In today’s world of big data, information technology is advancing at unprecedented rates. This presents some major challenges for organizations in general, and CIOs in particular, as they search for ways to boost growth and profits in the face of mounting competition.
Not long ago the terms “big data” and “competitive advantage” were dismissed as buzzwords associated with a pipe dream. But today the promise of competitive advantage is being fulfilled for companies that are leveraging big data solutions to capture, analyze, and extract actionable insights from vast lakes of rich structured and unstructured data.
As the upsurge of data persists, technology continues to adapt and evolve to handle it. As a result, CIOs going into 2016 are faced with two big areas of focus: choosing the right technology, and assembling and managing the right team to make sure that technical capabilities are aligned with the organization’s business objectives. The following ideas and suggestions will help today’s CIOs meet these challenges more effectively.
1. Technology Focus
A visionary approach: In the past, the main role of the IT department was to keep business technology running smoothly. And while providing stability is important, the ongoing, massive, and disruptive shift toward digitization in the enterprise means that the IT department must evolve. Instead of being relegated to the back office, IT needs to step up and assume an active role as a business partner and business driver. For that to happen, modern CIOs need to become technology visionaries.
Stability vs. Agility: As the pace of technology accelerates, instead of riding hard on existing infrastructure and focusing on stability, CIOs need to focus on agility—on pushing technology forward. This isn’t about adopting every latest and greatest technology that comes along. It’s about staying up-to-date and up-to-speed on new technologies and being able to recognize which ones could positively impact the business.
Recognizing the growing trend for enterprise IT to play two roles, Gartner recently introduced the concept of “Bimodal IT”. In this model, IT is comprised of two modes. The first mode encompasses IT’s traditional role, with an emphasis on providing scalability, efficiency, safety, and accuracy. The second mode is non-sequential and emphasizes agility and speed. Hybrid big data analytics platforms, consisting of both on-premises Hadoop and cloud-based solutions, are gaining popularity in answer to the need for Bimodal IT in the enterprise.
Turning to the cloud: Going forward into 2016 and beyond, modern CIOs will need to exhibit fresh and innovative thinking with respect to their application architecture. While applications typically lived in-house and were often purpose-built for a specific database or platform, the rise of cloud-based services, new databases, and platforms is rendering traditional application architecture obsolete. In order to compete in the world of big data, companies must be prepared for any scenario. They must have the freedom to pivot and change direction quickly—to deploy anywhere—either on-premise or in the cloud. Traditional application architecture won’t provide that freedom. But modern, innovative application architecture can provide the agility that rapid, anywhere deployment demands.
2. Team Management Focus
Team building and mentoring: Enterprise digitization has dramatically increased the demand for in-house talent. That demand has caused a talent shortage, especially in the areas of big data, analytics, and information management. As a result of this talent gap, many CIOs find themselves lacking the teams they need to accomplish their objectives.
Adding to the talent gap problem is the fact that Millennial generation tech workers—workers who now make up an increasingly large part of the technical workforce—have more work options and opportunities to choose from than ever before. Plus, they tend to switch jobs around every two to three years in search of better opportunities.
Clearly, in 2016, CIOs need to allocate more time and resources to finding quality in-house talent and then mentoring and developing that talent to build and shape the kind of technology team that can produce successful business outcomes.
Developing communication skills: In order to build effective IT teams, CIOs must focus on developing a number of skills that their training and education may not have given them. Among the most important management skills is the ability to effectively communicate. Effective communication skills will help IT, leaders, to identify and hire the best talent, and cultivate team unity as each team member gains a clear understanding of the important role they play in helping the team to be successful.
The ability of CIOs to communicate with others in the C-suite is also critical. Being able to clearly explain proposed IT projects and their associated costs is necessary to get buy-in from business leaders. It’s also the key to making sure that the IT department continues to focus its resources on corporate objectives.
2016 will be a challenging year for modern CIOs. But with those challenges come great opportunities. By focusing more effectively on choosing the right technology to drive the business forward, and on building and managing a team of talented individuals to fully leverage that technology, CIOs will play an even greater role in helping their organizations establish and maintain a competitive edge.