5 key priorities for the forward-thinking CIO

Published on February 16, 2021

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Business Strategies – It is without question that 2020 was one of the most challenging years in modern times with the pandemic causing unprecedented disruption and upheaval for leaders across companies of all sizes and all industries. But the pandemic also revealed untapped opportunities such as ‘digitalisation’.

According to research by McKinsey, the digitisation of business offerings in the Asia Pacific has accelerated by ten years, the highest globally since the pandemic. And during this period of digitalisation, the role of IT has been elevated to the top. Businesses have partnered more actively with the CIO to navigate what otherwise is unchartered territory.

For the CIO, the pandemic presents an opportunity to champion IT and technology as a critical value-adding function to a business with a more active voice, a stronger presence, and a seat at the table. The accelerated push for digitalisation provides an excellent platform for IT leaders to collaborate more closely with the broader organisation.

By helping the organisation understand the limitations and friction points in the business more deeply, CIOs can successfully bring forward the right-fit digital technology solutions to drive greater connectivity, scalability, a better user experience and higher overall levels of digital success.

This year, the ongoing need for digitalisation will not dissipate. It will only increase as lockdowns persist, and teams continue to work remotely, and consumers change their buying behaviour to reflect digital preferences. CIOs will keep playing a leading role in ensuring their organisations are on track with digital transformation plans. They will continue to optimise digital infrastructure, networks, and security so their business has high levels of connectivity and can operate efficiently and securely.

So, what do CIOs need to focus on to continue delivering digital success in the year ahead?  Here are five key business strategies for the forward-thinking CIO as they walk the digital transformation journey in 2021:

1. Prioritise regulatory compliance and security.

With the increasing ease of moving services and applications to the cloud, ensuring high security and compliance obligations is vital. CIOs cannot underestimate the risk of cyberattacks to their operations. Last year data breaches in ASEAN cost companies an average of US$2.62 million each. Ultimate responsibility for security and compliance sits with you, not your cloud provider. How you choose to design the architecture of your environments in the cloud makes a significant difference in the protection level you will receive.

2. Modernise core systems and infrastructure such as your network architecture.

Legacy systems will remain a barrier to digitalise fully. Many of these systems cannot run in the cloud nor do they have open and easily accessible APIs. Modernising or updating legacy infrastructure to cater to increased preferences for remote interactions is essential to fully realise the benefits of digital technology.

3. Ensure real-time visibility of critical data across the enterprise.

Businesses must have access to real-time data across all areas of the company. Leaders must make timely decisions in response to ongoing volatility and uncertainty in areas like assessing supply-chain operations, evaluating workflows and loads, allocating resources effectively and so on. They will require actionable and reliable data at their fingertips for swift decision making in your key business strategies and planning.

4. Engage the workforce to optimise IT systems and deliver greater digital success.

It is crucial to actively engage the organisation and take your team on the digital journey as one of your key business strategies. Engaging your workforce includes providing structured training, development, and upskilling programs to ensure new digital platforms are being fully utilised and maximised to improve their workplace experience. Many organisations have rapidly rolled out new digital technologies, yet take-up and utilisation rates remain low. Great technology on its own won’t give the uplift your organisation needs. Your people need to be fully engaged to embrace new technology and systems to fully benefit from digital transformation.

5. Adopt a two-stage approach to your digital and cloud journey.

Stage one focuses on minor changes to digital infrastructure to ensure predictable outcomes while minimising risk. For example, when moving from private infrastructure to the public cloud, you might initially make minimal changes to the underlying architecture or supporting systems.

Whereas stage two is more exploratory with bolder decision making. It involves taking measured risks, gaining multiple stakeholders’ support and a willingness to implement more prominent projects. For example, you might implement integrated cloud services (such as PaaS and SaaS) to streamline how the business runs its platforms entirely and, in the process, retire legacy systems and inefficient technologies.

In summary, in all crisis, there is a silver lining, and the acceleration of digitalisation has emerged from the global pandemic. Digital transformation will continue to dominate the business strategies agenda and the ongoing need for digitalisation will keep CIOs and their teams front and centre. However, the challenge is for CIOs to continue to deftly steer their organisations through these unchartered waters with effective and secure digital solutions that deliver strategic value while ensuring compliance and security.

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Shane Baker
CEO of Experteq
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