7 CIO Obstacles to Address in 2021

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
Updated May 8, 2023

For the modern CIO, obstacles are not in short supply – and after a volatile 2020, it is more important than ever to prepare for uncertainty in 2021 and beyond.

CIOs have always faced challenges, but today’s IT leaders face more difficult obstacles from a variety of directions.

For instance:

  • The CIO’s role is shifting towards business strategy, requiring CIOs to learn new skills and establish new workflows
  • COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation programs in many industries, adding to the CIO’s workload
  • In today’s fast-paced economy, CIOs must take the lead in organizational change and innovation

As we’ll discover below, factors such as these can lead to a number of challenges for the modern CIO.

What to watch for in 2021

Here are seven of the most important challenges and problems that CIOs must face in the coming months and years – starting today.

1. Reimagining the role of the CIO 

The role of the CIO is changing quickly. As many research firms have noted, CIOs are becoming increasingly responsible for business outcomes and revenue growth as well as IT operations.

There are many “tactical” recommendations that can help CIOs adjust to their new role, such as studying and practicing leadership skills in addition to learning how to manage change. 

However, first and foremost, experienced CIOs must accept the fact that their job is changing. Once they do, it will be easier to reimagine their job and their relationship with the organization.

2. Establishing a new relationship with the C-suite

Since CIOs must become business leaders who oversee cross-departmental initiatives, it is important to build strong relationships with other executives.

Gartner suggests that CIOs begin having constructive conversations with:

  • The CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
  • The CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)
  • The CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer)
  • The board
  • The board’s direct reports

Fostering strong relationships will be essential for implementing successful business initiatives in the long run.

3. Managing organizational change

Change is the only constant in today’s fast-moving economy, and this will remain true for years to come, according to many analysts. 

Accenture, for instance, has gone so far as to name the post-COVID era “The Never Normal.”

Since CIOs will be key to driving organizational change, it is important to learn how to manage that change effectively.

Studying principles of change management and change models can be a good place to start.

4. Maintaining a digitally savvy workforce

The digital skills gap is widening fast, which can be problematic for innovative, forward-thinking businesses.

PwC found that 79% of CEOs rank the availability of key skills as one of their top three concerns.

The lack of essential skills can result in:

  • Inefficiencies
  • More errors 
  • Higher turnover
  • Lower employee engagement and satisfaction

Since so many of today’s key workplace skills revolve around digital technology, CIOs must step in to build effective employee onboarding, training, and development programs.

5. Leading organizational culture change

To thrive in the digital economy, organizations must have an agile, adaptable corporate culture. 

CIOs are not traditionally considered organizational culture leaders. However, since they are leading so many organizational change initiatives, they can have quite a positive impact on culture.

There is certainly no such thing as a “perfect” organizational culture, but there are traits that can greatly aid companies in the modern business landscape.

For instance, in the digital era, it pays to have cultures that are:

Cultural attributes such as these will help a company become far more agile, change-ready, and digitally savvy. 

6. Optimizing and securing the virtual workplace

COVID-19 transformed the world in a matter of months, turning countless offices into fully remote work environments.

CIOs have undoubtedly played an important part in building their virtual workplaces. 

However, as time has gone on, it has become apparent that these work arrangements are not temporary. As McKinsey and others have suggested, many of today’s trends will become permanent. 

Remote working, at least to a certain extent, will remain a part of tomorrow’s digital workplace. CIOs, therefore, should continue investing in the virtual workplace by building better cybersecurity measures, ensuring employees are well-trained, optimizing the employees’ digital toolboxes, and composing a future-focused enterprise.

7. Staying competitive in an uncertain marketplace

Technology-driven innovation and disruption have been transforming the economy for years, and COVID-19 has accelerated that digital change

The result is that we are now transitioning into an economy that is far more digital and uncertain than the pre-2020 landscape, as mentioned above.

While the shape of tomorrow’s business environment remains uncertain, most agree that digital technology will continue to drive it forward.

In such a marketplace, revenue-generating digital investments will become even more crucial. 

CIOs will not only need to adapt to their new roles as business strategists, they will also need to learn how to drive growth in a world where innovation, change, and volatility are the norm.

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
WalkMe pioneered the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) for organizations to utilize the full potential of their digital assets. Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and contextual guidance, WalkMe adds a dynamic user interface layer to raise the digital literacy of all users.