Five tips to help CIOs create a game-changing IT department


The last couple of years have been unlike any others. Digital transformation – be it through the establishment of remote working or the creation of new e-commerce channels – has taken place at lightning speed.

At this time of rapid change, IT teams have operated under extreme conditions. They’ve had to deal with reduced teams and tech budgets, fast-changing organisational priorities, and increased threats in terms of business continuity and information security.

As 2021 progresses, what are the elements that would help CIOs and their teams to deal with the new challenges that lie ahead? Here are five tips that we believe would help tech leaders to create a game-changing IT department.

Clear objectives from the business
Technology is still often implemented in isolation. Rather than being purchased to achieve set aims, IT is bought as a solution looking for a problem. Yet 2020 has seen a step change; IT is now seen as a problem solver. Digitisation helped companies deal with the challenges of coronavirus and now the business wants more from its tech.

With IT budgets still under downward pressure, CIOs and IT teams need direction from their business peers. They need to work in unison to create strongly-defined use cases. With data-led emerging tech, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, moving from the laboratory to the enterprise, that requirement has never been more pressing.

The good news is that CIOs and their IT teams will have spent much of the past 12 months engaging closely with their business peers to ensure that their technology demands are met. Now they must create a clear long-term digital strategy that puts the business first.

More commitment to the cloud
The past 12 months has almost been like a giant beta test for the cloud. At a moment’s notice, companies had to switch to home working, real-time collaboration and online fulfilment. It was a test that the cloud passed with flying colours.

The task for 2021 is to make even more use of the cloud. Global spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 18.4% next year to total $304.9 billion, up from $257.5 billion in 2020, according to Gartner. The analyst says companies have more IT to do and less money to do it, so they will spend on areas such as the cloud to help accelerate digital business.

Gnarly elements of legacy IT remain in incumbent businesses of all sizes. If CIOs and their tech teams want to help their businesses change directly quickly, then they will need a cloud-first approach that allows the organisation to move with flexibility.

Agile development methodologies
Moving quickly, however, isn’t just about implementing the right technology. Without a people-centred information strategy that allows employees to exploit new opportunities collaboratively, then the promises of big data will go unfulfilled.

That’s where Agile development methodologies come in. Unlike traditional Waterfall approaches, which use a linear approach to task completion, Agile methods rely on iterative collaboration. While these techniques started in the IT department, Agile techniques have moved out of the data centre and out across all lines of business.

Smart companies use Agile techniques to bring in various stakeholders to explore how a business aim can be reached. By working together, cross-organisation teams can take small, iterative steps towards fulfilling data-led business aims in 2021.

Effective data management
Even if you’re moving towards completing business aims in an Agile manner, there’s still one area where your organisation can come unstuck: poor data management. It’s only possible to act on data if the information your business collects is consistent, accurate and secure.

Gartner says CIOs and their IT teams must as a matter of urgency prioritise spending on data management through 2021. The central role of data in the business is only going to increase, as companies rely on key performance indicators to ensure their organisation is making moves into the right market areas.

Your business will need to break down the traditional walls that define it. Rather than holding information in silos, CIOs will need to consolidate information so that decision-makers can make informed and intelligent choices.

Great account management
From the cloud through to data management, organisations needs to rely on the external partners they selects. Building trust is not necessarily straightforward, as CIOs have to use an ecosystem of IT providers with different capabilities for specific areas of provision.

With the business likely to up its demands for digital transformation through 2021, IT departments need partners that can deliver on their operational promises, rather than just hyping their offerings and selling more services when they believe the time is right.

Look for vendors that offer the highest possible level of account management. With IT budgets likely to remain constrained, tech teams need a trusted account managers that can work to help them deliver data-led digital transformation plans.

The coming months are going to involve building on some of the lessons learnt through 2020. CIOs should try to reflect, reset and reprioritise for the future.

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