“CIOs need to focus on Cyber Threat Intelligence; Cloud Security; Privileged Access Management, Encryption and use of Artificial Intelligence”


“CIOs need to focus on Cyber Threat Intelligence; Cloud Security; Privileged Access Management, Encryption and use of Artificial Intelligence”

Vijay Sethi
Digital Transformation and
Sustainability Evangelist and Advisory Board Member


While 2020 would go down in history as the year of pandemic, it is also true that 2020 was also the year that took the digital and IT interventions in the organizations to a different level. As is ‘jokingly’ said that what CEOs, CIOs and other CXOs could not do in enhancing the pace of digitization in the organizations, Coronavirus did. Lot of organizations had not imagined at the beginning of 2020 that they would need to digitize so much or completely change their approach towards customers and employees (from a digital interventions perspective).


This also meant that in 2020, the role of IT and CIO became very crucial in not just the growth of the organization but even survival of the organization. CIO had to not only ensure that employees are able to work smoothly and securely from their homes or any other remote locations, but also with changing customer expectations and emerging business needs, CIOs had to ensure that IT really delivers at a pace that it had not seen earlier.


Now, as we transition into 2021, the expectations from IT, management, employees, customers and partners and other stakeholders today are beyond the traditional run and grow the business to transform the business. Another change I have seen is an expectation to move away from delivery of IT projects to work on outcomes to key business goals like enhancing revenue by xx% through digital channels or reducing costs by xx% using technological interventions. For all this, CIOs and their teams need to work with agility to consolidate the gains of 2020.


With this background, as I see the following should be top five priorities for CIOs in 2021.


1.  Accelerating the digital transformation efforts: Business resilience and business continuity has been brought back to focus by the COVID-19 pandemic. With a general environment of uncertainty where any such pandemic or disruption could happen again, business leaders across functions now would like to work on digital interventions that could potentially mitigate negative impacts of any such happening. And the expectation is that a project which earlier would be considered reasonable if done 12-18 months should now be done in a few weeks if not in a few days. Some of the technologies that will play a key role in this transformation would include Cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT); Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning; Robotic Process Automation (RPA); Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, Mobility, Block Chain.


2.  Working on ‘New Normal’: It is expected that a significant proportion of employees would continue to work from home or any other remote location in 2021. Companies are also drawing up plans of remodelling their offices (or in many cases even giving up office space). As such CIOs need to work on IT interventions on this new normal where employees smoothly transition between office and home or remote workplace. This will be essentially a hybrid model of working where CIOs will have to work towards systems to enhance productivity, collaboration, monitoring, skilling and information security in case of hybrid working.


3.  Digitalizing End Customer Interaction: With customer expectations and priorities changing and a huge customer base wanting to interact with organizations using digital means (apps, websites, chat bots, e-showroom) for sales, service and other requirements, CIOs need to ensure all the customer touch points are digitised and contactless working enabled.


4.  Focus on Cybersecurity: We have seen a huge surge in cyber-security crime during the COVID-19 pandemic – be it cases of phishing, malware; ransomware, spyware, Trojans, financial fraud; hacking; denial of services or other attacks. While CIOs and IT teams have been doing their best to keep their organizations safe, cyber security would be a key focus area for CIOs in 2021 and would have to include all the facets of policy and procedures, technology and people. From a technology perspective to make organizations cyber safe, CIOs need to focus on Cyber Threat Intelligence; Cloud Security; Privileged Access Management, Encryption and use of Artificial Intelligence.


5.  Focus on Analytics: As digitization in the organizations increases, so do the opportunities for data analytics. CIOs need to focus on advanced data analytics capabilities in the organization and also act as a change manager to bring in a data driven culture in the organization.


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