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As we enter 2022, CIOs and other IT leaders are predicting more of the same issues: a tech talent shortage that will stress organizations still working on modernization efforts and increased use of artificial intelligence and analytics, and enhancing security, among other innovative technologies.

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Among its predictions for 2022, Forrester believes “a tech talent panic will create broad gaps until new sourcing models go mainstream.” IT organizations face a 13.8% attrition rate, reflecting a slow move to “future fit” talent strategies, according to Forrester.

“The demand for technology talent maintains a frenetic pace with an emphasis on data and analytics, information security, architecture, cloud and engineering,” said Craig Stephenson, managing director, North America Technology Officers Practice, at Korn-Ferry.

Here’s how they plan to cope. “Frustrated traditional firms will resort to boosting wages to attract talent, while future-fit firms will use cloud-first and platform-based architectures and adopt low-code/no-code solutions to reduce their need for the most advanced technical skills,” according to Forrester.

Stephenson’s other predictions are:

  • Continued evolution of technology leaders broadening the overseeing of a broad portfolio to include product, data, cloud, engineering and information security
  • Significant push in driving enhanced customer experience through the effective deployment of technology capabilities
  • Impressive strides in the creation of data capabilities to provide a rich and robust set of business insights and customer analytics

Forrester is also predicting that the forced, rapid acceleration of technology will worsen technical debt for 60% of firms.

“In the rush to serve customers and become more resilient, firms are deploying new digital capabilities that power hybrid customer experiences,” Forrester said. “For 55% of firms globally, prioritizing speed over maintainability will result in inflated tech debt, further jeopardizing their ability to modernize their IT organization.”

Digital transformation moves to the next level

Bridgestone Americas is in the midst of transforming itself to becoming a “sustainable solutions company,” said Taren Rodabaugh, CIO. In 2022, the company will be focused on the continued modernization of its core business “while also leaning into digital platforms and leveraging strategic partnerships to co-collaborate and expand or build new business models and opportunities,” Rodabaugh said.

Security remains front and center, she added, and “without question, we will remain steadfast in hardening and preparedness of cyber- and info-security efforts.”

Like the others, Rodabaugh said talent initiatives will be accelerated “to ensure we have the best possible team in place and they feel invested in our culture and the future of Bridgestone.”

Forrester anticipates that “leading tech executives will leap from digital to human-centered transformation.” In 2022, future-fit firms will think beyond digital transformation to implement initiatives that tightly fuse CX and EX, the firm said.

“Additionally, 10% of tech leaders will also prioritize investments in strategic partnerships and innovation practices at 3x the rate of competitors”‘ Forrester said.

AI, ML trends

In 2022, data needs to become foundational and a “first-class citizen” to help CIOs make data-driven decisions to realize business value, said Sanjay Srivastava, chief digital officer for global professional services firm Genpact.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning “are the top technologies that will help CIOs achieve their goals and the top choice for investment if they had additional financial resources,” he said. “These technologies allow CIOs to make the most of the data at their disposal, generating predictive insights for more informed decision-making. Going forward, the top three things for CIOs to prioritize are strategy, data literacy and AI.”

As AI becomes a greater organizational priority, responsible AI is a must, Srivastava said.

“There will be large, systemic disruptions and, therefore, large benefits to those who lead with AI,” he said. “But along with that comes a responsibility to set up guidelines and transparency in CIOs’ work.”

Planning for and building ethics into the governance of AI from the start is critical, he said. “In the long run, ethics will become an essential part of AI. Data itself has privacy issues and can be biased. Algorithms may have inadvertent bias built-in, so businesses must use AI in an ethically prudent manner.”

The key to getting AI ethics right is bringing in oversight that is independent of the AI project because it can reduce unintended bias, constrain it to the proper use case and design for inclusion and comprehensiveness, Srivastava said.

“In the end,” he predicted, “most companies, like a financial audit, will bring AI ethics as a board agenda item.”

As cloud usage expands, a call for simplicity

Migrating to the cloud has created complexity and this will drive the desire for simplification, according to Ravi Naik, CIO of Seagate.

“It’s a common story: organizations move from on-prem data centers to the cloud to achieve simplicity, and they often do—for a time—but as soon as they reach scale, they are faced with cloud complexity: much higher costs on account of cloud architectures that have become intricate,” he said. “They are accompanied by unmet promises from [a total cost of ownership] perspective.”

In 2022, organizations will aim for architecture simplification without the unpredictability of costs, services and complex layers of tech at scale, he said.

“It’s tricky because the fixes themselves can invite more complexity: For example, the application stack needs simplifying, but without disruption,” Naik said.

Meanwhile, he predicted IT organizations will also seek geographic disaggregation of workloads, saying that the term multicloud is a misnomer because there are multiple clouds.

“Increasingly, businesses want to be able to leverage applications interchangeably so that data is resident in one place and the application stack accessing it can change,” Naik said. “A number of data access and mobility issues could be solved with an independent data plane to which hyperscalers could plug in.”

SEE: Metaverse cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The ability to use the same data for various purposes without having to transfer it in and out to locations where different functions could be performed would mean cost savings and no friction of access and migration, he said.

Data will be used to unlock sustainability

The increased focus on data heading into 2022 is critical because after a long period of disruption and uncertainty, customers, employees and investors more frequently expect organizations to focus on long-term value creation for all stakeholders, Srivastava said. With this new mandate, leaders have turned to data-driven insights to build resilient, purpose-led organizations that prioritize communities, employees—and the environment—alongside clients.

“One of the biggest data technology trends to watch in the upcoming year is harnessing enterprise data and assessing stakeholder expectations to understand where the business is at risk from climate change and where the business needs to act to become more sustainable,” he predicted.

As we think about shaping the future for good, Genpact recommends three steps to generating data-driven insights that help solve large, complex transformational problems to achieve sustainability: establish a foundation of data, turn that data into insights, and invest in change management and the user experience.

Some CIOs will become CEOs, others will influence agenda

Stephenson also predicted that “highly effective technology leaders [will be] moving into the role of CEO.”

Srivastava said that as the role and skills of the CIO evolve, this requires a balance of being an outsider and an insider.

“As an outsider, CIOs must discover, embrace and curate technology, ideate what needs to change, and objectively think through new approaches to problems,” he said. “As an insider, CIOs need to establish credibility to lead large-scale change management from the ground up.”

Balancing these two approaches to transformation is fundamentally complex, he added. “CIOs will be challenged to drive productivity, increase efficiency and spur innovation without this combination of skills.”

Because technology is now a means to an end, Srivastava believes that successful CIOs will be given a seat at the table in the boardroom to influence the CEO agenda.

“Frequent access to the CEO makes all the difference in a CIO’s ability to leverage combined business and technology expertise to influence the company’s strategic business agenda,” he said.

Future of work megashift

The future of work increasingly includes a remote workforce, but all the challenges associated with it arrived ahead of schedule due to the pandemic, according to Srivastava. To support this megashift going forward, companies need to create resilient and agile work models and focus on employee experience and engagement.

“Key to success is building and driving a cohesive culture,” he said. “That involves rallying teams around a shared purpose, focusing on employee well-being, and driving diversity, equality, and inclusion and community impact.” Technology needs to be at the heart of any initiative, Srivastava added.

Further, companies must adopt and embrace AI, ML and other advanced technologies in their HR operations, he said. “These technologies are at the heart of capturing employee sentiment, talent analytics, network building and serendipity, continuous learning and redeploying talent.”

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