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Top 8 challenges for IT leaders in 2021

At the beginning of 2021, CIO.co.uk outlined what they believed would be this year’s top eight challenges for IT leaders:

  1. Facilitating the future of work
  2. Securing the hybrid enterprise
  3. Flipping the 80/20 IT landscape
  4.  Skilling up for accelerated digital roadmaps
  5. Scrutinising IT budgets
  6. Maintaining 24/7 uptime
  7. Battling burnout
  8. Blending safety and innovation

Well, okay, I get all these. But is this as good as it gets? Couldn’t we aim a bit higher?

For example, we shouldn’t be ‘facilitating the future of work,’ we should be driving it! As for 24/7 uptime, surely we’ve all got that in place already? Particularly now, when technology has enabled businesses to carry on despite the pandemic?

I think we can easily come up with a more inspirational and impactful list—especially when we’re looking for talking points to bring to the CEO.

In this accelerated moment, CEO attentions are more than usually divided. But part of your job as a CIO is to make a case to the CEO for how technology makes a difference to competitive advantage. Technology can and should be the key to more rapid growth, to outstripping the competition, and to becoming more profitable.

And yet the above list would have us focus on infrastructure. If we were in a car, it’s as if the next five sets of traffic lights have all turned green, and yet we’re driving along in second gear: admiring the scenery when we should be hitting the gas.

So, what do I think we should be doing now? We need to focus on getting the CEO excited about their IT. And we need to demonstrate, as CIOs, that we’re commercially astute businesspeople and not propeller heads. We need to show that we’re thinking about how to help the company grow faster and make more money.

So, what about this list instead:

1.      Omnichannel everywhere. Everyone engages with the business however they wish, whether they’re suppliers, customers, or employees.

2.      Bring the customers closer. Digitisation of everything—now!

3.      Integrate and automate to speed up the business; RPA, APIs and Middleware to deliver a connected business.

4.      Real BI/MI to make delivering data the lifeblood of the business and enable fantastic decision-making.

5.      Give the business what it wants. Departments should want to come to you first.

6.      Support innovation. Create sandboxes where employees can safely innovate.

7.      Programmes and projects delivered on time, within budget, and to specification. Always.

8.      Right person in the right seat on the right bus. Wrong people off the bus.

Consider this list less about challenges than priorities. After all, if there is anything that past eighteen months has taught us, it’s that challenges have a way of finding you whether you plan for them or not.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Are you on your “A”​ game? Keeping yourself up to date has never been more vital…

FACT: The CIO/CTO position is the only Board position where the necessary knowledge and skills need constant updating. Just like Moore’s Law has seen the exponential increase in computing power, so has the IT expert’s need to stay abreast of technology. It can be a nightmare. CEOs want their teams to be on their ‘A’ Game, and for us that means constantly updating our knowledge and our ability to handle new tech.

And the stakes are high. IT increasingly underpins all strategic business objectives—no department can deliver them without IT. It’s our team that increasingly underwrites the strategic objectives and enables the CEO to deliver them and to provide shareholder value. So we absolutely must understand the latest technology and being able to discuss options, ideas, and principles with department heads.

We don’t have to know everything. I’m not talking about in-depth ‘build-a-layered-network’ type of knowledge. I mean having enough technical knowledge to be able to innovate, to make informed strategic decisions, to keep the business ahead of the competition, and to know what the technicians are talking about.

This means that a fundamental part of knowledge acquisition is deciding what to learn, how to learn and when to learn. So, how do you choose?

We use a simple diagram:

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The idea then is to figure out where each bit of technology falls on the continuum. Here is what I suggest:

1. Think about your current situation and the needs. You might even make a list:

·      What do you need?

·      What does the company need?

·      What does your team need?

2. Once you have the needs in front of you, prioritise:

Where is the most urgent need for knowledge? Concentrate on that area, but don’t ignore the others—make sure they have an appropriate place in the order.

3. Work out how best to gain this knowledge. There are a number of ways to learn:

·      The traditional route. Websites, books, magazine articles, etc. Many CIOs we know set up Google Alerts on topics they want to stay on top of. This method is useful for finding new knowledge or innovative ideas.

·      The on-the-go route. Podcasts, TED sessions, audiobooks and the like—sources that you can learn from when you’re driving or exercising. This method works well for topic assessment or getting under the skin of a specific technology.

·      The planned attendance route. These are occasions when you’ve signed up to a training session, a conference, or a webinar, because the topic is interesting and useful, but it’s not an immediate priority. It’s also useful for ‘large topic’ learning.

·      Just-in-time. This is when you’re just a few pages ahead of those you’re working with. This sort of knowledge can be gained from peers, colleagues, or even the technical teams. You just need to know how to ask the right questions. This is not a substitute for the other routes; it has to be ‘as-well-as,’ not ‘instead-of.’

·      ‘Find an expert who knows.’ Look within your network for someone with an in-depth knowledge of the subject. Buy them a coffee or lunch and find out the salient points. Also: ask the expert how he or she acquires their knowledge; they may know a website or seminar you haven’t heard of.

Remember that for the most part this is not about monolithic knowledge. It’s about distinguishing which pieces of knowledge will be useful to you and the business. Prince2, for example, is all very well. But if you try and implement the whole thing you lose credibility. Instead, implement a few useful parts as the basis of sensible project management. The key to knowledge acquisition is knowing which bits to leave on the cutting room floor.

CIOs and CTOs have a complex job, and their knowledge base reflects that. It’s not just the functional IT knowledge they need to keep improving, there’s all the IT leadership knowledge as well. Not to mention the business and commercial skills, like forecasting and budgets. Whilst these other areas of knowledge don’t change at half the speed functional IT does, they do move on. So you need to constantly review the diagram above, adjusting your learning objectives accordingly.

A successful CIO or CTO will be the one who invests time and energy in judiciously updating their knowledge and skills. If it’s not yet a priority for you, it damn well should be! The fundamental point is don’t let it become something that you look back on and realise you should have done more of. Regret can be a painful thing to have in a career.

 

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

CIO, CTO, or CISO: Which one do I need?

We are often approached by ambitious mid-market CEOs looking to transform their business with IT and technology. The question of how to go about it depends on the particular business. (When a salesperson tells you their product is exactly what you need to fix all your problems, hide your wallet.) What all these businesses have in common, however, is the need for an experienced, commercially minded IT expert on the Board who can lead the transformation.

Another question quickly arises: What kind of expert? Does your mid-market business need a CIO, a CTO, or a CISO? Let’s take you briefly through each position so you can make an informed decision.

What is a CIO?

A Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a Board-level position with ultimate responsibility for technology, teams, and suppliers. CIOs provide clear oversight of systems, processes, data reporting, and staff — when it comes to IT and technology, the buck stops with them.

CIOs will actively contribute to Board discussions on higher-level decisions and will ensure the IT solutions support the business strategy. Their focus is on business improvements, risk management, and cyber security, rather than delivering the day-to-day technology.

In addition, CIOs drive integration, automation, and transformation projects, such as an ERP or bespoke software development.

CIOs have decades of experience in all aspects of technology and IT, so they tend to earn high salaries. (See our article on CIO salaries.)

What is a CTO?

A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is also a Board-level position, someone with deep commercial and IT experience who can create, lead, and deliver technology strategies and solutions that accelerate business growth. The CTO, however, will be more involved with delivering technology initiatives, for example overseeing the development of bespoke software or apps.

For organisations with both a CIO and CTO, the CIO is usually senior. But the positions should be complementary, especially if a business is looking to grow. And whilst there will of course be overlap in terms of skillsets, they are two different positions, with different career paths.

CTOs also have decades of experience and tend to earn high salaries, if not quite as high as a CIO. (See our article on how to determine CTO salaries.)

What is a CISO?

A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is also a senior-level executive, and usually works closely with a CIO and/or a CTO. As a mid-market business becomes larger and more complex, it often needs a specialist to own and lead cyber security, so they hire a CISO.

A CISO is specifically responsible for the security and safekeeping of technology, information, and systems. They communicate risk and mitigation strategies in commercial language that makes sense to the Board, whilst driving the leadership and cultural changes that make security a reality.

This means that CISOs have ownership of cyber security for a business’s infrastructure, applications, and systems and processes. They manage information risk and regulatory compliance, as well as disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

CISOs are highly specialized and in-demand, so they too command high salaries.

Paying for a CIO, CTO, or CISO

Hopefully you now have a better idea of the differences between the positions and what your own business may need. There is also the question of how to pay for them. Mid-market businesses often don’t want, don’t need, or can’t find a full-time CIO, CTO, or CISO. That’s why Freeman Clarke uses the fractional or part-time model. (See our article, Why fractional?)

We are not a recruitment agency. We’re a team of 85 Board-level CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs who can join your senior leadership team to own and deliver your IT strategy and cyber security on a fractional basis.

This means that we bring transformational business benefits at a fraction of the cost. Our expert technology leaders create, lead, and deliver systems and digital strategies that will drive growth and innovation, help you seize new opportunities, and ensure you’re safe from cyber concerns, without harming your bottom line.

The range and experience of our IT leaders also means that you’re not limited to the strict definition of any of the above roles. We get you the IT leader you need, which might draw together different aspects of a CIO, CTO, or CISO.

If you’d like to learn how we’ve helped mid-market businesses like yours, read our client stories. Or Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Visit our CIOs, CTOs & CISOs Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

How does it work to engage a Freeman Clarke Principal?

What happens when you hire a Freeman Clarke IT leader, or ‘Principal’? How do we actually work with our mid-market clients to drive growth? Our own CEO Graeme Freeman explains what to expect.

Find out more in our Client Stories. Or visit our CIOs, CTOs & CISOs Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organisations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Why are the first 3 months with a client so important?

The first three months are a crucial time when a mid-market business hires a CIO or CTO. Find out why it can make a difference — when it’s done right.

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Making a roadmap for growth

We all want to see our businesses grow, but without a technology roadmap for growth it can create a lot of headaches for a mid-market business. Our experts discuss the value of a roadmap for growth and why you should start one.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organizations looking to use IT to grow their business. To find out more about how we could add value to your business, get in touch.

Vision + CTO = efficiency and growth

The right CTO will help a business leader turn their vision into a reality. Find out how our expert CTOs can make a difference to your mid-market business.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of fractional IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. Contact us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Backoffice automation

Automation can actually have a large and immediate impact on a mid-market business’s bottom line. Our experts discuss an example of how automation made a huge difference for a client.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of fractional IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. Contact us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Unlocking business growth with technology

Once you have your core processes and technology sorted, it becomes much easier to look for new ways to grow. Our IT and technology experts discuss how they’ve helped clients leverage their existing customer base and find new markets.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of fractional IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. Contact us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

Solidifying your company culture

Meeting apps like Zoom and Teams have been incredibly useful for keeping businesses going during the pandemic. And now hybrid work is the new normal. So how do mid-market business leaders solidify their company culture in this new environment? Our experts discuss how IT and technology can help.

Watch the full video here!

 

Visit our Digital Transformation Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of fractional IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations, helping our clients use IT to beat the competition. Contact us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

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You’ll now receive regular expert business insights.

Call us on 0203 020 1864 with any questions.

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