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How to Navigate 3 Bigger Priorities on CIO's Minds for 2023

Amidst a shaky economic climate, tighter budgets and talent challenges, CIOs have a laundry list of objectives to divide their attention and priorities. Supporting a CIO? This is a great primer for what is occupying their thoughts and how to assist.

Erin Geiger, Content Lead @Lumos
7 Min Read
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https://lumos.com/cio-priorities

This story is part of Security Essentials, the IT Vault’s practical advice for getting the most out of your security team.

This story is part of Foundations Essentials, a collection of must-reads for all IT professionals.

We’ll take a look at three of the larger challenges that are defining one of the trickiest macroeconomic environments ever:

• Supporting top line growth initiatives while reducing ongoing operational costs

• Enabling and enhancing security

• Optimizing digital transformation

Does your company still need the tools acquired during the pandemic? Narrow in on your tech stack and make a hard line on what gets cut.

Supporting Top Line Growth Initiatives, Reducing Ongoing Costs

In this tenuous climate, look at all potential expenditures with a lens toward IT cost management. Tactics such as reviewing how the cloud has been leveraged historically, auditing technical debt and tools, analyzing portfolios and software, and governing spend are key to overall procurement strategy.

Cloud review and consolidation: Reviewing your current setup; servers, storage, and apps, is critical to achieve across the board efficiency. Eliminate unneeded storage tools or servers - what was a necessity during the pandemic might be overkill now. While it can be said that subscriptions are typically cheaper than hosting applications onsite, cloud apps have fees associated with them as well. Depending on the number of users or storage used, that monthly fee can be a hefty one. Consolidating billing helps give you better visibility into company usage and the overall value.

Tech stack and technical debt audit: Does your company still need the tools acquired during the pandemic? Narrow in on your tech stack and make a hard line on what gets cut. First, keep an eye out for redundant tooling. This might include collaboration tools such as Slack, Google, Microsoft Teams, etc.. Take a look at usage rates - what may have started out as a tool supporting a broad objective could now be leveraged by a small subset. For example, if there is big ticket software that has less than 50% of subscribers logging in, consider if there is another way to achieve the same goal for a lower cost. Consolidate IT procurement to the IT team for efficiency.

Analyze project portfolios: Revisiting and rebalancing project portfolios is high on the list during this uncertain economy. Which are profitable and proven? Recent macroeconomic trends have the availability of capital trickier than in years past. When looking into project portfolios, consider which are profitable, risk-averse, and bring a solid ROI. During this process, decide whether your company is pursuing projects that no longer lend themselves towards top line growth or extend unneeded ongoing costs.

Governing spend: Continuous spend governance is the key to keeping your SaaS spend under budget and finding IT cost savings. The trade off for purchasing new tooling or continuing to pay for tools that have less of an impact on today’s requirements could be a handful of new employees. What would be more beneficial to your team? Make the hard call.

It’s an issue plaguing many organizations as almost 50% of senior IT professionals reported the lack of cybersecurity skills as a ‘problematic shortage’.

Enabling and Enhancing Security

Security is always high on the list of a CIO. Continue to enhance your security protocols and procedures. Recent high profile security breaches have highlighted this all the more. In late December 2022 both LastPass and (again) Okta reported major security breaches, giving many pause. Here are some steps you can take to continue to enhance security:

1. Automate processes: Decrease the human error factor and ensure that security measures are always taken in the correct way and at the correct time. The mountainous amount of data involved in identifying attacks within the wide security landscape begs for automation. This can be in-house via a security operations center or a vendor partner. Leveraging a vendor could be the right move for a smaller organization that doesn’t already have staffers with this critical knowledge. Hiring qualified experts can be outside the budget for many smaller companies. Having discussions with a variety of security providers to weigh your outsourcing options will give you a solid idea of what’s available within your budget. It’s an issue plaguing many organizations as almost 50% of senior IT professionals reported the lack of cybersecurity skills as a ‘problematic shortage’. Per the same survey, 63% of IT leaders expect to increase spend on cybersecurity services this year.

2. Educate your company: The entire company plays a huge part in maintaining security. Keeping the organization abreast of threats such as social engineering will go far in the fight to keep the company secure. A great way to get your company aboard the security train is to educate them about best practices. You can do this by offering lunch-and-learns on certain topics, including information in employee onboarding processes, or requiring quarterly or annual online courses that review important IT security trends. 

3. Complete a software audit: Do you know exactly which software tools are being used by your entire company? Even if you keep a well documented Excel document, there is a good chance that some of them have slid through the cracks. This can happen when IT management is decentralized, when employees create accounts without reporting them, and when careful records are not kept. Take some time to complete a software audit and take a detailed inventory of all tech tools being used by your company. Using a tool like Lumos can help you identify shadow IT, unused accounts, and keep track of your SaaS inventory.

4. Keep your hybrid workforce in mind: Hybrid workforces create unique and fairly new security risks such as finding ways to use secure networks, transfer data, and keep devices secure. It is especially important to educate the rest of your company about these threats and require them to comply with hybrid workforce best practices such as implementing a zero-trust policy, requiring advanced methods of authentication, and using cloud-based solutions. 

5. Maintain your data integrity: A great way to enhance security is to keep an eye on the accuracy and completeness of your data. Regulatory compliance audits help you keep an eye on this tricky part of IT, and there are many processes and standards for you to implement in order to maintain your data integrity. Some great steps for maintaining data integrity include always backing up data, keeping an audit trail, and validating input data.

Optimize Digital Transformation

Optimizing digital transformation is a must. Here are some quick tips for how to best approach:

• Analyze log files: During the pandemic, companies rushed to digitize anything that wasn’t nailed down. ;) It’s a great time for an audit - a key way to get a clear view of how your company is operating digitally is to analyze those files. More discovery and process mining tools are cropping up to assist in seeing what’s changed and gauge which business processes that underwent digitalization perform as originally expected. 

• Improve data sharing: It’s time to put an end to manual processes. Spreadsheets as the primary way for data transfer puts organizations at risk, let alone slowing down productivity and accuracy. Sharing data across systems and throughout the organization regardless of the vertical should be seamless, streamlined…automated. A secure process for checks and balances is critical. Preserving data silos and discouraging data sharing undermines endeavors that would otherwise drive a larger impact in key company initiatives. Nurturing data-sharing across the company as a business priority will enable robust strategies backed by trusted analytics. In fact, per Gartner, through 2023, companies that inject digital trust will have the opportunity to engage in 50% more ecosystems, thereby bolstering additional revenue streams.

• Increase interoperability: Per Accenture, companies with high interoperability increased revenue six times faster than organizations with low interoperability. Of those, only 34% were considered running at a high interoperability level. With large enterprises running over 500 applications, plus a plethora of cloud-based tools, the challenge is apparent. The key to achieving a higher level of interoperability is ensuring the message comes from the top. The C-Suite must prioritize the need for applications to access and engage with each other and share data.

This year is sure to be full of IT surprises, new security threats, and unforeseen challenges, but with the right tools it can also be a year for top line growth, enhanced security, and successful digital transformation. Still not sure it’s time to invest in a SaaS management platform or IT management tool? Here are five signs the time is now!

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