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4 Common CIO Obstacles and Priorities to Address in 2021

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IT is a crucial driver of innovation and business growth in the modern era, which means that for the modern CIO, obstacles are becoming increasingly common. 

Fortunately, however, these obstacles can be overcome with the right strategies.


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Below, we’ll explore several strategies CIOs can implement to overcome the biggest challenges in today’s digital business world.

4 Common CIO Obstacles and Priorities to Address in 2021

The role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) is changing quickly as the IT industry evolves. To succeed in this ever-changing digital landscape and overcome the new obstacles that are cropping up everyday, CIOs must evolve along with it. 

Here are a few of the biggest challenges faced by the modern CIO, plus a few techniques they can use to stay ahead of those challenges.

A lack of digital skills

According to research from Deloitte, between 50-100% of employees will need to change their skills in the next few years. 

This trend, on the one hand, means that employees will need to evolve to stay productive and efficient. On the other hand, it means that employers will need to proactively ensure their workers keep up.

Since most workplace skills are now digital in nature, CIOs should play a central role in employee training efforts.

CIOs should also recognize that employees’ digital skills are also dependent on their attitudes towards technology. 

Employees, for instance, who have a positive attitude towards technology will be more digitally savvy and more open to learning new tools.

Integrating IT with the rest of the business

Today, every organization is a technology-driven organization, so CIOs must ensure that IT plays a central role in business operations.

Depending on the organization, the challenges of integrating IT will vary. 

An organization that is digitally mature, for instance, will already place importance on digital strategies and digital business initiatives. On the other hand, organizations that are lower on the digital maturity scale must traverse a longer road towards becoming digitally mature.

A few common challenges associated with IT integration include:

  • Training employees and building a digital-first culture, as mentioned above
  • Educating the C-suite on the value and promise of digital technology
  • Convincing CEOs and board members of the need to place IT at the heart of business models
  • Streamlining digital adoption and product adoption
  • Designing and leading complex digital change initiatives

Every CIO will need to evaluate their own organization to determine the best way to centralize IT.

In some cases, they may need to turn their gaze inward and recognize that they themselves must change and adapt to this new digital world, as we’ll see later.

Thriving amid economic uncertainty

The economic landscape changed significantly during 2020, and it will likely continue to change for years to come – if not longer.

Since CIOs are adopting more and more responsibility in the modern business world, they must learn how to navigate this uncertainty. 

After all, as Gartner has pointed out, CIOs are now being held responsible for business outcomes. And as Tata Consultancy Services has demonstrated, many businesses are asking CIOs to lead their digital initiatives.

Among other things, these findings suggest that CIOs should:

  • Acquire a keen business sense
  • Learn how business and technology intersect
  • Gain an understanding of the forces, technological and otherwise, that are reshaping our world
  • Know what the future holds for their business, their industry, and technology
  • Be able to design, manage, and lead digital initiatives

As we’ll see next, this last point is perhaps the most important area to focus on, as well as one of the top challenges that CIOs will face in the coming years.

Becoming a digital leader

Digital leadership means more than just managing IT, it means developing and leading transformative digital initiatives. 

Many CIOs, however, are used to IT service management (ITSM), a discipline focused on operations management, not leadership and strategy.

To stay relevant and add value in the modern era, CIOs must be willing and ready to take on new responsibilities.

Among other things, CIOs must learn new skills such as:

  • How to manage and lead people
  • How to lead digital adoption and transformation programs
  • How to manage and lead organizational changes

In short, the role of the CIO is changing, so CIOs must also evolve – and while this may be unappetizing to some, it presents new opportunities for growth. 

CIOs who are willing to learn new skills and become leaders in their own organizations, after all, will be more in-demand than those that don’t.

Key Takeaways

Digital technology is one of the primary factors driving disruptive change, innovation, and growth in the modern economy. 

As technology reshapes our world, organizations will themselves be reshaped, and CIOs will play a more prominent role in the C-suite. 

While CIOs will be faced with a number of new challenges, as we have seen, those that proactively tackle those challenges will be able to deliver more value to their employers.

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