What are top IT leaders’ leadership and technology priorities this year?
The world 'digital' was probably the most abused word of 2017. In the last one year, we have seen CIOs round off all technology implementations to famously calling them ‘digital transformation’. Most companies today have at least one ongoing digital initiative being spearheaded by IT.
In 2018, the CIO will have to revisit their priorities and introduce new and interesting "to-dos" in their agenda. During a tweet chat, Indian CIOs revealed their agenda this year.
CIOs in the automotive sector have been experimenting with a number of new technologies such as IoT and machine learning, leading to the sector's transformation in the last few years. From connected cars to self-driving cars, to disrupting public transportation, and to using robots in manufacturing, the CIOs have a huge opportunity to innovate in accordance with the growing demands of their customers.
According to Jagdish Belwal, CIO-International at GE Transportation, the auto industry is moving beyond products to solutions for customers’ success.
"We have many digital products which solve operational issues of customers such as, fuel efficiency, uptime, routing, among others," said Belwal.
As an overlying agenda for 2018, Belwal said that it will be the yin and yang of operate and innovate."We need operational excellence to keep business going, and innovation to break new ground. On the one hand, the idea is to reduce cost and on the other, it is to increase business value," he added.
Status quo is known to have been the biggest impediment to innovation and CIOs know well not to let it stand in the way of digital growth. Today, the manufacturing industry has seen some of the best examples of using robots in warehouses and big data analytics for predictive maintenance.
Ashok Jade, CIO at Shalimar Paints, said that they are exploring the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve sales, and machine learning to streamline manufacturing processes in their organization. In 2018, Jade also plans to invest in digital technologies for enhancing supply chain and warehouse management.
“For us digital is not just a buzzword but it is a force enabling business transformation in the organization,” said Jade.
So are we quick to assume that the CIO’s Agenda is primarily accelerating digital transformation in 2018 or is that over simplification?
According to Avinash Velhal, Group CIO - India, Middle East & APAC - Atos International, digital transformation is about extending your technology core to the digital ecosystem. To say the least, Bimodal IT is integral part of a CIO’s digitalization agenda as he/she has to take care of operational IT and innovation IT together.
Velhal said that DX requires migration from legacy systems to newer platforms. CIOs need to build a flexible and scalable collaboration environment and enable reskilling of IT workers.
Keyur Desai. CIO- Essar Ports & Shipping and Head Info-Security, Network & Communications at Essar, also feels that the CIO Agenda2018 is a subset of the CIO’s digital agenda in 2018. “The CEO and the CDO also contribute to this digital journey,” he added.
CIO Challenges in 2018
These CIOs cited a number of challenges that they will have to tackle in 2018.
Apart from modernizing legacy systems and reskilling for technical and soft skills, digitalization, business alignment, security and business technologies are also seen as priorities by the CIOs.
According to Belwal, some of the biggest challenge will be repaying technical debts i.e. modernising old technologies that slow us down, talent retention, and prioritizing demand.
“Resources will be constrained. We need to cut costs from running operations and reinvest in innovation. Technologies such as cloud, SaaS, and PaaS, allow doing both. We have to shift the balance of run versus transform cost ratios rightwards to do more with the same,” he added.
The decision to hire versus contract will be another challenge.
According to Velhal, the key driver for success will involve linking digital initiatives to organizational performance
Shadow IT is a usual suspect that will intensify the CIO’s worries further.
According to Belwal, Shadow IT is a sometimes a signal of weak partnership with business, and at others, of weak financial governance. We need to strengthen the trust and partnership and also to partner with finance and procurement teams to bring better spend governance.
Desai said that there has been an increase in budget spend on new technologies with a focus on optimizing the IT landscape and developing a robust IT security strategy.
According to Gartner, top businesses are already spending 34% of their IT budget on digital, with plans to increase that to 44% by 2018.
“Our digital spend is increasing with focus on DevOps and hybrid cloud,” said Chandresh Dedhia, Head - Information Technology - Ascent Health & Wellness Solutions.
For the longest time, CIOs have said that they need to ratify their technology investments with business outcomes. Jade said that if the CIOs can showcase business value proposition, getting the budget sanctioned is no big challenge.
From a skills standpoint, what is the CIO’s Agenda2018? We have known for quite some time that IT jobs will suffer at the hands of cognitive technologies. This doom was long coming. However, hiring developing and retaining top skills has been a CIO’s challenge for decades.
According to Belwal, the CIO’s Agenda in 2018 has to focus on reskilling and not just in digital technologies, but also the development frameworks like agile, product mindset and architecture.
Dedhia also asserts that no amount of technologies will help us if the users aren't empowered and trained well. “This gets most and ongoing attention,” he added.
Like Dedhia, some CIOs have found better alternatives to deal with this skill situation.
Velhal said that developing strong bench strength with external mindset is very crucial in the digital age. “So are creating collaborative teams with a focus on governance as well as techquisitions,” he added.
According to Gartner, techquisitions are acquisitions of digital or IT companies by enterprises in other conventional industries that have not created or sold information and communication technology-based products or services before. CIOs must play a prominent role in making techquisitions more successful and maximize the benefits from all financial and intellectual resources deployed.
Desai said that maintaining the skill-set has always been a challenging task and he has found resolve in managed services to address the skills part to a large extent.