CIOs Outline Their Top Priorities for the Rest of 2020

Given the impact of COVID-19 on workstyles, customer preferences and stakeholder needs, many CIOs have felt the need to reevaluate their goals, reprioritize projects and reallocate funding and resources.

A shift in top-down initiatives usually impacts the job market and may require new skills, techniques and thinking from individual contributors, team leads and tech managers.

For instance, a recent survey by Adobe found that four in 10 CIOs will be adding staff in cybersecurity, while only 25 percent of organizations will be adding staff to initiatives involving public cloud, infrastructure and artificial intelligence/machine learning.

To help you adapt, discover new job opportunities and demonstrate cultural, goal and skill alignment during interviews, here’s a look at the top priorities of CIOs for the rest of the year.

Accelerate High-Priority Digital Transformation Initiatives

As we reported earlier this year, CIOs are committed to driving digital transformation into all areas of business, but some initiatives have become more important than others. 

For example, to support the move to online learning, a team at the University of Tulsa will complete a wireless upgrade by the end of the summer that was supposed to take place over a three-year period. Meanwhile, an initiative to create interactive classrooms fell off the priority list in March, according to Paige Francis, the university’s VP of IT and CIO. 

In another instance of reprioritizing transformations, Net Health moved up its expansion into telehealth services during the pandemic in order to provide safer care and convenience, noted CIO Jason James.

In fact, a survey by software company AppDynamics revealed that digital transformation efforts that were once part of long-term projects were pushed through in a matter of weeks at 71 percent of organizations. The main priority is improving the digital customer experience, especially during these chaotic, COVID-related times.

“Recognize that, although the roadmap for the year may remain the same, the timeframes for projects and the way you do your job has changed dramatically,” Francis advised.

For instance, to pivot and move quickly during times of uncertainty, technologists need the ability to sell their ideas, build relationships and trust across the entire community.

“There’s no time for analysis paralysis,” Francis said. “I’m looking for people who are willing to act, learn from their mistakes and improve as they go.”

Before a job interview, research the industry and your role (especially in the context of COVID-19 and its impact), then select examples from your experience that showcase the qualities and skills tech execs and hiring managers need to execute key digital transformation initiatives.

Cybersecurity

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups and malicious cyber-actors aren’t taking time off during the pandemic. In fact, they’re using the business disruption and switch to remote work to carry out a variety of novel attacks, including a social engineering technique known as “smishing.”

That’s why most CIOs are increasing their focus on cybersecurity through the end of the year, even if budget constraints force them to maintain staff levels and essentially do more with less. 

Like many of his counterparts, James is continuing to take an integrated, holistic approach to cybersecurity in an effort to stay one step ahead of the criminals. Therefore, he recommends that technologists and job hunters “view cybersecurity as a shared responsibility and stay abreast of new security threats, components and best practices, regardless of your role.”

To that point, here is a list of the jobs that require cybersecurity skills of some sort (based on an analysis of job postings by Burning Glass):

Improve Diversity and Inclusion Through Remote Recruitment

Research from March and April shows that productivity has been maintained or increased during the lockdown. Consequently, remote work is no longer a perk; it’s here to stay. Job seekers have more options when they are no longer limited by having to physically commute into an office.

Like many CIOs, James is seizing the opportunity to expand his recruiting reach and ensure that candidates from outside major metropolitan areas (where the company has offices) are part of the pipeline. Ultimately, he hopes to unlock innovation and invite nonlinear novel thinking by hiring team members with diverse backgrounds.

Create a Remote Work Culture

Creating an engaged, distributed workforce that promotes camaraderie, work-life balance and teamwork requires a cultural shift from tech leaders. To that end, James has sponsored the development of “virtual water coolers” that allow team members to connect over work and non-work-related topics (such as favorite bourbons) while working remotely. He’s also developing an onboarding program to help new remote hires connect both technically and culturally.

For job hunters, it’s important to remember that an organization’s culture centers on shared values, goals and attitudes that extend beyond its four office walls.