Taking charge of innovation in 2021: 8 New Year’s resolutions for Australian CIOs

As we enter 2021, we expect IT services to be much the same as it has since 2010: a whirlwind. Technology is evolving at an increasingly fast pace, IT services and cloud services are providing seemingly limitless options for business units, and ongoing security threats are placing everyone on high alert.

Unfortunately, these perennial challenges won’t change this year, but 2021 presents many new opportunities for CIOs. While we’ll stop short of coining another moniker for the CIO – such as chief innovation officer – we can see some compelling New Year’s resolutions for CIOs to help deliver more strategic value to the organisation.

If you haven’t already created your new year’s resolutions, here is a helpful starting point for CIOs:

  1. Decode IT services to your entire business.

    Communicating the role of IT to the wider business has always been a challenge for IT professionals. CIOs must manage a myriad of operational tasks other business leaders are unaware of, while also driving strategic business projects. Consider how you communicate the “what and why” of IT services and digital in 2021 using readily available channels like internal newsletters and social networks.

  2. Spend some time working on IT services, not in IT.

    As the saying goes, work on your business, not in your business. This is a critical mental shift required for CIOs to take the appropriate time in their daily operations, as well as monthly and quarterly, to review their strategy and assess new technologies and solutions available to them. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but in such a fast-paced industry you need to keep your finger on the pulse of innovation and change. As the CIO, you are the leader and visionary. While stepping back to plan and review may seem like a waste of time, direction with purpose is powerful.

  3. Apply lessons in agility to your entire business operations.

    Agile DevOps, quality controls, process management, and extracting productivity from limited resources are all expected capabilities of today’s IT departments. How well does the core business perform here? CIOs can take an IT’s strengths and apply them to weaknesses in the organisation. Be a source of lateral thinking and process excellence that will be well sought after by every business unit.

  4. Lock down shadow IT by collaboration.

    In recent years the term “shadow IT” has been used to describe business units procuring their own IT services outside of the CIO’s control. The problem with this approach is that the business unit leaders might not be aware of the security, data integration, and protection that comes along with the IT services. To avoid fighting a losing battle against shadow IT, CIOs can develop a plan for communicating the risks, and show how working with IT will lead to a better long-term outcome for the organisation. Offer a collaborative approach by working with business unit heads on their department’s technology needs at the start of the year. This will help to influence and guide their technology decisions.

  5. Use cloud for innovation.

    The New Year brings a new opportunity to be more innovative with IT services and cloud services. Many organisations are planning lift-and-shift migrations which re-host on-premises workloads in the cloud. However, a combination of IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and microservices can fundamentally change the way applications are architected and delivered. By taking advantage of more cloud options CIOs can develop new products and services faster.

  6. Shake up suppliers.

    A solid review of suppliers is IT management 101 for any CIO starting at a new company. Australia has a vibrant managed service provider industry which can be called upon for specific or general requirements, so make this a priority for 2021. If your incumbent service providers are not delivering much value or innovation, look around for an MSP that can partner for success.

  7. Set a course for new skills.

    With digital transformation, the types of skills required to deliver the most business value. CIOs have a good opportunity to recruit more business process and analytics skills, and fewer infrastructure management skills in 2021. This will help align IT’s emerging capabilities (supported by cloud and MSP options) with new business requirements.

  8. Network with other IT leaders.

    All pioneers feel alone, so we encourage you to meet other like-minded CIOs in 2021. There is no better feeling than hearing someone else talk about their similar experiences. There is something to be said for the mental and emotional release from sharing stories and lessons learnt between peers. Attend more technology events, meet up groups and round tables. Make an effort to talk and connect with your peers: you may realise that you aren’t as alone as you think.

IT is well placed to drive more innovation for the business, but being tied down to operational tasks will continue to hamper alignment and development for IT leaders. The growth of line-of-business IT services spending will only challenge CIOs more in 2021, but with a focus on innovation backed by new skills and progressive service providers, IT services will continue to be the most strategic function of the organisation.

The role of CIO as an orchestrator of innovation is more relevant than ever. We wish you all the best for 2021 as the New Year brings an exciting opportunity for change.


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