Biggest challenges facing a CIO today? Take your pick. Technology is moving ever faster, with cloud-in-a-box, data factories and NewSQL databases as just a few examples. Then there’s staffing: automation and artificial intelligence still cannot do it all, and correctly skilled people are not always easy to hire. IT strategy and politics are further factors, with different departments demanding big data applications and threatening splinter movements to put their own systems in place.

The common threads in all of the above may look familiar enough. In fact, overall the biggest challenges to CIOs are:

  1. How to get all the necessary IT work done with the time and resources available.
  2. How to demonstrably add value to the business through IT.

What keeps changing is the nature of the solutions. The temptation to simply adopt the latest and greatest technology is on the other hand a constant, even when it flies in the face of adding value (challenge 2). Enterprises that invested massively in RFID tagging and tracking for example, in theory to improve supply chain and logistics operations, may have found it to be a red herring. Likewise, hiring in specialists with skills that have a useful lifetime of a couple of years is a short-sighted solution at best. And IT anarchy in the organisation with uncontrollable servers and data security holes is unacceptable.

Still, if we keep in mind that goals or problems come first, and solutions come after (instead of vice versa), we can start to untangle strategy, staffing and technology to get the IT work done and the IT value added.


There is a world of difference between IT as a necessary evil and as a driver of growth and profitability. Getting from one state to the other takes time. Five year plans may be the most realistic way forward, but with milestones along each step of the way. Keep in mind that an agile approach applies just as much to IT strategy development as to software projects.


Ideally, IT team members have skillsets that don’t date and that continue to keep IT cost-effectively aligned with enterprise goals. These kinds of skillsets may be technically or business-oriented, as in translating departmental and enterprise needs into IT specifications, planning and action. As a CIO however, you have other solutions than just hiring in more geeks, sorry, IT specialists.

Using competent external resources on a pay-as-you-go or ready-made applications that fit the bill (the cloud has more and more to offer) are possibilities too.


This doesn’t have to be a problem either. While IT vendors have their roadmaps, which they either propose or try to impose, any information technology must be evaluated in terms of what it does to help your organisational goals. Discussions with impartial external consultants can point your technology choices in the right direction, and possibly add more business-oriented options into the bargain.

Tying this back into the two challenges above, everything that needs to get done can get done by smart use of existing and external resources, whether in terms of skills, systems or technology. The added value comes from ruthlessly assessing IT solutions in terms of business relevance and potential. These challenges for CIOs will continue to exist, but at least the results required will be achievable.

We can help you assess your current solutions and plan for the future. Get in touch now for a chat.

Posted on December 13, 2018

in Strategy, Leadership

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