IT leaders have big objectives for the upcoming year, from driving their organization’s missions to delivering continuous improvement.
By Mary Pratt, Contributing writer, CIO
JAN 3, 2023
Shutterstock / ovchinnikova_ksenya
This past year was another pivotal one for IT, with IT leaders learning new lessons for implementing value-oriented IT initiatives and establishing thriving workplace cultures against the backdrop of economic uncertainty. CIOs anticipate addressing these and other challenges in the year ahead, but they also have big plans for 2023.
These plans go beyond any single tech initiative or innovation. Instead, they speak to the overarching objectives they have for the upcoming year and the big-picture goals they hope to achieve.
So what do they have on deck to accomplish? We asked a sampling of CIOs to share what they’ve resolved to do in 2023. Here’s what they had to say.
1. To protect the mission (using tech levers)
CIO Justin Skinner’s objective for 2023 is to support his company’s mission — no matter what challenges or volatility are in store. That, Skinner says, means focusing on innovation and using technologies such as artificial intelligence to enable SmileDirectClub to deliver the best experience possible for its customers.
“SmileDirectClub brings affordable care to the world and creates more access to [orthodontic] service,” Skinner explains. “Inflation and the economy and how people were impacted by the pandemic has made me more passionate about our mission than ever. So for me, as CIO, I’m trying to figure out how to navigate through the economic times and leverage technology to make sure we have strong performance and can continue to execute on that mission.”
2. To shift back to strategic IT
CIOs experienced a boost in status as a result of COVID, as they were able to quickly push through big digital initiatives and transformative technologies. But many say a chunk of that work was done in reaction to the pandemic, with even long-planned projects rapidly completed just to stay in business.
Although this brought many successes, staying in that reactionary mode no longer makes sense nor will it lead to the best work going forward. That’s why Sameer Jaleel, associate CIO at Kent State University, says he has been shifting from away from that reactive mindset back to being more strategic heading into the new year.
“We’ve all been in a less strategic, very reactive mode, as unknown and unplanned things had been showing up during the pandemic. We developed applications we didn’t even think of before. We had to deliver a remote experience because all of a sudden students weren’t here and then we went to hybrid,” he says.
He cites one project in particular, explaining that IT took just six weeks to develop a fully operational app to deliver a remote experience for a long-planned orientation event that had to shift from in person to remote. But as the world steadies itself and settles into its post-pandemic state, Jaleel says he wants to return to a strategic mindset.
“We can go back to driving things based on mission and goals,” he says. “But it is requiring us to ask questions we weren’t always having to ask during the pandemic. [For example,] in some ways things like cost weren’t as much of a concern during the pandemic because everything was being disrupted. Now we can return to being more strategic.”
3. To become one with the business
For 2023, Salesforce CIO Juan Perez wants his IT organization to continue getting “closer and closer to the business” and to work toward what he calls “business intimacy.”
“In this day and age, there has to be less separation between business and IT; they have to become one and the same more and more,” he says. “And that intimacy will let IT provide more value. That means IT isn’t on the sidelines seeing how business is performing but IT is participating with it. Think about it as IT having skin in the game.”
“CIOs have all come to realize the importance of having this business intimacy. But there is still a bit of a divide between IT and business,” he says. “But IT is at its best when it’s really seen as an advisor to business on decisions being made, when it’s part of the business roadmap buildouts, when the IT organization doesn’t just take direction from the business but IT influences the business strategy and execution through technology.”
4. To bolster cybersecurity
Another resolution offered by Perez is one cited by multiple CIOs, and that is an increasing attentiveness to cybersecurity.
The 2023 CIO and Technology Executive Survey from research firm Gartner studied data from 2,203 CIO respondents in 81 countries and all major industries and found cybersecurity as a major focus for the upcoming year, with 66% indicating increased investments in cyber and information security.
“The focus on cybersecurity is more important now, so for CIOs it’s how do we [help create] organizations that are more cyber resilient, how do we become more proactive about observability within our systems and become more sophisticated in our own cybersecurity frameworks?” asks Suma Nallapati, CIO of Insight Enterprises, an IT solutions and services provider.
CIOs say they’re investing in next-generation tools for monitoring and observability as well as for detection and response. “And we’re making a very diligent effort to make the leadership understand security from a business standpoint not just a technology standpoint,” Nallapati says.
5. To accelerate efficiency
In addition to cybersecurity, Nallapati has another big area of focus moving ahead: operational efficiencies.
“With the macroeconomics the way they are, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the market, so I’m working to make sure we’re focused on automation, hyperautomation, well-governed systems, interoperability, processes, a single source of truth for everyone. We’re moving faster in a more agile fashion to focus on outcomes,” Nallapati says.
She’s also turning to artificial intelligence and machine learning to help deliver efficiencies, explaining that she — like other CIOs today — aren’t looking to simply cut costs (as IT had been tasked to do in prior lean times) but rather to use technologies to do better with the same or fewer resources. “Lower cost may be an outcome of that, but it’s not the only driver,” she says.
There’s good reason for that. In its 2023 CIO and Technology Executive Survey, Gartner found that CIOs expect their IT budgets to increase 5.1% on average in 2023, which is lower than the projected 6.5% global inflation rate. It added that “a triple squeeze of economic pressure, scarce and expensive talent, and ongoing supply challenges is heightening the desire and urgency to realize time to value from digital investments.”
In announcing the survey findings, Gartner also noted that “CIOs’ future technology plans remain focused on optimization rather than growth.”
6. To keep connected
In addition to using technology to enable and protect his company’s mission, Skinner says his other professional resolution for the year ahead is to maintain connectedness even as his company continues in a hybrid work environment.
“I want to focus on how we build and maintain human connections in the workplace in this virtual environment,” he says, adding that he has found that video calls and the current crop of collaboration platforms help workers stay in touch but don’t really replicate the collegial interactions that naturally happen when people are in the same physical space.
Even so, Skinner says he’s trying to build a sense of community through a combination of in-person and virtual events. He has implemented a “moments that matter” program, where IT staffers are brought to the Nashville headquarters to meet in person, and virtual events such as worker-led 30-minute cooking sessions where everyone follows along with the same recipe. He’s considering other such ideas to try and is investigating whether metaverse-type experiences can help replicate the camaraderie that comes from regularly working side by side with people.
7. To transform IT into an orchestrator
According to Gartner,They explain that “to enable digital business acceleration, CIOs must embrace the benefits of distributing technology responsibilities and establish a new technology model for the enterprise, not just for the IT organization.”
That’s top of mind for Jaleel, the associate CIO from Kent State University.
He says the various business units — in this case, the different colleges, academic areas, and administrative divisions — have their own needs and preferences for technology solutions, as is the case in many organizations. As a result, he says IT leadership is working to create the governance, IT architecture, and integrations to enable the tech solutions that each area wants and needs but at the same time make them work well together and provide seamless experiences for users.
Jaleel says it’s a work in progress but notes that there’s a commitment to “stitch those systems together” and leverage technologies and new approaches such as hyperautomation to get the job done.
8. To focus on employee experience
Digital employee experience (EX) has become a top IT priority. In fact, a survey of 537 global IT decision-makers and influencers by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by VMware recently found that decision-makers are planning to allocate 10 to 25% of IT budget to digital EX solutions over the next three years, noting that that investment reflects more than $500,000 annually.
That makes Rebecca Gasser, CIO for Omnicom Health Group, right on trend, as she lists a focus on employee experience as her primary resolution.
“My resolution to focus on the employee experience will wrap around several initiatives but with a constant improvement in the current technology to serve their needs,” she explains. “My goal is to make this the best and easiest place to do great work where the technology appears almost invisible to the employees because it is so easy to use. This includes ensuring we have the right platforms for the work at hand and connecting those platforms to reduce and/or eliminate the swivel chair of repeated data entry and [providing] the most efficient support for when it is needed.”
9. To improve customer (and partner) experiences as well
Experience dominates the 2023 conversation for Shafiq Rab, chief digital officer, system CIO, and executive vice president for Tufts Medicine. He lists his top resolution for the upcoming year as improving experience for all — consumers, employees, and providers.
“The vision driving much of our work in 2022 was to set up a seamless environment supported by technologies that make it simple to access and navigate services, provide tools to manage illness and minimize wait times,” he says.
To support that vision, Rab’s IT organization launched a new digital heath ecosystem that involved a full migration of its healthcare IT to the cloud and standardization of workflows from six disparate systems into a single system on AWS.
“With this, we are set up to be able to provide a personalized, connected care experience for patients as well as a data-driven, modern clinical environment that reduces frictions for providers,” he explains. “Looking to 2023, we want to utilize these new capabilities and refine and adapt based on what our providers, consumers, and employees need across academic, community, home health, and virtual settings. We are now able to provide care where it is needed and be part of the lives of our consumers.”
10. To further embrace product-based IT delivery
Amir Arooni, executive vice president and CIO of Discover Financial Services, may speak for many CIOs when he lists his top goal for 2023 as all-around improvement, saying he’s looking for “increased speed, quality, and craftmanship.”
To do this, Arooni says organizations must have all the right components in place, from the right technology capabilities to an enabling organizational structure to training opportunities for their workers.
An advocate of continuous improvement, Arooni has shifted his teams from a project-based approach to a product-driven structure featuring the agile methodology — a strategic shift many IT leaders are undertaking. He says that shift has enabled teams to more quickly deliver new products and enhancements with more reliably while also simplifying how they work through technology optimization and extreme automation.
He adds, “With our product-centric way of working, we will continue empowering our small, autonomous, and highly skilled engineering teams to deliver higher-quality products and services faster for our customers, while further developing their craft and technical eminence.”