In 2019, IT departments need to drive innovation for their organisations, not hold them back. They must move more quickly, use the data more wisely, and automate mundane tasks so they can act more strategically.
Over the coming year, IT managers will get practical about AI and serious about cybersecurity, work to diversify their staffs, embrace multi-cloud architecture, and learn how to collaborate better with colleagues across the organisation.
And they'll streamline their organisations and processes to prepare for darker economic forecasts.
Here are 12 resolutions you and your IT staff should be adopting in 2019.
Resolution 1: Pay less attention to shiny things
Nearly all CIOs and CTOs fall prey to the 'shiny, bouncy ball syndrome' at one time or another, notes Ingrid Lindberg, founder and CXO of Chief Customer, a customer experience consultancy.
"They go to a conference, hear all about how a competitor has installed XYZ and it's just the best thing ever," she says. "They completely forget about their multi-year roadmaps and stabilisation exercises and try to chase that bouncy ball."
Yes, Lindberg agrees, CIOs need to pay attention to how their competition is innovating, but not at the expense of their long-term strategic plans.
Resolution 2: Lose the grunt work
Many IT organisations are still spending too much time keeping the lights on. That's especially true in small and midsize enterprises, where nearly 80 percent of staff time is spent on maintenance and support, says Anurag Agrawal, CEO and analyst with Techaisle.
"CIOs should think about outsourcing support as much as they can, so they can be champions for innovation in their organisations and focus on mitigating risk," he says.
In 2019, Agrawal says, tech leaders need to allocate their resources toward increasing business automation, improving relations with customers and suppliers, and contributing to the organisation's overall success.
Resolution 3: Exercise your strategic thinking skills
It's not enough to solve the problems your organisation already knows it has. To be a true leader you need to identify problems no one has acknowledged yet — in part because they don't know there's a solution for them, says Oli Thordarson, CEO at Alvaka Networks, a performance monitoring and security service.
"Know what's keeping your bosses awake at night, and thoroughly understand how your company makes money," Thordarson advises. "Then dig deep to understand how IT provides value to the company."
Resolution 4: Put your dev team on a diet
Development teams no longer have the luxury of taking months or years to complete huge projects. In 2019, IT needs to adopt "a culture of relentless improvement," says David Wallace, CTO of Greenphire, makers of financial technology for clinical trials.
"Organisations need to stop taking on projects that don't deliver value to their clients for nine months or more," says Wallace. "They need to create their first end-to-end framework within three or four months. That can allow clients to provide continuous feedback during the development phase, resulting in a solution that better meets their needs."
Wallace says Greenphire has a team dedicated to developing incremental features and reducing or eliminating manual processes, with the goal of completing these enhancements in a week or less.
"The continuous release of product enhancements delivers significant value to clients while providing a morale boost to internal teams."
Resolution 5: Hire more diverse candidates
IT departments need to plug their skills gap with more diverse employees — but not just in terms of race and gender, says Sandra Toms, VP and curator of the RSA Conference.
"Most IT hiring groups fail to look at diversity in life experiences, religion, backgrounds, sexual orientation, and education," she says. "Viewing 'diversity' in a more holistic manner should open up a broader field of candidates and lead to higher levels of productivity."
Resolution 6: Put your existing data to work
You've probably already amassed a huge amount of customer data, but much of it remains unstructured, siloed, and unavailable to the people who need it most.
Rather than simply collecting more data in 2019, focus on pulling insights from the data you've already got, advises Tasso Argyros, CEO of ActionIQ, an enterprise customer data platform.
"This year, IT teams should resolve to collaborate across teams to ensure that marketing, product, and other departments are effectively leveraging data already at their disposal to inform strategy and other business decisions," he says.
Resolution 7: Embrace multi-cloud architecture
For larger enterprises, one cloud is rarely enough. Using multiple providers allows organizations to pick best of breed for each application, creating more resiliency for critical apps while minimizing vendor lock-in, says Brian Johnson, CEO of DivvyCloud, a cloud security and compliance automation company.
"Companies are using clouds for distinctly different applications," he says. "It's better to focus on the strengths of your team and what cloud services their capabilities are aligned with. A .NET dev team may find Microsoft Azure is best suited for them, while data scientists using the TensorFlow SDK will probably find Google Cloud Platform the best option."
To keep cloud sprawl in check, Johnson advises a multi-cloud tagging strategy that works with all providers, to make it easier to find and remove orphaned resources that could be increasing your attack surface or draining your budget.
Resolution 8: Schmooze it or lose it
IT managers can't just hide out in the data center any more. Building a network — interpersonal, not technological — needs to be a top priority for 2019.
"One of the best assets tech leaders have is their ability to build a dynamic network of connections across teams, partners, and even competitors (within limits)," says Karen Wickre, author of Taking the Work Out of Networking. "Such cross-team contacts can be your own personal brain trust."
The best time to make connections is when you have no other agenda in mind, she adds. Offer to grab coffee in the break room, and be sure to ask questions like 'how' and 'why' that required more detailed responses.
"Twenty or 30 minutes of effort can give you a clearer picture of what they do and how it fits with your work."
Resolution 9: Make bots your friends
Using robotic process automation for mundane jobs, like onboarding new employees or migrating repetitive tasks to the cloud, will free up time for more strategic projects, says Graeme Provan, global director of business automation at Genesys, a customer experience and contact center solutions provider.
"AI-powered bots can see repetitive actions, learn employees’ workflow, determine which actions are taking the longest time to do, and find where there’s significant business benefit in automating those actions," he says.
Just make sure you're using bots for the right things, he cautions. Some inefficient businesses processes may need to be re-engineered before they should be automated.
Resolution 10: Take the 'no' out of innovation
All too often, IT is where new or challenging ideas come to die. That has to stop in 2019, says Thomas Phelps, CIO and vice president of corporate strategy at Laserfiche, a provider of enterprise content management software.
"IT should not be the excuse given by the business for why something doesn't get done," he says. "IT should be the champion for change. Instead of being known for 'no,' tech leaders should be a key part of getting to 'yes' and looking for ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, and drive innovation."
Resolution 11: Get serious about end user security
Security no longer stops at the CSO's or CISO's desk. Users remains the weakest link in the enterprise security chain, and a lot of that is on the IT department.
On average, 57 percent of companies still assign local admin rights to ordinary users — and the larger the organization, the more likely they are to do it, according to a survey by PolicyPak Software.
In Proofpoint's 2018 User Risk Report, 33 percent of users who were surveyed couldn't define the term 'phishing,' and 64 percent didn't know what ransomware is.
"The best security tools in the world are not going to eliminate every attack," says Jeff Bittner, founder and president of exIT technologies, an IT asset disposition company. "Enterprises need to start containing malicious code by containing users and doing a better job of instilling basic cybersecurity hygiene practices."
Resolution 12: Prepare for rough times ahead
A recession is inevitable; it's only a question of when. BlackRock estimates there's a 54 percent chance of an economic contraction by 2021. Streamlining your processes in 2019 will pay off later when the downturn hits, says Robert Reeves, co-founder and CTO of Datical, maker of database release automation solutions.
"IT departments need to make certain they are injecting flexibility and speed into their software delivery process, so their companies can turn on a dime when the recession hits," he says. "Companies need to map the value streams for software delivery now, while they can still get the budget for it. This will make it easier to address areas of weakness before a recession does it for them."
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.