As technology plays an increasingly important role in business, CTOs and CIOs can deliver more business value than ever before. But with higher demand on IT services for all business functions, IT leaders are under more pressure than ever to ensure that their systems work seamlessly, scale on demand, and hold up against increasing regulatory demands and intensifying security threats. In 2021 CTOs and CIOs are facing more challenges than ever before, and we have rounded up the 6 challenges they face this coming year:
Top Challenges for Tech Leaders in 2021
1. Responding to COVID 19
First let’s address the 7.5-billion-pound elephant in the room. It would be impossible to write about challenges for CTOs in 2021 without discussing the novel coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the globe. With entire countries on and off of lockdown and travel restricted, organizations around the world have scrambled to face the new challenge of bringing their entire workforce online and enabling work-from-home capabilities. For IT leaders this poses several challenges: scaling cloud capacity and accessibility, virtual training on remote access for all staff (especially the least tech-savvy), increased use of VPNs to address security risks, spinning up new applications to meet new challenges, and more. This global pandemic is putting every organization’s emergency preparedness plan to the test, and IT is taking center stage.
2. Addressing Evolving Security Threats
As technology advances so too do the methods of exploiting it for nefarious reasons. Hackers have existed as long as tech has existed, but in recent years their tactics have evolved and show no sign of slowing. In 2021 two of the biggest security challenges CTOs will face are phishing and ransomware.
Although phishing is not a new hacking tactic, the way in which it is carried out has evolved. Scammers now use SMS and phone calls to impersonate reputable sources and trick consumers into divulging sensitive information. To combat this, IT leaders must re-think their credential management and foster a strong sense of security awareness across their organization.
Ransomware attacks against businesses are on the rise, and part of the reason is that they work. A recent survey found that 70% of victims of enterprise-level ransomware attacks pay the ransom rather than risk losing their critical files. In 2021 CTOs and IT leaders must be ready with a proactive and strategic plan to combat ransomware in order to protect sensitive materials and save their company tens of thousands of dollars.
3. Increased Investment in Edge Computing
Data growth outside of the data center is a new reality for most organizations. These days enormous quantities of data are being generated from remote branches, mobile devices, and IoT smart devices. By 2025, Gartner estimates that 75% of enterprise data will be generated and utilized outside of the data center. The need to deploy computing power and storage capabilities at the network’s edge will pose a great challenge to CTOs & CIOs in 2021 and beyond.
4. Integrating SaaS Programs with Containerization
The rise of cloud has fundamentally changed how businesses use software, with most organizations rushing to embrace a slew of SaaS solutions that cater to specific functionalities. With so many different applications, creating one cohesive solution through integration is high on the priority list for all CTOs and CIOs. 2021 will see an increase in container adoption in order to simplify the process of developing, shipping, and deploying SaaS solutions. 451 Research projects the market size of application container technologies to reach $4.3 billion by 2022 and this year more businesses will view containers as a fundamental part of their IT strategy.
5. Maintaining Data Privacy & Governance
Although data can be an incredible source of useful insight, the risk that comes with handling it poorly can make it a toxic burden that opens your organization up to penalties, fines, or worse. In 2021 California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which generally seen as “GDPR light,” goes into effect, and it is likely that many other states will follow suite. Strict data privacy regulations are quickly becoming the norm, making data security and governance one of the most pressing challenges for IT leaders.
One domain where this is particularly challenging is the use of third-party self-service applications. IT leaders need to maintain constant contact with all departments of their organization to ensure oversight on what applications are being used with sensitive customer data. In 2021, CIOs need to learn how to balance the need for easy-access self-service applications with proper governance and data protections.
6. Providing a Perfect CX
Customer experience is the new battlefield for staying competitive, and the responsibility of delivering a seamless CX falls squarely on IT leaders. As James Harvey, CTO of Cisco AppDynamics puts it, “our use of digital services and applications has evolved to become an unconscious extension of human behavior, and in turn, consumer expectations about the performance of applications and digital services has sky-rocketed.
What to Expect in 2021?
These days customers are less tolerant and far less forgiving of problems with digital services, and Microsoft reports that a full 96% of customers base their loyalty on a positive customer experience. In 2021 the highly anticipated roll out of 5G will only lead to increased customer expectations, as higher quality experiences and faster download speeds become possible. Brands that invest in modernizing their CX using technologies such as ML and AI will emerge as industry leaders this year.
2020 has shaped up to be one for the record books, and it is very likely that the events of this year and how we respond to them will change the way business is done for many years to come. As we head into 2021, one thing is definite: this is a crucial time of enormous change for enterprises. For more news and insights as the year unfolds, be sure to subscribe to our monthly newsletter below.
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