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Five pressures on today's CIOs and what they mean for the future of IT

Five pressures on today's CIOs and what they mean for the future of IT

Find out why the CIO has become one of the most in-demand person on the executive team

From aligning business and IT needs to dealing with rapid industry shifts and implementing the latest technology trends, there's clearly a lot riding on the modern CIO.

Here are five of the top pressures faced by CIOs today, and how they are changing the shape of IT.

STEM talent shortages

According to the 2015 CIO Survey released by Harvey Nash, six out of 10 CIOs believe they are being negatively impacted by a technology skills shortage.

An aging population is often blamed for IT skill shortfalls, but recent research by MIT AgeLab research fellow David DeLong suggests this is over-hyped, with about 20 per cent of employers not viewing age as a significant concern.

The bigger issue is finding people with the specific skills needed to help the business keep up with changing technology. The most pressing shortfall is in big data analytics – the skills gap in this case is almost six times that of the second most in-demand skill – change management.

To address this problem, CIOs will need to spearhead initiatives that can help turn the tide, such as encouraging more women to pursue IT, partnering with training providers and emphasising the right cultural values.

Accelerating technological change

From recent breakthroughs in quantum computing to the rapidly growing obsession with wearable technologies, every CIO is acutely aware of how fast technology is changing, and the impact it has on every part of our working and everyday lives.

As these technological shifts have the potential to transform existing business models and spawn new opportunities, CIOs must be able to balance their operational IT responsibilities with a willingness to collaborate with other C-suite executives in strategic decisions.

They also face changing user expectations. With tablets and smartphones becoming more popular as productivity enablers, CIOs are also overseeing the end of the age of unwieldy, closed-source and non-intuitive enterprise tools.

Cyber security concerns

In light of recent media coverage of high-profile hacking incidents, most CIOs are aware of the damage a serious cyber attack can inflict on a company’s operations and brand.

But despite a quarter of CIOs surveyed by Harvey Nash reporting a ‘major IT security incident’ in the last 12 months, only 23 per cent believe they are ‘very well’ prepared for such an incident.

Speed is a crucial factor; 76 per cent of IT experts surveyed by Lieberman Software at the 2015 RSA Security Conference think their IT security teams simply can’t keep up with the rapid pace at which security threats are evolving. Red tape is also blamed, with 61 per cent saying they installed a security product to satisfy regulations rather than to improve security.

However, CIOs are not letting such fears stifle innovation. Almost two-thirds believe the risks of mobile, public cloud and BYOD are acceptable given the competitive advantages they can deliver. This type of risk-benefit decision-making is likely to remain part of the fabric of the CIO’s role as a tech leader.

The rise of shadow IT

Shadow IT is everywhere. It takes the form of employees quietly using their Dropbox accounts on their smartphones to send and receive files, or third-party websites to convert documents from one format to another.

This could be seen as an inevitable result of IT finding its way into every part of the business, with Harvey Nash finding that many CIOs are only able to control 80 per cent or less of their IT budget. But viewing it as solely a security threat is short-sighted. It also has the potential to provide critical insights on how employees can be more efficient and productive.

Pulling back the curtain on shadow IT might require inviting employees to reveal their shadow IT habits anonymously and without fear of sanction. Regardless, the shadow isn’t showing any signs of receding, with 81 per cent of employees admitting in a 2014 GigaOm survey to using unauthorised SaaS applications.

Globalisation and outsourcing

Delegating non-core, less strategic IT functions to outside parties is becoming a more popular way for companies to pursue growth, innovation and cost savings.

According to Harvey Nash, CIOs who were planning bigger outsourcing budgets in 2015 outnumbered cost-cutters by three to one. Reasons for outsourcing are also changing, previously it might have been more about saving money but now half of CIOs are pursuing outsourcing to access new skills or free up resources.

In a globalised economy, the CIO is likely to be navigating cultural differences, trade agreements and security risks as part of their outsourcing strategy. Of course, the upside is the wealth of business opportunities that could be lying dormant in these foreign markets.

CIOs are upbeat

Despite these pressures, Harvey Nash found that eight out of 10 CIOs report feeling fulfilled in their jobs. Key attributes of a successful CIO include an emphasis on making rather than saving money, a strong relationship with marketing and an enterprise-wide digital strategy.

With change there is opportunity, and challenging but exciting times lie ahead for today’s IT leaders.

For more information on the latest issues affecting CIOs visit Lenovo’s ThinkFWD Think Space.

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