The world is moving towards a digital-first landscape at a fast pace. In 2022, enterprises will depend on digital technologies more than ever before as technologies such as 5G, IoT, and Artificial Intelligence enter mainstream use. But, navigating the digital landscape is difficult. CIOs face several challenges when setting up digital systems. Ensuring seamless enterprise operations through digital requires back-breaking works under the hood. Their challenge increases when trying to get ROI for their technology investments. The fluid business environment and fickle customer sentiments put roadblocks on their path. The lingering pandemic makes their job tougher.
Here are the top ten priorities for CIOs and IT leaders in 2022.
1. Invest in hyper-automation
Gartner estimates 80% of enterprises to invest in automation in 2022.
The traditional focus on automation has been to speed up work processes. In 2022, smart CIOs will channel automation projects to improve the quality of work output and decisions. Automation will progress beyond robotic process automation, to more complex tasks.
Some automation-centric innovations that will become popular soon are:
- Digital desktop assistants, which eliminate toggling between different tasks, and improve productivity.
- An automation layer atop application stacks, to make integration seamless. Robots create digital joins between systems and take on routine tasks, such as data transfers and governance.
- Just-in-time, task-based workflows, as alternatives to business-application-based workflows. Robotic-powered virtual assembly lines deliver ‘work-as-needed’ to employee dashboards. Employees do not have to open up multiple applications to get things done.
- Autonomic systems, the next level of automation. Autonomation makes a physical or software system capable of self-managing. These systems self-optimize performance and protect themselves in hostile environments. CIOs who configure such systems free themselves from the hassles of routine maintenance and governance. The employees, free of routine tasks, get time for value-generating tasks.
- Semantic automation that enables developers to move away from rule-based approaches. Semantic software robots observe and emulate activities without programmers having to code instructions.
- Automation-centric programs that reimage operating processes and business models, to unlock new business possibilities.
The role of the CIO in these schemes is to set up such systems and enforce standardization to enable robots to operate seamlessly.
2. Launch AI vigorously
Artificial Intelligence is finally coming of age in 2022. While AI promised much, infrastructural roadblocks impeded the smooth adoption of AI. The roll-out of 5G networks and the expansion of cloud infrastructure remove such roadblocks.
In 2022, CIOs will toy with:
- Machine Learning (ML) solutions that speed up workflows. Consider field service management suite as an example. ML algorithms identify the best technician to attend to a customer service request. The algorithm shortlists available technicians. It then considers distance, qualifications, and other relevant factors, to assign the best technician for the job.
- Implementing ready-made tools for hassle-free insights. One good example is Einstein Analytics, which offers instant analytical insights.
- Decision intelligence (DI) or data-driven structured intelligence. Gartner estimates one out of every three large enterprises will use DI within the next two years. The job of the CIO goes beyond installing analytics engines that facilitate DI. They have to build structures around such decision-making tools and integrate them into the wider ecosystem.
- Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) that generates synthetic data. GAI trains models and allows AI entry into the creative space. GAI is already in widespread use for text-to-image or image-to-image conversion, improving resolution, and other uses. CIOs will have to identify appropriate use-cases, and conduct a cost-benefit analysis before investing in such new AI-enabled technologies.
3. Reinforce the cloud
Migrating resources to the cloud have been trending for many years now. 2022 will be no different, as CIOs will keep on migrating enterprise resources to the cloud. The work-from-home mandates gave a big fillip to cloud migration. The cloud is now the backbone of most delivery pipelines.
CIOs will focus on the following cloud-related trends in 2022:
- Building cloud-native platforms that unlock the full transformation potential offered by the cloud. Cloud-native platforms enable scalable and elastic services from the ground up. It also delivers huge productivity boosts.
- Co-opt technologies such as containerization and microservices in native cloud services, for greater agility. Containers virtualize applications and make them run in any environment. Microservices deliver speed and flexibility.
- Deploy powerful cloud solutions such as Einstein Analytics. Such solutions enable great possibilities with minimal hassles and offer good value for money.
- Subscribing to the serverless cloud. The serverless cloud or “functions-as-a-service,” promises better “pay-as-you-go” experience for subscribers. It adds another abstraction layer between the user and the platform. Users no longer have to lease servers or pay for fixed storage or bandwidth.
- Promote cloud-centric innovation. CIOs encourage innovation to cater to the increasing demands for flexibility. The focus will be on holistic strategies rather than improving specific functions.
Gartner estimates global spending on cloud services to reach $482 billion in 2022, up from $313 billion in 2020.
4. Set up seamless hybrid environments
The hybrid work model is here to stay.
Remote work has been an option since the Internet became widespread. But its adoption remained muted until the pandemic broke out in 2020. As lockdowns and stay-at-home orders intensified, even enterprises hitherto skeptical about telecommuting had to join the bandwagon. Today, about 54% of enterprises across the world allow remote work. About 16% of such enterprises operate 100% remotely.
But hybrid work is still a work in progress. There are no clear-cut paradigms or best practices yet. The workforce has accepted work-from-home policies, but some issues still need resolution. Fragmented technology makes online engagement challenging. Security and privacy threats increase with remote work. Work from home promotes balance between work and home, but also blurs the division.
CIOs have their task cut out to:
- Overcome technical roadblocks and set up integrated systems that prevent work from being smooth, collaborative and seamless. Unless all remote employees access the same tools and standardized stacks, remote work will fail.
- Ensure a secure remote work environment. Remote work compromises security. Employees access the network from outside the firewall, often through unsecured public networks. Best-of-breed CIOs set up VPNs to ensure secure access channels. They also invest in encrypting sensitive data and ensuring remote employees have secure laptops.
- Promote a workplace culture where engagement and cultural practices are customized for remote work. Have clear policies on virtual meetings and work timings, when it becomes necessary to come to the office, and so on.
5. Drive agility
Agility is the most trending concept in 2022. At its core, agility means the ability to move easily and quickly, both at the personal and the enterprise levels.
When the pandemic started, agile enterprises gained a significant competitive advantage. They could switch to remote work with minimal effort. Other companies now seek to emulate these enterprises, as the crisis and uncertainties triggered by the pandemic will not go away anytime soon. CIOs need to continue to –
- Migrate from rigid to flexible systems. For instance, they empower field technicians to change a service work order based on ground realities. A rigid process would require generating a fresh work order, and scheduling a revisit to service the equipment.
- Promote cross-functional teams, drawn from various functional areas or departments. Cross-functional teams are more resourceful and generate better insights. These teams improve the quality and speed of decision-making.
- Patronize innovation to unlock value. Innovation unearths better ways to do things and unlocks optimal value from resources. It may also enable new possibilities using existing resources.
- Eliminate paperwork and rooting out inefficiencies. Often, enterprises remain blinded by incumbent processes. Such processes bog down the enterprise with inefficiencies and unproductive activities. The best CIOs take proactive efforts to eliminate wasteful processes and do more with less.
- Make enterprise systems simple. Many CIOs and enterprises underestimate the power of simplicity. A simplified and standardized technical stack makes maintenance and changes easy. A modular architecture enables picking the needed resources. Conversely, complex systems create friction and slow down the organization.
6. Improve data governance
Data has become all-important in today’s digital age. Competitive advantage depends on generating insights from data. CIOs have their tasks cut out to make their enterprises data-driven.
The priorities of a CIO in 2022 include:
- Improve trust in enterprise data. About 60% of global decision-makers do not trust the data they use. Only 10% of them are confident about the ability of their respective enterprise to manage data and analytics. Improving trust requires implementing strong data governance practices.
- Ensure free flow of data among enterprise systems. Most enterprises have data scattered across various databases. Successful analytics depend on consolidating such data and ensuring seamless access to all data. To such ends, CIOs create data lakes as unified depositories to store data. They also develop connectors to integrate different data sources, and APIs to link data residing at different databases.
- Execute data fabrics, or flexible, resilient data integrations across platforms and users. Such initiatives improve data governance and use.
- Develop data-based orchestration capabilities and build workflows out of them. For instance, consider predictive maintenance workflows. If an IoT sensor shows readings outside the normal range, the network monitoring tool that tracks such data issues an alert. The automated system generates a work order and assigns a field technician to visit the site and make the repairs.
7. Revamp cyber security
Cyber security is always a big concern, and the threat will not go away soon. CIOs have their tasks cut out balancing security deployments and performance. Cybersecurity practices may obstruct data flow and render enterprise systems inflexible. Regulatory mandates force enterprises to continue with cost-intensive on-premises servers, for sensitive data. As competitive pressures rise in 2022, one priority of CIOs will be to improve efficiencies while keeping the network secure.
- Roll out privacy-enhancing computation (PEC) techniques during data sharing or analytics. PEC protects sensitive information such as Personally Identifiable Information and trade secrets.
- Implement cyber security mesh architecture (CSMA) to secure IT assets at different locations. CSMA helps enterprises mitigate the impact of individual or localized security incidents by 90%.
- Invest in automation. The huge number of IoT endpoints and the increased bandwidth of 5G render conventional network monitoring tools ineffective. By the time these tools, configured to work on limited bandwidth and endpoints, raise the alarm, the damage would have occurred.
- Leverage the possibilities offered by 5G to overhaul cybersecurity. For instance, 5G encrypts the user’s identifier and makes it easier to defend against “man-in-the-middle” attacks. Also, 5G’s unified authentication framework allows open and network-agnostic authentication. Network slicing enables segregating sensitive and applying customized security protocols for each slice.
- Strive for a cultural change, to make cyber security the concern and responsibility of the entire workforce, not just IT. Pass on ownership of cyber security to line managers and their respective teams.
- Promote DevSecOps working model for software development. The DevSecOps model integrates security into the development process. Programmers write code with security and compliance in-built, rather than add additional layers.
8. Overcome the skill shortage
Skill shortage is rampant. There is a global talent shortage for many IT skills. A key CIO responsibility is ensuring access to talent. Best-in-breed CIOs:
- Facilitate the knowledge worker to put in their best effort. They build a consensus on the targets, and give employees autonomy in work processes.
- Launch training and development initiatives to develop talent. They strike partnerships with universities and other skill development centers to incubate talent in new technologies.
- Work with enterprise HR to create hiring and retention strategies proactively. They also collaborate with enterprise HR to upskill incumbent employees, and position skill upgrades as career advancement opportunities.
- Engage with freelancers and offshore service providers to bridge the skill gap. CIOs will maintain an active working relationship with top independent talent.
- Strike the right balance between humans and robots at work. As robotic bots take over many routine tasks, CIOs reassign human talent to other tasks.
9. Delight customers and stakeholders
Business success depends on keeping stakeholders happy. The best businesses go beyond customer satisfaction. They satisfy all stakeholders, including employees, supply chain partners, and investors. In 2022, CIOs will have to:
- Improve end-customer satisfaction, to drive customer acquisition and retention. CIOs will need to understand customer preferences, and co-opt them in the enterprise work systems.
- Take feedback from “internal customers” or users of enterprise systems. Improving their productivity translates to speedier work processes and faster time to market, which in turn improves end-customer experiences.
- Customize products and offerings. CIOs will have to invest more into analytics to identify customer preferences and cater to the same. Tools such as Einstein Analytics deliver real-time insights to facilitate such ends.
- Improve the total experience (TX) metric. TX is the combined value of the customer, end-user, and employee experiences. A good TX score improves business outcomes. Improving TX scores requires breaking enterprise silos.
- Focus on energy-reducing initiatives to become more sustainable. IoT and other tech advances, coupled with the “always-on” nature of today’s systems, make huge demands on power. Leading businesses empower their CIOs to take green initiatives and achieve net-zero. Some initiatives include buying energy-efficient equipment and sourcing energy from renewable sources.
10. Keep a close eye on emerging technology
Technology is always in a state of flux. But not all technology adopters achieve commercial success. Best-in-breed CIOs keep a close eye on the tech landscape. They evaluate how changes will affect their enterprise.
- The Metaverse is maybe all hype at this point, but it foretells the blurring of physical and virtual spaces. CIOs need to keep a close eye on developments in Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, teleporting technology, and connected technology. These technologies might very well become the next big thing after IoT and Artificial Intelligence.
- 3D printing and AI-optimized manufacturing may disrupt businesses and overhaul existing supply chains.
- Quantum computing may take AI-powered computing and Big Data to new heights, unimaginable today.
A CIO’s “to-do” list get longer and more complex with every passing day. Their responsibilities increase as technology becomes ingrained in people’s lives, and enterprises seek competitive advantages through digitalization. Successful CIOs keep abreast of the trends and remain flexible in adapting to changing conditions.