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Five steps to ensure 2022 is the year of the CIO

Max Jones, Managing Partner for Health at Agilisys, details why he thinks 2022 will finally be the year of the CIO – and recommends five steps CIOs can take to make this prediction come true.

Following a year that has been challenging for us all (both in a work and a personal capacity), when CIOs have come sharply into the spotlight, I believe 2022 could finally be the year that public sector CIOs come out from behind their data centres and gain the parity of esteem which they deserve in the boardroom.

In the last five years, many CIOs have been understandably focussed on tactical programmes to shore up their ageing infrastructure and tools, allowing their CFOs to divert scarce funds to frontline business priorities – and in the case of the public sector, delivery of essential services.

However, in the last 18 months, the value of data – and its quality – in driving both innovation and action has been clearly demonstrated. Whether it has been the informing of national policies on Covid-19 or the prioritisation of health services to target the most needy, or the adoption of remote consultation technologies, the digital transformation agenda has a rapidly rising value in the boards of many organisations.

Now is therefore the time for CIOs to demonstrate their board credentials, and here are five steps I’d recommend considering.

1. Be deliberate in the way that you deliver your digital programmes

Most CIOs have a difficult mix of business demands to meet. These include ageing infrastructure, too many vacancies, sub-scale teams, insufficient funding to innovate at scale and a technical debt which consumes enormous of amounts of the scarce resources available.

To tackle this toxic mix of priorities, CIOs need to consciously consider how they deploy their resources. Specifically, they should decide which programmes they run via their in-house teams (Build), which commoditised services they outsource (Buy), which they co-deliver with external organisations that can bring capacity and capability to specific projects (Partner), and perhaps most importantly which things they cease doing (Stop).

2. Leverage your existing investments

The widescale adoption of tools such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive has allowed many organisations to continue to deliver services to their staff and customers in the new world of hybrid working and remote citizen services. However, this has come at a cost. Other programmes of work have stopped to make way for this rapid investment and many implementations were rushed to achieve a specific limited set of business needs.

It is therefore essential that CIOs examine how these implementations can be enhanced and leveraged to make the most of the investment which has already been made. Examine what more you can do with your licensing. Build on what you already have but go back and implement the governance and collaboration layers which may have been rushed in the first implementations.

3. Prioritise a pro-active data-driven culture for your organisation

Getting the right information into the hands of the right person at the right time to make the very best decision is at the heart of most process transformation programmes. Yet all too often, our data and insight teams are focussed on retrospective reporting and situational awareness business intelligence (BI) programmes.

Accordingly, the efforts of our BI functions are frequently seen as irrelevant to the transformation agenda. CIOs need to quickly change this. Modern data platforms already provide scalable and affordable solutions to this challenge. This is not rocket science and the technology really is not the limiting factor. Rather, CIOs need to insert themselves (and the power of data to drive transformation) into the boardroom conversation about business transformation.

4. Design for secure collaboration

Businesses are rapidly changing shape. Old borders to organisations are becoming blurred as systems reshape themselves and as many staff members work for multiple organisations concurrently. Teams of people are coming together to make decisions with the ‘citizen at the centre’.

CIOs therefore need to simultaneously enable collaboration yet maintain control of their organisation’s data assets to comply with relevant legislation (e.g. GDPR). Luckily, tools exist to enable this both within a single organisation and across a system. CIOs need to be deliberate about how they enable this collaboration agenda. A good starting point would be to develop an architecture for secure collaboration covering technology, governance and audit.

5. Build your automation centre of excellence

CIOs know all too well that their success rests largely on the quality of their teams (and partners) that they put around them. This is also true for the businesses in which they work.

The war for talent is currently ferocious and recruiting enough high-quality staff is a serious issue. At the same time this problem is currently accentuated by unparalleled sickness levels driven by Covid-19. Many of these issues have at their root the problem of supply and demand for scarce skilled staff, yet all too often we see existing limited resources (e.g. nurses) undertaking dull low-value administrative tasks which are simply unnecessary in the modern era.

CIOs need to build momentum around the efficiency agenda so that as many tasks as reasonably possible are automated. Modern tools for intelligent automation and robotic process automation (RPA) are straightforward to deploy and are increasingly delivering benefit at the front line of services (not just for the HR and finance teams). But buying an RPA tool is not enough. CIOs must focus on a sustainable automation function which will continuously drive automation into the business and allow human workers to focus on tasks at the top of their capability grade.

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