According to Gartner, CIOs have built closer relationships with their CEOs in 2020. The role of the CIO is changing. After a tumultuous year, their role has become less operational, more strategic and boards are sitting up to listen to the IT leaders in their organisations.

Source: Gartner Report: The 2021 CIO Agenda

So what to do with this increased influence? What do you need to look out for? What are peers doing, thinking and planning for the year ahead?

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation was already steadily trending well before COVID19 lockdowns forced CIOs to consider remote working solutions.

In the 2020 Acora UK CIO Survey, 80% of respondents reported that digital transformation was in full swing. It’s a vast majority. But 20% is no small number.

It remains to be seen how well those falling behind the curve caught up in the latter part of the year. One of the trickiest parts about digital transformation in the past has been in getting C-level buy-in. Never has there been a more pertinent time for CIOs to get their message across than post-lockdown measures.

The new issue is whether those organisations had the resources and budgets to set the wheels in motion during tumultuous working conditions and economic uncertainty. Businesses scrambled to implement BAU protocols in a scenario none could foresee.

Those still left behind could face an uphill battle in a receding market with higher costs than their more advanced competitors.

interest over time

How to manage transformation in 2021

  • Lead from the front on transformational culture
  • Source and retain talent and technology fast
  • Start with small transformations for quick wins and secure buy-in
  • Transformation isn’t one-and-done but a continuous process

Customer Experience takes centre stage

In our own survey conducted in March, Customer Experience was voted as a top priority for businesses. More than a quarter of respondents voted it as their number one. Since then, this trend shows no sign of slowing.

According to Gartner, “76% of CIOs report increased demand for new digital products or services during the pandemic, and 83% expect this demand to increase further in 2021.”

It makes sense. Customers shifted their behaviour and digital channels, experiences and services became more critical than ever. In what was already an increasingly important lever pre-2020, being able to provide digital experiences and products has become essential.

Furthermore, Gartner states that organisations who have increased their use of digital channels are 3.5 times more likely to be top performers than those trailing behind.

The increased demand for digital channels has naturally seeped into the employees’ experience. Now that employees have had a taste of working remotely, top talent is more likely to seek out businesses with the infrastructure to support flexible working practices.

Cybersecurity in a distanced workplace

Among the many challenges in 2020 sit cyber threats. Accelerated by global financial circumstances, cyberattacks increased during the pandemic. According to a recent Microsoft report, “the first half of 2020 saw an approximate 35% increase in total attack volume compared to the second half of 2019.”

Then the SolarWinds security breach hit headlines in December. In January 2021, reports of class action lawsuits against top executives send ripples of due concern through both private and public sector organisations.

It makes sense that during economic uncertainty cyber threats would be on the rise. Add in an increase in employees using their own devices and even applications to bridge the gaps left by IT infrastructures unprepared for such a widespread and sudden shift to remote working –and you have the perfect storm.

Meanwhile, a significant number of cybersecurity jobs remains vacant. According to The New York Times, “Cybersecurity Ventures forecasts a staggering 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021, rising from one million such positions in 2014.”

Are you interested in finding out more about the main strategies UK CIOs are using to face today’s IT challenges? Read our latest UK CIO survey report here.

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