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CIOs Helped Navigate Organizations Through Pandemic Growing Pains

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Read more about author Becky Trevino.

The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed enterprises to move at breakneck speeds with investments in technology, reskilling and hiring talent with chief information officers (CIOs) and IT leaders at the helm. Over the last couple of years, IT leaders have been focused on exploring modern solutions to modern problems (remote enablement and endpoint security technologies to name a few) to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. 

Through this transition, IT leaders were particularly hard-hit and challenged to pivot repeatedly, emerging from the pandemic successfully as the new champions for their organizations. CIOs’ expertise proved invaluable during the pandemic – they can fortify and execute on a strategy to grow ROI via complete visibility and understanding technologies across departments – and will continue to make an impact as the future of work evolves.

To better understand what IT leaders have learned and how they are building on these experiences in 2022, my company commissioned a survey of 1,000-plus IT decision-makers (ITDMs), which found that 85% of executives say their role as an IT leader has changed over this time; another nine in 10 say many of the roles that were undervalued pre-COVID are now viewed as essential, signifying a shift in the role and responsibilities of IT teams.

CIOs Have Transitioned from Gatekeepers to Advisors

The growth of the internet, the switch to digital, the move to cloud, and the shift to remote and hybrid workforces have all challenged CIOs to redefine how they align their technology and teams with emerging technology trends and changes in corporate priorities. 

The CIO role has been around for more than 40 years, and in that time has undergone various shifts to become what it is today. CIOs were once focused primarily on identifying, implementing, and maintaining business IT systems. Then, they were responsible for guiding the digital transformation and journey to the cloud. Today, they must work as business partners to departments across their organization to break down silos and improve business outcomes while enabling the business to manage through the rise of the end user as the primary buyer of new technology.

It’s no stretch to say that CIOs and other IT leaders are essential to business: 90% of IT leaders reported they have become trusted advisors and another 83% stated that they are a business leader at their organization. Now more than ever, IT leaders have a seat at the decision-making table, with 92% acknowledging that they have more accountability for the financial impact of their IT investments.

CIOs’ and IT leaders’ counsel took the form of helping teams understand the larger technology picture by integrating internal and external technology and managing cloud coverage and optimizing data insights, among other critical support. In order for CIOs to continue to operate in the advisor role, they need to stay on top of not only technology skills, but also new leadership and management skills to serve as both business leaders and mentors for the entire organization.

Unlocking Insights from Data for Intelligent Decision-Making

The global datasphere is anticipated to roughly triple in size by 2025, and while organizations have a plethora of data, they are unsure how to utilize the data to make strategic business decisions. 

While nine in 10 ITDMs say it is easy for their managers and/or direct reports to access data and make recommendations and decisions, only a little over half (52%) say it is very easy to do so. Further, 72% of IT leaders say that they are overwhelmed by data, and over 90% say IT must invest in tools and technologies to extract value from their data and turn it into actionable insights. 

Insights from data can direct and drive business strategy, and all teams across an organization can benefit. Therefore, it is essential that IT leaders have full visibility into their technology investments and have control over their technology estate to help unlock meaningful insights. Using data to guide decision-making and counseling business leaders across the organization to do the same is a critical role of the modern CIO and IT leader.

Digital Transformation Is an Ongoing Journey, not a Destination

Prior to the pandemic, many businesses relied on outdated technology with IT departments that moved very slowly to meet technology and business goals. Once the pandemic hit, IT departments were forced to quickly adapt, which for many meant undergoing a digital transformation that made remote and hybrid work possible for their organizations. In fact, 93% of IT leaders say that the pace of digital transformation has dramatically increased at their organization, but 89% say that they need more help from business leaders to make the transformation happen. 

With disparate technology investments being made across departments, IT leaders are finding it difficult to modernize while overseeing technology use across the organization. With 94% of ITDMs saying that innovation is a top priority for their organization, IT leaders are no longer just focused on overseeing and managing IT, they’re also exploring new and innovative technologies to enhance the ongoing digital transformation journey. 

To keep up with an organization’s digital transformation journey, IT leaders will look to insights from their data and technology stack to guide their organizations and be competitive in today’s enterprise technology market.

CIOs are valued members of the C-suite, and the pandemic opened new avenues of professional growth and opportunity for them. The pandemic caused organizations to make changes quickly, putting trust in IT business leaders to make decisions that would benefit the company and customers. The switch to remote and hybrid work further forced companies to put trust in their IT leaders and accelerated their digital transformation plans as they quickly needed to prepare their businesses for a new working environment. Additionally, this caused IT departments to gain control over their technology and decide what the best investment was for the company, quickly and efficiently. It is essential to look at how the responsibilities and priorities of IT leaders have evolved and adapted over the years, to understand how business leaders can continue to set up their organizations to be resilient through uncertain times by maximizing the benefits of their technology. 

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