5 priorities for CIOs in 2021

CIOs have shouldered a heavy burden in 2020, implementing digital initiatives to keep their organizations afloat. As we move toward the next phase, focus on these five key areas
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If 2020 has proved anything, it is the importance of rapid adaptability in the face of uncertainty. According to Forrester, “Last year, 85 percent of firms viewed digital as ‘nice to have.’ In 2020, every company learned that digital is critical to customer and business success.”

As we move into 2021, CIOs will be focusing on operational agility more than ever before. In fact, TechHQ found that 59 percent of CIOs and CTOs foresee their biggest challenge in 2021 to be dealing with COVID-19 recovery in relation to business operations.

[ Read also: Digital transformation: New data shows speed gains – and culture worries. ]

To prepare for the unexpected and adapt to whatever 2021 holds, CIOs must further accelerate their digital transformation initiatives and prioritize the following top five technology trends:

1. Balance remote and in-person operations

In 2020, every organization, regardless of size, industry, or location, was forced to completely re-evaluate their operations. Whether they implemented safety measures in the workplace, transitioned completely to remote work, or settled on a hybrid of the two, no company has remained untouched by COVID-19.

[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

Going into 2021, many organizations are looking at making the slow transition back to “normal.” But what will the new normal look like? Now that organizations around the globe have seen that remote working can be productive and sustainable, many are considering a permanent hybrid operating model.

End-to-end digital transformation and cloud technologies will likely be the greatest enablers of this shift. If they haven’t already done so, CIOs must rapidly implement a cloud-based infrastructure to allow employees to work flexibly in 2021 – switching easily between remote and in-person operations as needed.

2. Accelerate automation with intelligent decision-making

2020 was undeniably the year of digital. Organizations that had never dreamed of digitizing their operations were forced to completely transform their approach. And automation was a big part of that shift, enabling companies to mitigate person-to-person contact and optimize costs while ensuring uninterrupted operations.

In 2021, hyperautomation seems to be the name of the game. According to Gartner, “Hyperautomation is the idea that anything that can be automated in an organization should be automated.” Especially for companies that implemented point solutions to adapt and survive in 2020, now is the time to intelligently automate repeatable, end-to-end processes by leveraging bots.

With hyperautomation, CIOs can implement new-age technologies such as business process management, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive end-to-end automation and deliver superior customer experience.

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ]

3. Be wherever the customer is

A steadily growing customer experience trend is to “be where the customer is.” Over the past decade, forward-thinking organizations have been working to engage customers according to their preferences of when, where, and how.

To effectively understand customers’ needs, access contextual information, and deliver services whenever and wherever the customer is, CIOs need to look at capitalizing on technologies such as social listening, enterprise content management, and mobility.

4. Offer personalized communications and customized, mobile, and contactless solutions

In addition to interacting with companies on their own terms, customers also want targeted and customized messaging and services. While such expectations are nothing new, COVID-19 has amplified the need for mobile and contactless solutions while maintaining a human touch.

CIOs must take mobility to the next level, using customer communication management (CCM) to analyze customers’ data and deliver intelligently customized communications across any mix of channels and devices.

Furthermore, as contactless becomes increasingly ubiquitous in 2021, the value of intuitive and personalized communications cannot be overstated. When companies cannot interact with customers face-to-face, CCM allows them to stay engaged with them in a meaningful way.

5. Increase emphasis on data and cybersecurity

As a huge proportion of organizations have adopted at least partially remote operations, data and cybersecurity have become a growing concern. Companies across all industries are scrambling to effectively protect their proprietary and customers’ data.

According to Gartner, “COVID-19 refocused security teams on the value of cloud delivered security and operational tools that don’t require a LAN connection to function.” Some of the top considerations for CIOs and CISOs moving into 2021 revolve around “reviewing remote access policies and tools, migration to cloud data centers and SaaS applications, and securing new digitization efforts to minimize in-person interactions.”

Essentially, to maintain privacy and data security, business leaders must tap into technologies such as cloud and SaaS platforms while driving overarching digitization efforts.

A year of transformation

CIOs have held enormous responsibility over the past year, spearheading the digital initiatives that enabled their organizations to survive unprecedented challenges. And while the events of 2020 threw everyone for a loop, we can expect the same level of rapid change in 2021. The CIO role will be just as important in 2021 – driving digital transformation, staying abreast of the latest trends, and proactively adopting technologies to help ensure agility and flexibility, come what may.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Virender Jeet is Senior Vice President, Technology, for Newgen Software. He has been with Newgen for over 26 years and manages the overall strategic and operational functions for the company’s entire portfolio of offerings.