To stay ahead, CIOs must think far ahead

CIO looking ahead

Technology change can be incremental or transformational. Organizations that embrace the latest cool tech toy without regard to how it fits into overall business strategies and goals are doomed to incremental change — which, in the dynamic digital economy, can sometimes be a death sentence.

Transformational change, in contrast, requires a long-term view of technology trends as well as a tight alignment of technology deployments with enterprise goals. Over at, Serge Findling, vice president of research for IDC’s IT Executive Programs (IEP) and the CIO Agenda program, walks readers through future technology-related trends and how organizations can prepare for them in 2020 and beyond.

Findling lays out 10 predictions about “technologies, markets, and ecosystems” that CIOs should understand and anticipate, along with suggested specific actions they can take to ensure they are building a “future enterprise.” There are three I want to focus on in this post. The first has to do with the role of CIOs:

By 2023, 65% of CIOs will be entrepreneurial leaders who evolve their organizations into centers of excellence that engineer enterprisewide collaboration and innovation. CIOs’ most effective role will be building IT organizations that are centers for digital knowledge, technologies, and best practices that can proactively architect and integrate digital efforts across the enterprise.

Not to put pressure on you CIOs or anything! Seriously, though, running enterprise IT in the future will be a lot less about day-to-day operations and more about creating and implementing a comprehensive (and always evolving) vision of an adaptive digital enterprise. This means integrating technology, people, and processes, and fostering a culture of collaboration, innovation, and constant learning.

Among Findling’s recommendations to CIOs are to work with lines of business on building the right culture, developing a detailed map of skills needed at each stage, and building a network of partners “to fill gaps in skills and competencies.”

Here’s the next prediction I want to highlight:

Through 2022, deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) to augment, streamline, and accelerate IT operations will be a principal IT transformation initiative for 60% of enterprise IT organizations. The challenge for CIOs is not finding resources to automate IT, it’s zeroing in on the opportunities that offer the most impact. CIOs should start by deciding on their strategic imperatives, whether cost reduction, talent redeployment, increasing IT throughput, or other objectives.

Good advice. Deciding on strategic goals always should be the starting point when making technology deployment decisions. After all, you can’t plan a journey without a destination.

Finally, here’s Findling on how CIOs can attract, train, and retain skilled workers:

By 2023, 60% of CIOs will implement formal employee experience programs. Immersive employee experiences and workspaces will boost employee productivity and attract the best talent. In most cases, those programs will be critical components of enterprise initiatives.

To get there, Findling recommends “human-centered design” for IT products and services and collaborating with human resources and LOB leaders on creating workspaces and employee experiences using agile, iterative and research-driven approaches in the process.

Bottom line: The days of CIOs focusing primarily on keeping the IT trains running on time are long over. Digital transformation requires an understanding of long-term trends, the ability to align technology strategies and business goals with those trends, a willingness to champion innovation and collaboration, and a commitment to improving employee experiences and workspaces. And that’s why CIOs make the big bucks!

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