What are the main CIO challenges in 2019? No matter how innovative and effective a product or service is, CIOs and IT directors of big brands have a lot at stake. They have to create a culture of innovation while adapting to modern technology and reducing costs.

It's all very well to say that CIOs and IT directors must "aggressively pursue change" to succeed in a digital business arena; however, we should realize that these “champions of IT” have their backs against the wall. In front of them is the boardroom “firing squad” ready to jump on any mistake. CIOs have to justify not only any new project vs. risk, but also the existing and past projects and respective results (and failures) while keeping the trains running. In a nutshell, it’s not easy to be a CIO these days. This article addresses why it’s difficult to be a CIO, the 3 top CIO challenges in 2019, and ways to overcome these roadblocks.

Want to address CIO challenges in digital transformation by taking development to the next level? Check out Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Multiexperience Development Platforms

Which Issue Concerns CIOs the Most? A Quest to Innovate

By definition, technology innovators innovate. They create new ideas or ways of doing things. And I don’t mean the pretenders who come to the table once the feast has been set—copycats. Or the pretenders who put on a disguise to join the feast—the same old solutions with a few bells and whistles of added functionality that they buy on the open market.

As stated in Consumption Economics: The New Rules of Tech, the most dramatic effect of megatrend innovation like cloud computing, managed services, and consumer technology won't be felt in the company's product line. The true disruption will be to the business models of organizations.

CIOs and IT directors make big decisions and then live with their impacts in the years ahead. Is this innovation a game changer or a fad? Once the purchase decision has been made, they are locked in. There has been no turning back for years. CIOs, IT directors, and their teams then have to learn to work around the frequent realities of:

  • High implementation costs (sometimes five times or more than the product cost)
  • Lack of interoperability
  • Extraordinary complexity
  • Frustrated business leaders
  • High cost of ownership
  • High switching costs
  • Poor end-user adoption
  • Hard-to-measure business benefits.

But these are just pieces of a much more complex landscape.

Top 3 Challenges Hampering CIO Efforts to Innovate

CIOs have lots to deal with, and their challenges vary from company to company. However, from what we see from our customers at ISB Smart Solutions, three major challenges of CIOs hamper the capacity of CIOs and IT directors to innovate.

1. Legacy Systems

If they have inherited a mass of systems, CIOs and IT directors have to manage large teams of developers and contractors (who are not cheap, who are hard to find, and who are not loyal). This increases workload and creates recruitment and management issues. Not to mention the mass of different legacy systems of different ages and states of robustness and compliance.

2. Technology “Power Plays” and Politics

Then there are the competing power-plays between different technology groups. This might be a dominance of entrenched ERP and MRP platforms or programming languages such as .NET vs. Ruby on Rails, PHP, Django, and Python. Or it could be the MEAN stack. MEAN stands for MongoDB, ExpressJS, AngularJS, and NodeJS, all of which are JavaScript based.

3. Ambition vs. Traditional

Finally, there’s the contrast between types of employees. On one side, there are ambitious, energetic, impatient, and hungry new players who embrace innovation in any form and at any cost. On the other are the experienced, longer-term employees who have come up through the trenches, learned what has worked in the past, and have more traditional approaches to getting things done.

Addressing CIO Challenges With a Platform Built for Embracing Innovation

It’s true that CIOs have a lot at stake, and managing a culture of innovation while addressing these top challenges is a delicate balance. But that’s why we need to show risk-averse CIOs and IT directors that while investing in an innovative solution like low-code platforms may be a risk, it’s a smart risk that’s going to pay off big. Especially when compared to the limitations of the solutions they already have.

Multiexperience Low-Code to the Rescue in the Digital Skills Drought

According to Gartner, by 2023, more than 25 percent of the mobile apps, progressive web apps, and conversational apps at large enterprises will be built using a multiexperience development platform with low-code at its core.

With IT at the helm and the appropriate governance in place, the right low-code platform can help organizations overcome the developer skills shortage, while delivering fit-for-purpose apps across different devices. Here’s how:

  • Increase productivity: It’s reasonable to expect low-code to be up to ten times faster than hand-coding. For the projects to which low-code is suited, achieving just a 4x productivity increase is better than hiring or training more developers.
  • Retrain legacy developers: In many large IT departments, multiple experienced developers support legacy system. As these systems are retired, the associated staff will either need retraining or redeploying. Instead of losing such valuable business knowledge from the organization, such developers can quickly be retrained to build web and mobile applications with low-code. This case study from Wealth Management company IOOF tells exactly this story.
  • Expand your developer pool: Low-code lowers the bar, meaning a wide array of roles can be cross-trained to build secure and scalable web and mobile apps under the supervision of IT. Business analysts, process professionals, QA and test engineers, and business super users are great candidates; they can quickly and cost-effectively be trained to use a low-code development platform.
  • Shorten ramp-up time: Multiple case studies describe how graduate junior-developers can be hired and quickly become productive with the built-in guide rails and development standards provided by a low-code development platform. Here’s a fintech case study that illustrates how two newly hired computer science graduates built a loan origination system in just five months.

After the Skills Drought Is Over, Look to the Core

CIOs and IT directors still need to look to the “technological core” which needs to be modernized to be a successful foundation for new and emerging types of technology. The core can then become a platform for a systematic innovation process that helps CIOs and IT directors foster credibility with the board. How? By driving an understanding of emerging technologies, strategically prioritizing innovation projects, building business cases, and delivering proofs of concept.

Which comes back to the most dramatic effect of megatrends when exploited: the true disruption will be to the organizations business model and will be felt in the boardroom. The CIO is then tasked to conquer, to catch-up, or help save the business.

My interest here is to introduce the highly innovative OutSystems multiexperience development platform which, to adopters, is a low-code game-changer. If you want to learn more about it, I invite you to download Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Multiexperience Development Platforms, 2019.