Welcome to the second part of this two-part series. The first part covered #1-4 on the list below of key CIO Priorities for 2023. The second part will cover the rest of the list.
The following list outlines the key CIO Priorities for 2023. Any organization looking beyond six months without using scenarios to guide their visioning risks facing poor forecasts amid multi-vector volatility. Once you read the list, you’ll see these concerns will drive action far in the future and prove plenty to keep even the most adept CIO busy for the next six months.
Cyber-attacks will likely increase in 2023 rather than decrease, especially given the continued instability in Europe stemming from Russia’s war with Ukraine. Failures of cybersecurity threaten business continuity. They are also part of an overall data strategy. So while critically important, the data strategy mentioned above should include cybersecurity concerns as part of overall architecture and operations planning and execution.
It may not be this recession and its disruptive outcomes, but perhaps the next disruption, and at some point, people will demand ownership of their data. I want my patient health records to be mine. I want them portable and protected. I’m pretty sure healthcare organizations don’t share my zeal. There is a battle to be fought between healthcare and tech, with consumers likely on the side of Microsoft, Apple, and Google to start, but that may prove an ultimately unsatisfying alliance as the fine points of who owns what data come into play. Data ownership may eventually disrupt AI and advertising, which makes it a very turbulent space to monitor.
Many CEOs are getting distributed work wrong. They think the recession will force people back to the office, and they may be right. It doesn’t mean employees will be engaged, committed, loyal or happy when they reenter cubical land.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved several things, including distributed work works for many employees, and companies were not hurt by implementing it. Profits at large organizations continue to rise (tradingeconomic.com). CEOs receive exorbitant pay to shepherd their businesses and their workforces, distributed or not.
I talked with a technical recruiter recently who shared that most people she is talking to will not consider an in-office job. Period. They would rather wait for the next remote opportunity than return to an office.
CIOs need to recognize this reality even if their senior leadership teams don’t—yet, get it. There are just too many benefits to remote work, including no dreaded commute, reduced costs from gasoline, car wear-and-tear (if you even need a car), and the ability to be near family and pets, especially during times of need. Coming to the office to be more collaborative and innovative doesn’t rank on that list. At all. For most people. Rather than fight distributed work, make sure it works as much for the company as it does the individual.
Note: one of the fallouts of hybrid work will be excess office capacity. CIOs need to be aware and prepared to contend with physical infrastructure divestment, seeking ways to minimize cost and to leverage the reduction by, for instance, migrating newly deployed equipment that won’t be used to remaining offices that would benefit from an upgrade.
IT has always relied on relationships—it is, after all, primarily a service function, helping other functions fulfill their goals without having its own direct business objectives. That changes with the rise of e-commerce and other world-facing technology features that saw IT-like activities become first-class business drivers and the CIO either complementing a CTO or becoming one.
Regardless of how embedded IT is in the business, CIOs need to help their teams effectively manage relationships across the organization. IT fails for many non-technical reasons, and most of those non-technical failures derive from poor relationships between IT and its customers.
I have implemented customer relationship management for IT. IT CRM changed all the relationships with other organizations significantly for the better. If your organization isn’t yet investing in internal customer relationship management, doing so in early 2023 could make the difference between being agile in a hybrid work environment or struggling to be heard over the din of shouts about business challenges. Find ways to partner that quell volatility related to the economic storm rather than being seen as peripheral and irrelevant to navigating it.
I am a scenario planner by trade. So, of course, I’m going to suggest that IT embrace uncertainty and use scenario planning to navigate it better (as I did in this HBR post).
But scenarios aren’t just about navigation; they also offer pathways toward opportunities that might not be imaginable in a status quo planning process which more often than not results in doing less of some things and more of others. Scenarios suggest doing different things should the circumstances change. And recessions typically change circumstances.
Creating effective scenarios also means IT might well get ahead of the next disruption, whatever that may be.
Organizations that build out scenarios early will be better positioned to leverage their insights than if they wait until the recession’s end when the runway to build value becomes much shorter.
The list above focuses on core issues that will definitely influence IT thinking and decision-making in early 2023. The following list covers areas of contingency or ongoing concern that might complement, complicate, or augment the core issues.
The metaverse isn’t going anywhere and I don’t mean that in a positive way. Develop scenarios, and if virtual interactions of some sort offer value, pay more attention; if they don’t, early 2023 isn’t likely the make or break point of the metaverse—it’s just another part of a year-long slog toward realizing how hard it is to create immersive virtual environments that do more than entertain or train.
The Cloud is part of a technology arsenal. It is not the only part. Move when it makes sense, even migrate away if the costs outweigh the benefit of increased capacity and security. There is some movement toward a return to on-premises storage that the Cloud providers will go after with a vengeance. Hopefully, that vengeance includes reasonable costs for actual services used and relief from paying ahead for capacity that may never be used.
AI will be in the conversation, but it’s going to become clear soon that the machine learning and pattern recognition approach to AI has its limits. It will do some things very well, including making recommendations and understanding individual data sets (even combined data sets), but it isn’t going to be any type of universal solution, and the current approach will not wake up and threaten humankind, or even have the capacity to recognize humankind as a concept. Humankind will remain the biggest threat to humankind, so AI and ethics work—and data ethics—need to focus on the ethics of people choosing what to use the technology for and what data is used for training it.
I remain an open-source skeptic. I openly share that bias. I have seen open source work effectively for some aspects of infrastructure and utilities (Firefox, Audacity, Apache, VLC, Ruby on Rails, PHP, WordPress, and Linux), but I usually find in the enterprise application space, open source software requires significant investments to make it work, and keep it working—investments I would rather pay to a company with a reputation on the line and a need to keep me as a happy customer—with millions of users influencing features rather than developers negotiating their way forward. If they use open source, that’s fine, but it’s up to them to reconcile versions, not me.
Although this advisory seeks to document a shared set of issues across organizations and industries, it may not be equally executable. The most likely differentiation comes from organizations facing significant issues, such as Amazon’s retail business, and organizations that bet on the continuity of COVID-19 pandemic behaviors such as collaboration vendors that no longer see a rapid rise in adoption.
Those organizations should focus first on redesigning for balance and agility. Scenarios can help smooth organizations designs that too often swing rapidly from optimistic exuberance to overwhelming despair. In the near term, designing for a new balance may involve painful job cuts and the shedding of underperforming business units—but it also offers an opportunity for traditional IT staff to migrate to more profitable parts of the business, such as Amazon e-commerce team members finding roles at AWS.
CIOs and CTOs must work closely with senior leadership to deliver the skills, capabilities, and capacity required to support business continuity. Poor strategic choices in the past do not negate any of the practical advice stated above. Doing the work on this list and paying attention to emerging issues will prove the best preparation where there is time to prepare and act as a solid foundation for a rational reaction under pressure. If at all possible, avoid making under-analyzed decisions that may come back to create new problems in the future.
Read more from Daniel Rasmus at Serious Insights
Daniel W. Rasmus, the author of Listening to the Future, is a strategist and industry analyst who helps clients put their future in context. Rasmus uses scenarios to analyze trends in society, technology, economics, the environment, and politics in order to discover implications used to develop and refine products, services and experiences. His latest book, Management by Design proposes an innovative new methodology for the design workplace experiences. Rasmus’s thoughts about the future of work have appeared recently in Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Government eLearning!, KMWorld and TabletPC. A wildly popular article on CIO.com titled, 10 Lessons from Angry Birds That Can Make You a Better CIO, went viral on the Internet.