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CIOs Cite Evolving Digital Environments as Top IT Challenge

A recent survey reveals lack control in IT infrastructure decision-making, distributed IT forces, and device security as the top challenges for CIOs.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- The constant and rapid evolution of the technology powering IT infrastructure presents challenges to CIOs lacking control over IT decision-making and end-user restrictions. 

CIO technology challenges

In a recent study conducted by Logicalis more than 700 mid-market CIOs were surveyed across major industries including healthcare, finance, and telecommunication. CIOs expressed a lack of control over the their IT infrastructures stemming from diminished decision-making power. CIOs also reported that slower adoption rates of new technology stifled their ability to control end users, bringing about security challenges.

Healthcare CIOs lacking control over technology decision-making could become complicated if HIPAA compliant vendors are thrown out of contention because of budget restrictions, or the proper EHR solution isn't understood by IT decision-makers. 

The survey revealed that 40 percent of CIOs make less than half of their company's IT spending decisions. This statistic presents a challenge because the executives making the IT spending decisions may not fully understand a needed technology’s function or necessity to their institution and bypassing it in favor or something else.

More than 70 percent of CIOs categorized themselves as digitally enabled while all respondents were plotted on a bell curve, tracking their innovative technology adoption rate. A vast majority of responders reported they were in various stages of adoption. Six percent were considered innovators, 22 percent were adopters, 67 percent fell into early or late majority, and less than 5 percent were considered laggards.

"This speaks both to the huge benefits that digital transformation brings," says Mark Rogers, CEO of Logicalis Group, "but also to the scale of the challenge posed by digital disrupters and early transformers – while such a rapid transformation almost certainly means big changes for CIOs and IT departments."

IT departments are also becoming less centralized, the survey found. Growing numbers of CIOs find themselves working with distributed IT forces working within the line of business. Distributed IT staff work within the departments using the technology and manage that solution as a specialist instead of belonging to an overreaching IT department.

While CIOs report that they still oversee distributed IT workforces, they find they work with them on a less regular basis than with traditional IT staff. The survey reports general favorability of this arrangement but notes its contribution to the lack of CIO control.

"The challenge for IT departments and CIOs is to find ways to support these specialists effectively," says Vince DeLuca, CEO of Logicalis US, "securing the infrastructure, applications and vital data without stifling the 'shadow innovation' their skills support."

Increased adoption of IoT technology and application development were also found to be challenges for CIOs. Securing wearables and other devices accessing their secure networks via the internet of things brought out several flaws in existing infrastructure that needed updating to accommodate the increased traffic.

The continued popularity of mobile devices and BYOD policies also brought on new technological challenges for CIOs. Expanding the infrastructure to embrace this technology includes developing enterprise apps and reworking security solutions to protect the network from malware brought on by personal apps.

Healthcare CIOs face unique challenges when it comes to security protocols. HIPAA compliance and restrictions on electronic health records present digital restrictions that will likely take more time to restructure. A  survey conducted last year by Bitglass found that healthcare cloud adoption grew but it lagged behind other industries due to HIPAA regulations.

"As digital innovation accelerates, the winners will create new customer experiences, make faster and better decisions through smarter collaboration, and create new digital business models and revenue streams securely," Rogers says. "CIOs and IT leaders can play a leading role in enabling that innovation, drawing on skills from insightful partners to help shape their businesses and lead their sectors through the application of digital technologies.”

CIOs lack control now, but the survey suggests that this may be an indication that IT departments need to be restructured. CIOs are currently on the brink of this change and are beginning to adapt with distributed IT departments.

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