Friday, 27th November 2020

CIOs face competing and complex priorities

Managing risk – from cybersecurity to vendor audits – remains a significant challenge that will shape next year’s IT agenda.

Snow Software has released the 2021 IT Priorities Report, a comprehensive look at the issues and trends driving next year’s technology agenda. Aligning surveys of 1,000 IT leaders and 3,000 workers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Australia found that while Covid-19 has created new concerns and deepened traditional challenges for IT, organisations with complete insight and governance of their technology ecosystem are better positioned to achieve their priorities.


In fact, mature technology intelligence – defined as the ability to understand and manage all technology resources – correlated to resilience and growth. Of the IT leaders classified as having mature technology intelligence, 79% were confident in their organisation’s ability to weather current events and 100% indicated that innovation continues to be a strategic focus for their organisation.

“IT teams around the world had to contend with extraordinary challenges this year due to the impact of Covid-19,” said Alastair Pooley, Chief Information Officer at Snow. “The complexities, risks and budget concerns IT departments traditionally face have been exacerbated, and a rapid acceleration of digital transformation and cloud adoption has brought new issues to the forefront. Now more than ever, IT leaders need to be in a position to quickly adapt to these macro trends as they define their top technology priorities in 2021.”

Key findings include:

  • Technology management has become increasingly difficult. Many IT leaders indicated increases in technology spend across the board – on software, hardware, SaaS and cloud – over the past 12 months. Faced with more complex ecosystems, it is no surprise that 63% also reported technology management had become more difficult. As anticipated budget restrictions go into effect for 2021, IT leaders will need to demonstrate the value of their investments and ensure proper governance over their entire technology stack.
  • Employee perception of IT has improved, but differing perceptions on technology management and procurement hint at potential issues. While 41% of workers believe that access to technology has improved, there remains a 22-point gap between IT leaders and employees on how easy it is to purchase software, applications or cloud services. This is not the only area where IT leaders and workers have varying views. Though they agree that security is the number one issue caused by unmanaged and unaccounted for technology, awareness of additional issues drops dramatically after that, with 16% of workers believing it causes no business issues whatsoever. The data suggests continued challenges ahead for organisations as they try to reduce risk across the board.
  • Vendor audits are a looming but potentially underestimated risk in 2021. 87% of IT leaders said they had been audited by a software vendor over the last 12 months. The vendors that audited the most were Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Adobe and SAP. Yet only 51% said they were concerned about audits over the next 12 months, an answer that varied wildly based on geography – 81% of US leaders said they were concerned compared to just 30% in Germany and 42% in the UK. Based on 2020 trends as well as vendor behavior following the 2008 recession, it appears European IT leaders are significantly underestimating this risk.
  • Organisation’s top IT priorities are inherently at odds with each other and often align with the IT department’s biggest challenges. IT leaders reported that their organisation’s top priorities in 2020 were adopting new technologies (38%), reducing security risks (38%), reducing IT spend (38%). They paralleled the biggest challenges IT leaders faced over the past 12 months with managing cybersecurity threats (43%), implementing new technologies (40%) and supporting remote work (39%). Juggling these conflicting and difficult priorities became even more complicated in light of Covid-19.
  • Strong technology intelligence enabled IT leaders to more effectively tackle their top priorities and challenges. Just 14% of IT leaders met the bar for mature technology intelligence. This elite group outpaced other respondents in their ability to support digital transformation, reduce risk, enable employees and control spend.

“As we collectively look ahead to 2021, it’s more important than ever that CIOs and IT leaders strike the right balance between managing risk and remaining agile in the face of continued unpredictability,” said Pooley. “It is clear from the data that a comprehensive understanding of technology resources and the ability to manage them is a key differentiator. IT leaders can use the insights to endure challenging periods like the pandemic, as well as embrace innovation to drive future growth and resilience.”

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