It’s time to start a revolution!

Information technology is one of the most rapidly evolving areas of modern business. In 2017, the Harvey Nash/ KPMG CIO Survey examined the challenges and opportunities CIOs view as most critical to their work. Coupled with interviews of some of today’s CIOs, here’s a glimpse at the most pertinent issues CIOs face moving into the future.

An unpredictable landscape requires complex planning. 

Of the nearly 5,000 CIOs surveyed, 64 per cent agreed that “the political, business and economic environment is becoming more unpredictable.” Resultantly, they are staying flexible and facing uncertainty head-on. Ketan Patel, CIO at TCC Global, understands a primary objective is to “make it as easy as possible for our respective companies to deal with the uncertainty that they face on a continual basis.” To accomplish this, Ed Addario, CTO of international currency broker Currencycloud cautions against “heavily concentrating on the minutiae.” He, instead, recommends maintaining a focus on providing big-picture, strategic direction.

The evolving role of IT necessitates innovation.

71 per cent of CIOs report feeling confident that their strategic influence is growing. Jon Wrennall, CTO at cloud provider Advanced, notes that “IT has digitized business and is now delivering the majority of business processes.” Expanding responsibilities are matched by increasing budgets, with 49 per cent of CIOs noting a budget increase. This reflects the largest increase since tracking began, 13 years ago. 52 per cent of CIO’s are aware that their expanding role necessitates “creating a more nimble” IT platform, often one which looks to the cloud for solutions. Further, of those surveyed, 54 per cent set aside specific time for themselves and their teams to prepare and deliver innovation.

CIOs must creatively address challenges. 

Many complexities challenge modern CIOs. Threats to cybersecurity must continually be managed, as cybercrime becomes more sophisticated and prevalent. There are also ever-present staffing concerns, complicated by the fact that 60 per cent of CIOs feel there is an IT skills shortage. Patel notes that “the biggest challenge I face is the attraction and retention of the right kind of people.” In the area of staffing, a gender disparity exists, and there is still a slow growth toward females in upper level IT positions. The most sought-after IT skills include big data/analytics (42 per cent), business analysis (34 per cent) and enterprise architecture (34 per cent).

Although CIOs can push for higher wages to attract the most qualified employees, there is growing awareness that today’s worker increasingly seeks a more well-rounded employment experience. Addario comments that “Generation Z appreciates a culture that is focused on social awareness, corporate responsibility and that has an entrepreneurial spirit.” He and others suggest attracting the best employees will involve creating a more open business culture.

IT is integral to the more commercial aims of the business

Wrennall claims “CIOs need to have increasing levels of credible experience in not just traditional infrastructural IT, but in the broader business context.” His sentiments are echoed by Tim Hall, CTO at Yorkshire-based Blue Logic, who notes that “An IT leader needs to possess a whole range of expertise.” His list of essential skills includes corporate financial skills, project management, and vendor and partner management. This broader business focus is not limited to upper management. Patel suggests that “IT professionals at all levels should be taught early the value of bearing commercial factors in mind.” In other words, IT professionals increasingly need to act with an understanding of how their work will ultimately impact the bottom line.

Despite the complexities inherent in navigating today’s technological landscape, the growing importance of their position in business continues to create great opportunities for innovative CIOs, and 39 per cent report their roles as “very fulfilling.” This is an 18 per cent increase from 2015. For the CIOs surveyed and interviewed, managing uncertainty and delivering a secure platform will remain their focus as they embrace all aspects of their evolving roles moving into the future.

This post is based on an article originally featured on ThinkProgress.com.

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