10 future trends and how CIOs can keep ahead in 2021

After a year disrupted by a global pandemic, the next normal is starting to take shape. Here’s a look at what’s ahead for IT organizations.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, CIOs have faced epic challenges unlike any they’ve previously weathered. For many business leaders, recovery isn’t just a return to their former state but a top-to-bottom rethinking of what business they need to be in and how their business must be run. As the chief owners of the digital infrastructure that underpins all aspects of modern enterprises, CIOs must play pivotal roles in the road to recovery, seeking the “next normal” while still performing their traditional roles.

The following predictions, based on the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide CIO Agenda 2021 Predictions, present information about technologies, markets, and ecosystems to help CIOs better understand future trends and their impact on the enterprise, and offer guidance on complex, fast-moving environments, proposing prescriptive, actionable recommendations for the next five years.

1. By 2022, 65% of CIOs will digitally empower and enable frontline workers with data, AI, and security to extend their productivity, adaptability, and decision making in the face of rapid changes. Businesses need teams and workers to function more autonomously, making decisions in the face of great uncertainty. Frontline workers are in the best position to gain real-time knowledge of changes in customer behaviors and external environments. But they need access to data and intelligent tools embedded in their workflows in a seamless fashion. CIOs will need to bolster IT capabilities in data science, AI, and human-machine interface and advanced intelligent workflow design.


  • Acquire talent through hiring, development, and partnering ahead of the curve to avoid critical gaps.
  • Create centers of excellence (COEs) for data/analytics, AI, machine learning (ML), and workflow and task automation.
  • Ensure strategies, policies, and tools are in place to secure sensitive data and ensure proper usage.
  • Plan for the evolution from directed digital workers to hybrid digital/human workers to self-governing digital workers.

2. By 2021, unable to find adaptive ways to counter escalating cyberattacks, unrest, trade wars, and sudden collapses, 30% of CIOs will fail in protecting trust—the foundation of customer confidence. According to a recent IDC survey, 63% of organizations are investing in cybersecurity to build digital trust for customers, employees, and partners. Despite these investments, almost one-third of CIOs will fail to fully surmount the fallout from adverse events as the intensity and diversity of threats escalate, resulting in degradation of trust in their businesses. CIOs will be expected to lead all technology aspects of risk management for the enterprise and its ecosystems at a time where funding is scarce and scrutinized.


  • Rethink risk management strategies in the new context of high volatility, increased threats, and business uncertainty.
  • Embrace modern practices and leverage proven frameworks like NIST.
  • Create trust objectives and strategies to focus efforts on high-payoff initiatives.

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7 attributes every IT leader must have

Leadership has little to do with one’s title or seniority; it’s an attribute that’s earned over time through study, practice and commitment. Are you prepared to become a true leader?

Becoming a true IT leader — someone who inspires teams to consistently reach new heights — requires skills that can only be acquired over time through hard work and a commitment to succeed.

Transformational leaders are typically described as lively, passionate, engaging and energetic. Such individuals aren’t focused only on helping teams achieve their planned goals; they also work hard to help team members reach their full potential.

Becoming a respected and prized leader isn’t easy, but it’s a goal within reach of just about anyone who’s willing to commit to the task. Here are seven fundamental attributes every IT leader needs to possess — and how to acquire them.

  1. Agility
  2. Vision
  3. Empathy
  4. Steadiness
  5. Authenticity
  6. Accessibility
  7. Curiosity

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How to build a resilient IT culture

The pandemic has underscored the importance of thriving through hardship and uncertainty. IT leaders discuss how they’re adjusting their leadership practices to help foster this key IT trait for the long haul.

The word ‘resilient’ is cropping up a lot lately as a cultural cornerstone for coping with the pressures the pandemic has foisted on IT. CIOs have played a significant role in enabling organization-wide remote work strategies at speed while accelerating digital initiatives central to the business in uncertain times.

For many, the ability to shift gears, double down and navigate hardship has been a testament to an IT culture capable of withstanding and recovering quickly from difficult challenges. For others, rising to the occasion has been a crash course in resilience, offering hard-earned lessons in what it will take to thrive in IT in the months and years to come.

“The last few months have been a huge social experiment for every company around the world,’’ says Jacqui Guichelaar, CIO of Cisco, who adds that many leaders discovered their staffs can be just as productive working remotely as in the office. The upshot? Leaders must model certain behaviors in this new way of working, she says. “Traditional tactics don’t work in the new reality.”

Here, IT leaders discuss what makes an IT organization resilient, and how they are adjusting their leadership practices to ensure IT can foster this key trait for the long haul.

Put people first
Keep connected
Find common purpose
Foster career growth
Establish mutual respect
Take care of yourself as well

More Details HERE

7 attributes every IT leader must have

Leadership has little to do with one’s title or seniority; it’s an attribute that’s earned over time through study, practice and commitment. Are you prepared to become a true leader?

Becoming a true IT leader — someone who inspires teams to consistently reach new heights — requires skills that can only be acquired over time through hard work and a commitment to succeed.

Transformational leaders are typically described as lively, passionate, engaging and energetic. Such individuals aren’t focused only on helping teams achieve their planned goals; they also work hard to help team members reach their full potential.

Becoming a respected and prized leader isn’t easy, but it’s a goal within reach of just about anyone who’s willing to commit to the task. Here are seven fundamental attributes every IT leader needs to possess — and how to acquire them.

  1. Agility
  2. Vision
  3. Empathy
  4. Steadiness
  5. Authenticity
  6. Accessibility
  7. Curiosity

Get the details HERE

10 tips for modernizing legacy IT systems

IT modernization is a key component for establishing an agile, responsive enterprise. IT leaders lend advice on how to transform legacy tech into digital assets.

This year’s extraordinary events have accentuated the need for a modern technology environment agile and responsive enough to meet rapidly changing business dynamics — whether those are emerging revenue opportunities or work-from-home mandates.

And that means having a strategic plan for modernizing legacy apps.

“Getting rid of legacy is a perennial issue, but modernization is a top issue now more than ever,” says Diane Carco, president and CEO of management consulting company Swingtide and a former CIO.

CIOs see modernization as critical for delivering better quality software faster, running IT with more controls and insights, integrating more security, and more quickly meeting the needs of the business, according to The State of Modern Applications in the Enterprise, a 2020 report released by cloud solutions provider Ahead.

IT has plenty of work ahead to achieve those objectives, as 26% of organizations are only at the beginning stages of IT modernization, while 19% have made only moderate progress, according to The State of IT Modernization 2020 report from IDG and tech company Insight.

To move your modernization initiative forward, Carco and other leading technologists advise keeping the following 10 tips in mind.

1. Know what you have
2. Prioritize projects based on business value
3. Calculate total cost of ownership
4. Create a business-backed modernization roadmap
5. Take an incremental approach
6. Elimination is a viable option
7. Don’t shortchange governance
8. Be selective with microservices
9. Skip ahead
10. Take a product-based approach

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With IT salaries dropping, some hard-earned skills still pay

Employers are still willing to pay highly skilled IT staff a premium — but certification is making much less of a difference than it used to, a study shows.

Even with more IT workers looking for jobs in the wake of COVID-19 than were prior to the pandemic, highly skilled staff are able to demand higher pay. Increasingly, however, it’s on-the-job experience and not certifications that employers are valuing the most.

The average premium paid for tech certifications fell to 6.8% of base salary in the third quarter, the lowest in 7 years, according to Foote Partners’ latest IT Skills & Certifications Pay Index, while non-certified skills earned workers an average bonus of 9.6% of base salary, the same as in the previous quarter — and the highest in the past 20 years.

Those bonuses are all the more important to employees when, as Foote Partners found in a separate survey of IT jobs, not yet published, salaries dropped over the past year for 41% of job titles. Among those titles hardest hit are jobs in mobile platform computing, business systems analysis, .NET, digital product development, IT architecture, enterprise messaging, web systems, and SAP. Overall, across the 516 certifications the company tracks, the average premium for certifications declined by 1.5% during the quarter, and by 6.7% over the year to Oct. 1.

In some categories, notably cybersecurity, architecture and project management, the decline accelerated in the third quarter, although there was a slight increase in bonus pay offered for some certifications in networking, communications, app development and programming languages during the same period.

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6 hidden risks of IT automation

6 hidden risks of IT automation

Automation is increasingly seen as a key IT strategy for competitive advantage, but pitfalls await those who fail to heed precautions.

Across nearly every industry automation is fast becoming king. Whether it’s through IT automation, robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) or some other means of eliminating or reducing manual processes, enterprises across the spectrum seek to speed up all manner of functions to remain competitive — and IT is right in the middle of this movement.

The potential benefits of automating processes can be compelling: faster completion of tasks with fewer errors and at lower costs, for example. It’s not surprising then, that demand for automation tools is on the rise.

A September 2020 report by research firm Gartner projects that global RPA software revenue will reach $1.89 billion in 2021, an increase of 20 percent from 2020. Despite economic pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the RPA market is still expected to grow at double-digit rates through 2024, the firm says.

Among the key drivers for RPA deployments is the ability to improve process quality, speed, and productivity, each of which is increasingly important as enterprises aim to meet the demands of cost reduction during the crisis, Gartner says.

The report predicts that 90 percent of large organizations worldwide will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022, “as they look to digitally empower critical business processes through resilience and scalability, while recalibrating human labor and manual effort.”

Automation can also come with risks, however, if organizations don’t take the needed precautions or if they fall into bad practices. Here are some issues and strategic misfires to look out for when deploying automation in the enterprise, so you can avoid unnecessary risk.

·        Automating processes before optimizing them
·        Allowing ‘automation complacency’ to take hold
·        Poor communication among stakeholders
·        Process automation misfit
·        Overlooking end user input
·        No consideration of interaction design

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The hidden costs of outsourcing

Calculating the total cost of IT services has always been a challenge, but the changing nature of IT coupled with unexpected expenses revealed during the COVID-19 crisis could leave your organization exposed to even more surprises charges.

One of the biggest mistakes an IT organization can make when outsourcing is failing to consider the total cost of the relationship — including all the hidden costs that are likely to accrue. Historically, there has been little incentive for service providers to bring these looming financial risks out into the open, so customers must be diligent about identifying these additional expenses in order to manage or eliminate them.

“Motivated customers can take this a step further and press their potential providers for greater transparency in the sourcing process. If you want to avoid unexpected costs cropping up, push your vendor to be clear about what’s included and what to expect if the engagement flexes or scales,” says Phil Fersht, CEO of outsourcing advisory and research firm HfS Research. “More importantly, the whole industry needs to get past its transactional heritage and start pushing towards genuine partnerships that are invested in mutual success.”

Veteran IT leaders understand this. But these issues have only gotten thornier. Outsourcing customers and their providers have shifted from traditional software and infrastructure solutions to cloud and everything-as-a-service. Moreover, new ways of working have been adopted to enable agile digital transformation. Add to all that the unprecedented disruption of a global pandemic.

“As most of the hidden costs are more nuanced and exaggerated than they were two years ago, it is even more critical to ensure recipients understand the impacts, know how they manifest, and ensure there is familiarity with the desired outcomes,” says Craig Wright, managing director with business transformation and outsourcing advisory firm Pace Harmon.

As always, the onus is on the buyer to beware. To that end, here are some of the most common hidden costs likely to emerge during the course of an outsourcing engagement today.

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CIOs grapple with how to jumpstart innovation amid pandemic

IT leaders turn to emerging technologies from strategic vendors and VC partners to help keep collaboration and innovation humming in a work world gone remote due to the coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred a proliferation of rapid-fire transformations, with IT leaders working through punch lists of priorities aimed at preserving business continuity. But with work from home (WFH) decrees eliminating workplace tête-à-têtes, CIOs are wondering what will happen to serendipitous innovation.

As much as CIOs like to boast about IT staff productivity since they were sent home in March, simulating the water-cooler conversation that can spark fresh ideas is difficult. And humans who have glazed through scripted back-to-back Zoom sessions all day are unlikely to pivot to an ad-hoc meeting to expound on The Next Big Idea. Frustration borne by Zoom fatigue and the lack of face-to-face interaction mounts.

“This is going to prove to be very challenging,” says Craig Williams, CIO of networking company Ciena.

The pandemic could have come at a worse time

It’s hard to argue that a pandemic is well-timed, but when the coronavirus gripped the U.S., CIOs, who had met with their C-suites and boards in late 2019 to strategize their IT roadmap for 2020, were already executing on their digital strategy, says Carol Fawcett, CIO of Golden State Foods, a purveyor of condiments, dipping sauces and other foods for McDonald’s, Starbucks and other brands.

Inspired CIOs and their teams executed on their digital strategy, accelerating moves to Zoom, Microsoft Teams or another equivalent, boosting VPN licenses and network capacity and accelerating migrations to cloud software. They reprioritized projects as needed, Fawcett says.

Fresh research from the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey suggests this momentum will continue, as 47 percent of 4,200 IT leaders surveyed say COVID-19 has permanently accelerated digital transformation and adoption of emerging technology.

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CIOs reshape IT priorities in wake of COVID-19

Surfacing from crisis mode, CIOs find themselves redefining IT priorities, thanks to budgets in flux, a rising need to refine business processes, and new outlooks on the future of work.

Conn’s HomePlus CIO Todd Renaud spent the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic’s office shutdowns and store restrictions “just trying to get through the next day.” One month later, he’s setting his sights on what the next new normal might be, and what it will mean to the appliance retailer’s IT strategy over the next year.

“I’m going to assume that our remote workforce will be a larger percent than it is today,” he says. “How will that impact the company, assets and data? I’m thinking about the impact in our stores if we continue to have restrictions on the number of people” inside and other safety requirements. For example, Renaud is considering videoconferencing capabilities that could enable customers to virtually walk through the store with a sales rep serving as a guide to simulate an in-store sales experience.

 “The unspoken expectation is of me staying as far ahead of the curve from a technology and an impact perspective as I can,” Renaud says.

That same expectation has been heaped onto most CIOs as organizations look to technology to help them pivot quickly. The coronavirus pandemic is affecting IT leaders’ roles and priorities, and forcing them to consider its long-term impact on their IT organizations and on business as a whole.

An IDG survey of 414 IT leaders in April found that most budgets will either hold steady or increase in the next 12 months. They also expect a renewed emphasis on operational efficiency, expense management and cost controls. Meanwhile, business collaboration, hiring and training will take a back seat in the coming months. CIO.com compared these responses to its 2020 State of the CIO Survey, which posed similar questions to IT leaders in September 2019 about their organizations’ IT budgets and priorities for the coming year.

Here is a deeper look at how IT priorities have shifted since the coronavirus upended business operations — and how several IT leaders are responding to the challenge of uncertainty in the months ahead.

Budgets hold mostly steady — while initiatives accelerate

Some 40 percent of IT leaders say their IT budgets will hold steady. Only 25 percent say their budgets will still increase in the next year, down from 59 percent who believed so in September.

Some of the budget increases are being used to ramp up remote work capabilities. At mortgage servicing firm NorthMarq, CIO Dan Ritch suddenly had to enable 500 employees to work from home on infrastructure that was set up for only 165 remote users. In three weeks, the firm put $150,000 of core infrastructure in place, extended its Citrix environment, added a new Citrix VPN, and purchased 50-plus laptops for remote users, a capital investment that was planned to take place over 18 months. “We’ve been able to put a sense of urgency into the infrastructure investment,” Ritch says.

More than one third of IT leaders (35 percent) say their IT budgets will now decrease in the next year compared to the past 12 months, as a result of COVID-19 disruption. That’s up from just 7 percent who had planned to decrease IT budgets when surveyed in September 2019.

With no clear timeline for a return to “normal” business, IT leaders say they’ll focus long term on cost control and expense management (45 percent), up from 29 percent in September 2019. With that, IT leaders also expect a bigger emphasis on increasing operational efficiency, according to 37 percent of survey respondents, compared with 24 percent in September.

Operational efficiency had always been on CIO Bron McCall’s mind at Extra Space Storage, especially when it came to enabling remote lease-signing for its storage units to save additional paperwork and physical steps. “I’ve been talking about that for years, but we had become hesitant to change processes that were already working well,” McCall says. 

But when COVID-19 temporarily shut down offices, executives quickly came on board. “Within three days we were able to deploy remote lease-signing capabilities for customers,” from development to testing to releasing code into production. “That cycle time is what people hope to have with DevOps, and we’re actually realizing it,” McCall says. “I also realized that if we were all onboard with doing something, how quickly we could do it when we took down all the barriers.”

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