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The Hero’s Dilemma: Today’s Digital CIO

Derek Britton Head of Brand, AR, and Customer Advocacy, OpenText

Many of the heroes of science fiction have a similar task: navigating the landscape of new technologies while trying to reshape society. Similarly, CIOs must lead their organizations to new technology opportunities without breaking what has made them successful so far.

The CIO: A new breed of sci-fi hero?

The movie Dune has a sweeping storyline that crosses space and time to conjure a dazzling, futuristic era. In Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel that is the basis of the movie, society rejects traditional “thinking machines,” only to see them superseded by more advanced forms of technical innovation. Other future worlds featuring great leaps of technological advance were depicted in the works of Azimov, Bradbury, Huxley, Banks, Roddenberry, and Lucas, to name but a few.

The accuracy of such depictions varies, but genuinely prophetic examples abound. Azimov imagined robots, Orwell’s surveillance devices are now commonplace, Bradbury foresaw web conferencing and wall-mounted TV screens, and countless authors predicted space travel. As William Shatner might attest, it seems our scientific destiny is far from fictional. 

Zeroing in on the zeitgeist

Today’s technology landscape, and the challenges facing those who preside over them, may be more prosaic than these examples. Yet building a brave new world of technologically driven advances is the intrepid but practical, modern-day CIO’s destiny.

The last two years have disrupted entire industries. Countless organizations, along with their technology strategies, have seen unprecedented change. And because of a major shift to remote work, there is far greater reliance on the digital world to provide the backbone for commerce.

That has brought greater associated risk and stronger impacts from any failures. Facebook’s recent six-hour disruption of service is just one in a growing catalog of outages, crashes, cyberattacks, and other ailments afflicting the IT world.

CIOs, then, are beleaguered heroes, far from journeying to a visionary future and mired in the mechanics of the here and how, restoring operational sanity in the face of increasing pressure, higher traffic, geographically dispersed staff, buckled supply chains, and a near-constant threat of cyberattack.

Digital transformation has been at the top of virtually every organization’s list of objectives and concerns for several years. For many, it represents a fundamental program of technology change to underpin a significant business change. Requirement for change often necessitates investment. IDC predicts that global spending on solutions in the digital transformation space will continue at a compound annual growth rate of 15.5%, reaching a projected $6.8 trillion by 2023, as organizations look to execute newly devised strategic initiatives.

The digital dilemma

But such major investments carry significant business risk. Organizations with systems and processes seemingly incompatible with the rapid growth, enhanced customer experience, or accelerated evolution of new-world business models are reluctant to commit to anything with the potential to disrupt the everyday flow of work until they are certain of the outcome.

In short, IT leaders must continue to invest in digital transformation, but the success is more imperative than ever before, as is the critical requirement not to jeopardize operations already under significant strain. They need to be in it for the long haul.

In helping organizations balance the existing operational landscape and emerging technological and innovative requirements of the near future, IT leaders can solve their digital dilemma. Then they can run while transforming their business at the same time—a critical element of successful digital transformation.

Surveying the IT landscape: What to look for

While digital transformation touches virtually every corner of the organization and is often the subject of varying priorities from numerous stakeholders, the usual suspects will surface again and again across organizations. Here is what to expect:

  • IT teams of every size will concern themselves with delivering services as fast as possible, managing operations efficiently, harnessing and learning from the data they hold, and doing all of this with appropriate levels of security and governance. And it all has to work today while considering tomorrow’s ecosystem and business needs.
  • From an application delivery perspective, IT organizations must leverage agile and DevOps practices across all their environments—from mainframe to cloud—to sustain today’s delivery velocity requirements. Additionally, they want to enable their organization to transform by combining value stream principles and enterprise scale to make the software factory model more intelligent and efficient.
  • In terms of IT operations, organizations want to simplify the complexity of running a mix of traditional and cloud services by taking a digital factory approach. With a unified, modernized platform for IT operations, they can integrate or replace incompatible tools collected over decades—freeing up resources and accelerating transformation.
  • For IT security, it has become imperative to protect what matters most by detecting threat actors, responding to advanced threats, and recovering from an attack, as their operations run today. Looking forward, they must accelerate change using security analytics for hybrid environments to help their organization transform.
  • Finally, IT leaders are looking to unify their analytics without moving their data to one place, so they can run their analytics practice more efficiently. As they transform their organization to grow, they need to ensure they’re able to support more users and greater data volumes with the highest performance at scale for accurate and actionable predictive insights.

The hero’s journey

The requirements listed above take place across both industries and geographies. And importantly, we don’t need to look to science fiction for an imaginary answer. These are real needs, today. Solutions that tackle the digital dilemma of near- and longer-term requirements are readily available, so organizations can simultaneously run today and transform for tomorrow.

Most CIOs are well aware that the journey to a brighter future never truly ends and that important milestones will mark the progress of their odyssey. Similarly, most great stories blend a journey to an unknown future with a nod to the heritage of past success. The need to tackle critical issues today with the same forward momentum to reach tomorrow’s objective remains.

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