2021 has been an uncertain year for businesses. Many companies made the decision to permanently shift to remote or hybrid work—and had to figure out how to best support their teams and keep things moving forward. And as pandemic-related challenges continue, that uncertainty is poised to continue at least through the rest of the year—and potentially into 2022.
In order to successfully navigate this uncertainty, CIOs need to figure out how and where to invest—and what they need to prioritize to keep their businesses productive, effective, and successful.
So, the question is, in 2021, what should those priorities be? Or, in other words, what IT investments should CIOs prioritize to best support their teams, businesses, and operations in 2021 and beyond?
The pandemic completely changed the way we do business—and as the world of business became increasingly digital, businesses had to scramble to set up their businesses to better function in the digital space. A recent survey from McKinsey found that, in the past year alone, companies’ adoption of digital and digitally enabled products has accelerated by an astounding seven years.
That shift to the digital space is showing no signs of slowing down. And, as such, if companies want to stay competitive in the coming years, the message is loud and clear: digital transformation—or transforming a business through the integration of digital tools—needs to be a priority.
And CIOs are getting the message. According to the CIO Outlook 2021 report from WalkMe and Constellation Research, a whopping 77.3 percent of CIOs ranked digital transformation as their top priority in 2021.
So, as CIO, if you want your business to be more effective, productive, and competitive in 2021—and in the years to come—digital transformation needs to be at the top of your priority list.
The way you invest in digital transformation will depend on your company, your team, your customers’, and your needs and goals. For example, if you’ve decided to keep your company fully remote, you’ll need to invest in tools that allow for more effective remote collaboration. If your goal is to increase productivity across your organization, you might invest in AI technology to take over administrative tasks—and free your employees to focus on higher-level work. If you want to improve customer experience, you might invest in tools that create more secure, seamless online interactions with your customers.
The point is, how you use digital tools to transform your business is up to you. But embracing digital transformation is an absolute must—and should be near the top of your priority list as a CIO.
The continued shift to remote and hybrid work has been a major theme in the business world in 2021. And as employees continue to work from home or other remote locations (like coworking spaces), as CIO, investing in cybersecurity in 2021 is more important than ever.
Again, how you invest in cybersecurity can take a variety of forms. For example, if you’re managing a remote team, you’ll want to invest in training to get your team up to speed on the security risks of working remotely—and how to keep their computers (and sensitive company information) safe, wherever they may be working. If your employees are using their own devices for work (also known as bring your own device, or BYOD), you’ll want to invest in apps and software to add an extra layer of security to those devices. If you’re concerned about a security breach, you’ll want to invest time and resources into creating a plan to protect your network—and into creating a plan around what to do if you ever find yourself facing an attack.
The point is, keeping your company infrastructure safe is one of the CIO’s most important responsibilities, especially as more and more operations continue to shift to the digital space. So make sure to make cybersecurity a top priority in 2021.
Employees and staffing
The pandemic forced many employees to examine what they wanted from their careers—and many decided that their current employer and/or job wasn’t in alignment with their ultimate career goals. As such, businesses are currently experiencing one of the largest staffing exoduses in history—an exodus the media has dubbed “The Great Resignation.”
Just how many employees are planning to resign? According to a recent survey from Bankrate, more than half of the workforce in the United States (55 percent) is planning to look for a job in the next year.
So, as the CIO and a leader within your company, if you want to keep your team in place—and your business moving forward—investing in your employees in 2021? It’s a non-negotiable.
So, look for ways to invest in your employees—whether that’s by getting higher salaries approved for your IT team, investing in software to support health and well-being across the company, or leveraging technology to make your employees’ jobs easier and more manageable. For example, you can invest in automation software to streamline employee workflow or collaboration software that makes it easier for employees to work collaboratively when they’re out of office.
The more you invest in your employees, the more invested they’ll be in your company—and the less likely they’ll be to join The Great Resignation and take their talent elsewhere.
Prioritize the IT investments that will lead to success—in 2021 and beyond
As CIO, you get to make the decision on what to invest in and how to spend your resources. But if you want your business and team to succeed in 2021 (and beyond!), it’s important to prioritize the right IT investments—and make sure that you’re spending your time, money, and resources on things that are going to move your business forward in today’s business climate.
And now that you know what IT investments to prioritize (including digital transformation, cybersecurity, and your employees), you have everything you need to thrive in 2021—and set your organization up for success in the years to come.
In order to choose the right IT investments, it’s also important to understand how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the role and priorities of the CIO. Read our article “What the COVID crisis has changed for CIOs” to know more:
Author: Deanna deBara