Article

A Clear Shift in 2020 IT Priorities Across the Prairies

Kent Smith

Kent Smith is an experienced IT executive sharing his know-how so organizations can navigate through the complexity of technology.

June 2, 2020

2020 has presented its share of challenges to organizations and IT departments. Running with status-quo no longer makes sense. What was set out to be accomplished this year and going forward may no longer be relevant – or at least it shouldn’t be.  

Don’t get us wrong, it’s likely some key initiatives remain a priority, but it’s time for everything to be re-evaluated. It’s important IT decision makers and Business leaders go through a realignment exercise.

Top organizations include IT in business strategy and realignment exercises. If you are an IT leader and not involved in these discussions, then it’s time to make the case that you should be. If you are a business leader and don’t have IT represented in these discussions, you are leaving one of the key drivers and enablers off the table.  

At the very least, IT leaders need to understand how priorities have shifted within the organization. They need to translate that by reprioritizing existing IT initiatives and identifying new initiatives that align with the organizations overarching goals.

ourCIO benefits from a large peer group of IT leaders across the Prairies and across Canada. Coupling that with discussions across industry, with business leaders, associations, and service companies, we have had the opportunity to identify some common shifts in IT priorities relevant to organizations across the Prairies.


Cyber Security

The unfortunate side effect of a rushed job enabling employees to work from home has been gaps in IT security protection. Cyber criminals are exploiting the opportunity this has created resulting in a significant increase in cyber attacks being seen, including across the Prairies. A priority for IT departments is making employees more cyber-aware through educational and awareness campaigns. It is also a priority for IT departments to extend their safeguards to each remote device, distributed data source and new systems which have recently been introduced.


Cost Control and Cost Cutting

To stand services up to support remote work, many IT departments had an influx of spending to make this happen in short order. Along with other departments, IT is being asked to participate in cost control and cost cutting measures. IT should look for opportunities within the department as well as outside. Maintain a long-term view on opportunity but look for low hanging fruit first with 1 to 2 year paybacks.


Digitization, Workflows & Automation of Tasks

As employees began conducting work from home, legacy processes quickly interfered with productivity. Work was held up because of hands on steps, paper shuffling, lack of electronic files and processes. Although this was disruptive, it has become easy to identify areas in need of modernization. This has created an excellent opportunity for IT and business units to collaborate on digitizing files, streamlining workflows and automating work processes. This supports further flexibility of working remotely as well as cost savings through efficiency gains.


Further Cloud Adoption

Response to the pandemic and the need to work from home fueled adoption of cloud technologies, specifically communication and collaboration tools for organizations still working with fully on-premise IT environments. Some legacy thinking and red tape around cloud adoption within these organizations has now relaxed. The benefits of simplified adoption, quick scalability and pay as you go are now visible so further adoption of cloud services is finding itself on the roadmap.  Similar thinking exists within organizations who have been utilizing cloud for some time. Further cloud adoption is being looked at to support ongoing remote work arrangements, reducing capital spending for physical infrastructure, and the benefit of scaling up and down matching your spend to your revenue and needs.


Innovation & Creativity

Some of the best ideas come from times of crisis. Organizations are now looking for ways to be resilient over maximizing profits. IT leaders are being looked at to build energy and the means for their organizations, departments and employees to think more creatively and innovate. IT Leaders are looking to improve lines of communications between all stakeholders. This includes executive teams, business units, board of directors, employees, partners and customers. Ideas need to be captured, fostered and evaluated for fit and potential.  


As IT teams look forward, they must step up as their leadership is needed for organizations to survive and evolve. Long term strategies are still important, but they are only a guide. To use an analogy, it’s best everyone knows when you are leaving on a big trip and where you are going to. However, for now, it’s important to exercise on your short-term strategy. With ongoing uncertainty in the business environment ahead, you need to be prepared to quickly adjust and pivot. Give your attention to the current leg of the trip and know what options exist in your itinerary ahead.

We wish organizations and their IT teams the best of success in the adventures that lie ahead.

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