top the CIO agenda in the 2020s:

1. Cybersecurity

Cyber security has now become a critical agenda item for every enterprise. 

While major hacks such as the SolarWinds incident have become front page news, studies have found that most breaches are due to employee error and, therefore, are preventable.

One report by Tessian, for instance, found that more than half of employees aged 18-30 say they have made mistakes that compromised their company’s cybersecurity. 

An affordable way to remedy this threat is by implementing proper cybersecurity protocols, procedures, and employee training.

2. Turning IT Strategies into Reality

In 2020, many organizations redesigned their roadmap for the future – and many actually accelerated their digital transformation efforts. 

Fortunately for the CIO, this bodes well for acceptance at the highest echelon of the organization.

Yet challenges do remain, such as:

  • Mitigating employee resistance
  • Obtaining buy-in from hesitant business leaders
  • Overcoming fears of risk
  • Navigating the uncertain landscape

CIOs must not only tackle challenges such as these, which are ever-present, many must lead large-scale efforts, rather than incremental changes. One way to mitigate this challenge is by understanding change management, as discussed below.

3. Becoming a Full Business Leader

The role of a business leader is to inspire action, develop business plans, and develop strategies that meet the organization’s objectives. 

In the digital world, this makes the CIO a critical member of the leadership team. 

But many organizations have isolated CIOs from the rest of the leadership team – rather than viewing them as full partners, some CIOs have been relegated to the back office.

Today, thought, the C-suite is in a state of flux — and the impact on the role of the CIO is becoming more apparent than ever. 

Now, transformational CIOs must embrace a wide swath of new responsibilities that include everything from developing business strategy to managing product development to investing in new technology.

In short: CIOs must proactively become leaders who develop business plans alongside CMOs, CFOs, CEOs, and other executives. This may require leaving one’s comfort zone and learning new skills, but, to add value, it will become essential in the years ahead.

4. Being a Change Leader

Since many CIOs are spearheading digital change initiatives, they are also, by default, change leaders.

Being an effective change leader, however, is easier said than done, so it is important to:

  • Understand what change management is
  • Learn about the principles and theories of change management
  • Incorporate best practices into one’s own change projects
  • Consult with experts when necessary

Change management can significantly impact the outcomes of one’s digital strategies, so it is important to apply this discipline whenever implementing major business changes.

5. Hiring and Retaining Top Talent

An organization’s ability to hire and retain IT talent can have a significant impact on a company’s overall success. The demand for IT professionals is growing at a rapid pace, yet the supply of qualified candidates is shrinking. 

In both 2018 and 2019, for instance, Gartner found that IT talent shortages posed a major problem for enterprises, and that trend continues to this day. 

A number of other research firms have found shortages in:

Since these types of professionals will drive an organization’s digital success, it is crucial to build and maintain a qualified team. A few ways to do that include building a compelling recruitment package, creating a top-notch employee experience, and providing excellent compensation.

6. Staying Both Innovative and Cost-Efficient

Innovation involves investment, which makes it difficult to stay cost-efficient – which, for many organizations, has become even more necessary in the post-COVID era.

The pandemic, after all, left many businesses in dire financial straits. And during that time, most companies were compelled to transform radically – by, for instance, migrating to the cloud and implementing large-scale remote working policies.

Despite these financial challenges, to stay competitive, many companies are being required to rethink operations and innovate digitally.

For CIOs, this can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it is more difficult to invest when the company lacks funds. On the other, those same investments can drive profitability and offer a competitive advantage.

It is up to the CIO, therefore, to navigate this challenge, invest in innovative technology, and use that technology to fuel their organization’s growth.

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