Top 8 challenges for IT leaders in 2021

At the beginning of 2021, 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.