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Innovation, Costs, Risks: Trifecta of Challenges Facing CIOs in 2023

Despite economic circumstances calling for more innovation from IT teams, cost pressures are stalling those efforts, a Snow Software report finds.

IT decision-makers are dealing with shifting priorities as they head into 2023, fueled by economic uncertainty, geopolitical disruptions, and layoffs, according to a Snow Software report.

The survey of 800 IT leaders from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia found innovation remains a top priority for 94% organizations. However, reducing costs and managing security risks are battling for attention as instability looms over global markets.

In fact, economic uncertainty over the past year has forced eight in 10 (80%) IT leaders to rethink their strategy, with 70% noting "immense" budget impacts.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that competing priorities are stalling IT teams' ability to drive innovation as they struggle to balance advancing digital transformation with cost reductions and risk management.

Another stumbling block is the sheer volume of data available to IT leaders, which on the one hand is enabling insights and better decision-making, but simultaneously threatening to crush them — 60% of survey respondents admitted they are "overwhelmed" by data.

Alastair Pooley, CIO at Snow Software, said he found it surprising that IT teams are reporting that innovation is stalling just when the circumstances require people to be more agile and more innovative.

"The cost pressures are leading to delays in investment even when the returns are clearly there," he said. "Past research shows that the companies who invest in a downturn end up with an advantage over their competitors in the long term."

Related: Why IT Innovation Is Slowing Down

Pooley added that engagement and communication are essential to manage priorities.

"Your key stakeholders will vary dependent on your organization, what you do, and what the company's priorities are," he said. "You must interpret and understand the organization's aims to work out which are the right priorities."

Investment in Data Warehousing, Analytics Tools

Pooley cited data warehousing and analytics tools as the key technologies that will help businesses squeeze more use out of data.

"While they may have been around for some time, the benefits are only being realized much more recently," he said. "I suspect that is due to the growth in data competency in employees."

There are also numerous tools that can overlay useful insights and really help unlock the value in an organization's data, Pooley said.

"It is key for IT teams to invest in tools which break down silos and can give you complete visibility," he noted.

From Pooley's perspective, the best practice around data is to take the time to build a data strategy — do not just consider it as something that will take care of itself.

"Think about how you ensure you have high-quality data going in, how you control that input and maintain that quality in the long term," he said. "Work on your governance process to prevent changes which have an adverse impact."

It's also important for organizations to think about how their people work with data and the processes needed to ensure they do not impact your quality — training the workforce is key.

CIOs Face New Challenges in 2023 as Role Evolves

The coming year will also see CIOs dealing with the continued evolution of their job description, with more than three-quarters (78%) of respondents noting the role has already evolved "immensely" in the past 18 months.

Related: For CIOs to Stay Relevant, They Must Think Big

CIOs are reporting increased accountability for the financial impact of their IT investments (89%), as well as an expectation to innovate faster and demonstrate ROI (85%).

With CIOs under pressure to evolve, they must be prepared to seek out guidance and build their knowledge base if they're to keep in step with a rapidly shifting set of priorities — not to mention expanding responsibilities.

Pooley pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic shifted conferences online, which took away a lot of conversation that happens when people meet in person.

"Connecting with peers in person gives you the opportunity to have direct, honest conversations, and these types of conversations simply do not happen in an online session," he said. "I would also suggest a wide scope of reading and learning, whether online, podcasts, or books. You need to set time aside for personal development if you want to stay current."

About the author

Nathan Eddy headshotNathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITPro Today. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.
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