CIOs Face Their Next Biggest Challenge

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by Scott Rigby

posted on 07-14-2020

Almost 10 years after Adobe released its first annual “Digital Trends” report, which followed the end of the global financial crisis, IT leaders now find themselves challenged by an entirely new crisis. As reflected in the recently released 2020 report, the coronavirus pandemic is testing IT leaders’ ability to ensure continuity of service to customers and the survivability of their businesses.

In today’s world, it’s little wonder that IT leaders are being asked to embrace significant changes to the status quo. Improving the employee experience (EX), for example, now means IT leaders must support a mobile workforce. Assisting sales teams with customer engagement means rethinking the ratio between digital and face-to-face servicing.

In fact, I believe the COVID-19 pandemic has created one of the largest technological leaps forward that we will experience in our lifetime, as it substantially shortens the technology adoption time frame for many businesses through their need to survive. Accelerated digital transformation is being witnessed across industries, including government, retail, finance, real estate, health, and education.

As a result, chief information officers (CIOs) and IT leaders are even more crucial to business continuity today – but as Adobe’s latest report shows, many will face key universal challenges to meet the needs of their businesses.

Security and great expectations

Our 2020 report identified two main external challenges that the majority of IT professionals were focused on across commercial and operational aspects: security issues/cyber-risk (44%) and keeping up with changing customer expectations and behaviour (40%).

Security issues will likely be exacerbated with more employees working from home due to the pandemic; the past few months have shown us just how quickly behaviour can change. While balancing workers’ privacy rights with data security will create varying levels of challenges for CIOs, I think they should be viewed through the lens of optimism and opportunity to get things right.

COVID-19’s impact on business operations has also become apparent. Some businesses already had, or were, in the process of setting up an established digital foundation that enabled them to quickly pivot to an “online everything” approach, while others remain overwhelmed trying to respond to new consumer expectations.

The financial balancing act raised by legacy technology systems is a major pain point for IT leaders, 44% of whom, prior to the pandemic, said modernising or replacing legacy platforms was their top IT priority for 2020, according to the report. Though it might seem counterintuitive given the financial hardships many companies are facing, I think now could be the right time to replace key legacy systems and review own business-as-usual processes and platforms. This could give businesses the best possible chance of bouncing back when the tide turns.

Our report revealed additional concerns among IT executives, including keeping on top of technology and innovation trends (35%) and finding the right mix of tools (32%).

Companies that are seeing big growth during this time, such as food delivery services, have the opportunity to transform the upturn in customer engagement into loyal customers. This is where data and its steadfast protection play a crucial role. This is reflected in the Adobe report, with about 26% of IT pros who cited data protection compliance as a top-three external challenge, and nearly 38% who named customer data management as a big 2020 priority.

The ability to analyse and act on data rapidly is the high point of CX. Many are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) for assistance, with 54% of companies already invested in or keen to invest in AI as compared with the rest of the world (42%), the report shows. In addition, large organisations’ use of automation for data analysis jumped by nearly 20% in the past year, rising from 55% to 64%.

AI is being integrated rapidly into systems and platforms, those belonging to marketing included, across businesses, powering new features or streamlining existing ones. But CX leaders are more likely to apply “thinking technologies” to their key challenges – such as yearly budgeting and performance forecasting such as performed by Charles Sturt University – to free up their human resources to focus on innovation and strategic goals.

Superior CX now demands collaboration and speed

IT and other departments are recalibrating how they work together to deliver against CX needs. According to our report, the vast majority (89%) of IT executive respondents said their teams now work more closely with other parts of the business. Still, it’s not always smooth sailing: Eighty percent of IT leaders reported conflicts between marketing-related IT priorities and broader development strategies.

Speed is the most powerful attribute of the modern organisation. The pandemic draws attention to technology gaps as much as it does cultural gaps. CX leaders are more capable of reacting to changes in their customers and markets more quickly than their peers because they’ve invested in building collaborative, customer-centric cultures with decentralised teams across the business.

Leadership expert and author John Maxwell once said: “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” Grumbling about the current situation won’t change it, and expecting it to change back rapidly is unreasonable. The only way forward for IT leaders is to adapt to the now and take the opportunity to set a new course for business.

At Adobe, we believe that everyone deserves respect and equal treatment, and we also stand with the Black community against hate, intolerance and racism. We will continue to support, elevate, and amplify diverse voices through our community of employees, creatives, customers and partners. We believe Adobe has a responsibility to drive change and ensure that every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. We must stand up and speak out against racial inequality and injustice. Read more about the actions we’re taking to make lasting change inside and outside of our company.

We also know many people are still impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis and our thoughts are with you. The entire Adobe team wants to thank you, our customers, and all creators around the world for the work you do to keep us inspired during this difficult time.

Topics: Leadership, APAC