CIO Column

2021 shows the exciting future tech has in 2022

2021 year in review shows more positives than negatives for the business and technology leadership community.

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That was 2021. Marginally better than 2020, but still a highly challenging year. So what does 2021 tell us about the world of business and technology leadership? It tells us that there is much to be excited about. But, there are some grave concerns on the horizon.

Being in a position of excitement and prospects but also concern demonstrates how central technology has become to the enterprise and society.

Excited:

1: Following the success of 2020, where CIOs, CTOs and their IT teams enabled a major restructuring of organisations in response to the pandemic, 2021 has seen business technology leaders and their teams remain in the spotlight. The first year of this decade demonstrated to all levels of the organisation the need for end-to-end digital transformation. CIOs and CTOs are now tasked with decommissioning ageing systems, consolidating application estates, ensuring myriad systems are connected and interoperable and crafting technological solutions to the needs of customers and employees alike. 

2: IT received a budget boost in 2020 as a responsive move, and most of us expected that to be a short term survival opportunity, but as we reported recently, the budgets remain in good health and are set to remain that way for some time to come. It is hard to imagine a time where IT and CIOs have had so much opportunity ahead of them.

3: The pandemic has stirred populism in many areas of the globe and simplistic calls to put an end to globalisation. However, if organisations and society continue to demand the rates of digitisation we have seen throughout 2020 and 2021, then globalisation will continue to grow and be necessary. For all its ills, the growth of technology in economies like Vietnam is to be welcomed, both from the perspective of CIOs needing access to skills at the right budget point, but also if we want a technology community that is diverse, then the skills and jobs have to be available in as wide a number of nations as possible. And diversity remains one of the big challenges and opportunities for the technology community.

4: Over the course of 2021, activist investors and CEOs began to really focus on the plight of our planet. True, the focus needs to be more intense, but having witnessed farmers using data to better manage soil and to meet CTOs that are helping consumer goods firms ensure their supply chains are not leading to rainforest destruction, we can at least see some positive developments. Technology is set to play a vital role in protecting the planet. CIOs have renewable energy data centre options open to them to make a quick impact, and I believe CIOs and CTOs will become increasingly important in an organisation’s quest to lower their impact on the planet.

Concerned:

1: The demand for delivery is as much a challenge to the CIO community as it is an opportunity. CIOs face a skills shortage not seen before. The ‘great resignation’ has impacted the IT department and technology suppliers as much as other areas of the organisation. And let's not forget, we are far from out of the woods of the pandemic yet. Illness, family commitments, sluggish recruitment processes and poor staff retention can all act as brakes on the deployment of new technologies. In 2022 CIOs and CTOs will need to be black belts at stakeholder and expectation management, careful of vendor promises and able to build and secure great teams and suppliers.

2: Having increasing access to a global workforce does not come without a price. Organisations working with, and in Vietnam or the East European leaders of Estonia and Poland are benefiting from the investment in the education of those nations. Not all countries prize or invest in education to the level of these tech-led societies. To remain competitive, organisations must build up their training programmes and re-prioritise training and support for educational institutions. A global talent pool will always exist, but access to it can be damaged at any time, or other factors can inhibit your connection to that pool. 

Skills clusters are far from new, and increasingly CIOs will need to ensure they are both connecting with vibrant clusters like the AI community in the Netherlands but also be the champions and sponsors of new clusters, possibly closer to home. 

3: Back in 2007, as the full impact of the banking crisis rippled through the CIO community, there was a nascent green IT movement. Organisations that needed to cut costs or rebuild their brand took an interest, but the green IT movement lacked substance and withered on the vine. This cannot happen again. The sustainability demand on organisations is now at an emergency level, and the technology sector must clean up its own business and be the conduit for more sustainable business practices.

Despite the obstacles, I believe there is more to be excited about than concerned over. Our passion for technology and change must also be measured and deliver results for all concerned. The interviews and stories I have worked on throughout 2021 demonstrate to me that this is possible. 2022 promises much.