Canadian technology leaders identify top challenges facing CXOs in 2017
April 4, 2017
On Friday, February 24 2017, the CAMSS Executive Council met at the Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto for an intimate and in-depth discussion around the most pressing strategic and technical challenges facing IT and Line of Business leaders in Canada. These discussions subsequently shape the agenda for the 2017 CAMSS Canada conferences.
Numerous topics were raised by the group, each of which contribute to the difficulties CXOs encounter around technology innovation and implementation. However, three topics in particular were identified as key areas where both public and private sector organisations find themselves continuously facing when trying to remain innovative and competitive in their respective markets: Business & IT Strategy Alignment, Budgeting and Talent.
1. ALIGNING BUSINESS & I.T. STRATEGY
Aligning IT with business strategy isn't new; organisations continue to struggle with creating an IT strategy to achieve business goals. This is often due to differences in departmental objectives, or a general non-understanding of each other's methods, which results in ineffectual products and systems that fail to provide an effective perceived return on investment. But, could other and more important factors be playing a role in this?
Creating a culture of communication, collaboration and appreciation is crucial. Organisational culture can affect many aspects of the business from innovation to talent retention. For many, culture is an indicator of digital maturity - a topic which was discussed in-depth. However, in the views of the Executive Council, culture also plays a role in creating an effective digital strategy.
Should CIOs be members of the board?
If you are creating an IT strategy to achieve the goals of the business, an argument can be made for the IT leader to have a seat at the top table. With a vast number of organisations changing the very fabric of their purpose, based on the use of digital technologies (e.g. a large retailer now positioning themselves as a tech company), then perhaps the individual in charge of IT implementation and innovation should have a direct line to the CEO? This would enable companies to create one collaborative strategy, as opposed to the existing scenario in which one department must to create a strategy to align with the other.
The group also raised discussions related to the traditional timelines put in place to review, assess and plan for change. With new technologies becoming available on a daily basis and the industry evolving at a faster pace than ever before, perhaps strategy reviews should be changed from 5 (or in some cases 10 years) down to 6 - 12 months. This would certainly help ensure both business and IT are 'singing from the same hymn sheet'.
Working with identical or reduced budgets from the previous year, while at the same time attempting to purchase and implement the next generation of technologies, is a situation many CXOs experience. Budgeting and presenting a business case to the board in order to obtain the funding you require is an ongoing struggle at many organisations. With vast amounts of budget being spent on past projects (and as companies begin to focus on the bottom line benefit of technology to the business), demonstrating the value can be hard when the immediate results are not there to be seen. Furthermore, if the CEO is setting the vision for the company, should they be heavily involved in the budgeting process, as opposed to leaving it in the hands of the CFO? More questions were raised around: 'how should you work with the CEO and CFO on priority investments?'.
No matter how often it has been addressed, talent remains a huge issue for IT and LOB leaders. It's not finding the talent which presents the challenge, but instead acquisition and retention of these individuals in an ever increasing competitive world. According to the Executive Council, the key to this is understanding the mindset of the talent pool and creating a brand to attract the new generation while providing an environment for them to flourish.
Many successful leaders have plenty of experience on this subject, yet not enough research is being carried out with the actual source: the talent itself. What do people look for? How can organisations and their leaders lay down a foundation to attract and keep the best of the best?