A group of CXOs looking at technology business analysis.
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There are a series of IT force multipliers CIOs should execute to create new opportunities for sustainable growth while investing responsibly, improving an organization’s brand, reinventing work and creating cyber resiliency; some of these should be executed with CIOs’ peers. That was the message from Gartner Distinguished Vice President analysts Tina Nunno, Paul Proctor and Kristin Moyer during the keynote address at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Monday.

Gartner vice president Val Sribar opened the keynote by highlighting the importance of digital, saying that 89% of directors in Gartner’s global board survey say that digital is now embedded in all of their business growth strategies. “Digital acceleration is now a priority for the entire executive team,’’ Sribar said.

Further, the role of the CIO has also expanded: 83% have taken on strategic, non-IT leadership roles. “Digital has become a team sport, and the entire executive team is playing,’’ he said. “You, the CIO, have to be the digital head coach; that’s your most important leadership role.”

Digital and growth calls to action

A global Gartner CIO survey shows that organizations that lead in digital expect 3x more growth, Moyer said. Investors want growth, environmental and social change, she said.

“This is where CIOs can affect change. They can do this through sustainable growth,’’ which is repeatable without taking on additional financial debt, Moyer said.

This means more than financial results—it’s about growth that contributes to society in a positive way and is ethical, responsible and environmentally sustainable, she said.

Adding IT into the mix, “IT for sustainable growth is a set of digital investments that deliver repeatable, financial results in an efficient and responsible way,’’ Moyer said.

Proctor suggested organizations “revolutionize work” by tech-enabling the workforce to create sustainable work performance, given that great talent is even more scarce than finding any talent.

He also advised CIOs to drive responsible investment, saying that “stakeholders are demanding products that at a minimum, do no harm. Enterprises that deliver responsible and sustainable products have a competitive edge.

CIOs should also implement resilient cybersecurity to help build sustainable protection that supports business outcomes without straining them. This, he said, is IT for sustainable growth.

IT force multipliers to deliver sustainable growth

Nunno stated that 79% of all workers see technology as essential to their jobs, while 75% see improving their digital skills as important to business success. IT is both the epicenter of the talent crisis and the solution, she said.

New data from a Gartner survey of job seekers found that one of their top three pain points are “annoying or cumbersome application technologies or portals.” As a result, many abandoned the job application process, turned down a job offer or wrote a bad review of the company, Nunno said.

Additionally, workers satisfied with their enterprise IT job applications are twice as inclined to stay in their organizations, which has a huge impact on retention, she said.

“Workers with all the technology they need are less fatigued, have a higher intent to stay,’’ and perform at a higher rate, Nunno said. But only one in three report they have all the technology they need to work effectively.

This creates a tremendous opportunity for CIOs, Nunno said, noting Gartner predicts by 2025 that 50% of IT organizations will have established a digital employee experience strategy, team and management tool, which is a major increase from 5% in 2021.

“Become the employer of choice,’’ Nunno said.

Gartner identifies friction as when work is unnecessarily hard. One force multiplier is to identify the friction points in work and “ruthlessly eliminate them,’’ she said.

Another force multiplier is to invest aggressively in AI augmentation. “If we want to create sustainable performance, we must rethink our relationship with productivity. Stop focusing on productivity and focus on impact,’’ Nunno said.

AI augmentation is another force multiplier because it can increase the impact of your employees by extending their reach, range and capabilities, such as decision making, she said.

Another IT force multiplier is to experiment with the highly visible, highly hyped technologies, because barriers to innovation create friction, she said.

Nunno suggested that organizations should experiment and innovate during economic tough times to stay ahead of the pack. “The organizations that do so publicly attract the best new pack members,’’ she said. “Find room in your budgets to be bold.”

SEE: How CIOs can defend against IT budget cuts (TechRepublic)

For example, many organizations are struggling with hybrid work, which is damaging corporate culture, according to Nunno. It is a myth that corporate culture only happens in the office. “Culture happens in an endless number of digital spaces and experiences.”

She added that, “Technology is the new epicenter of corporate culture.” Your ability to dynamically change the hard code of your culture is a measure of your ability to innovate, Nunno said.

One potentially helpful innovation for hybrid work is the intraverse, which is an emerging virtual office concept that incorporates metaverse technologies to bring employees together in immersive meetings to collaborate, connect and innovate, Nunnos said.

“Imagine how your employees would feel even if you invested a little in new immersive technologies and let them experiment and find new ways to make an impact,’’ she said. She advised CIOs to “be a little dangerous with leading edge technologies” to attract and retain the kind of talent that wants to stay ahead of the pack.

Ensure your workforce can deliver sustainable results

Responsible investment is a two-for-one deal for achieving sustainable growth and results, Moyer said. It delivers financial and sustainability outcomes at the same time.

The next stage of digital will power sustainability outcomes, she said. Sustainability is increasing our digital maturity, and digital is increasing our sustainable maturity—a virtuous cycle, she said.

For example, it was noted that if you invest in AI for route optimization to reduce costs, you will also reduce greenhouse gas at the same time, which is a two-for-one investment.

Force multipliers that are two-for-ones include intelligent connected infrastructure. An example would be a bridge that warns of black ice in 100 feet, Moyer said.

Another force multiplier is autonomous sourcing, which she likened to “online dating for suppliers, without all the riff-raff.” Autonomous sourcing uses AI, machine learning and natural language processing to get access to a wider range of suppliers and automates the process.

The last force multiplier here is digitally reducing energy usage. Gartner predicts by 2030 digital technologies will reduce 10% to 20% of the carbon emissions required to limit global warming, she said.

However, the caveat is that this will require putting the enterprise on an “energy diet” and taking digital to the next level. Start with IT and optimize compute and storage utilization and include energy efficiency in your choices, Moyer said.

“Move more to cloud but make sure the cloud will help more than hurt because some cloud data centers use coal while others use renewable energy,’’ she noted. The same is true of AI—make sure it will help more than hurt.

Create resilient cybersecurity

Proctor told the audience that “You’re being hacked daily,’’ and that resiliency needs to be a business model with resilient cybersecurity treated as a business problem, not a technical one.

The first force multiplier is to manage your attack surface with external attack surface management to orchestrate all the actions and investments across the software supply chain. This will help you discover all external facing vulnerable assets, Proctor said.

Use software composition analysis to gain visibility into the flaws in your software supply chain, he advised.

The second force multiplier is to prioritize the most important business outcomes and most critical tech dependencies by identifying the dependencies.

The third force multiplier is to use outcome-driven metrics and protection-level agreements to decide how much security you want and how much you want to spend. This makes security explainable to boards and stakeholders, he said.

“Consider investing in security as a competitive advantage,’’ Proctor said. “Protecting your brand makes you an employer of choice and a supplier of choice.”

He advised the audience to stop investing in security tools and start investing in security outcomes.

“Choose the technologies that match the ambitions and risk appetite of your organization,’’ Proctor said. Also, as CIOs, you should demonstrate your leadership and vision, he added.

“Work with your executive peers to use force multipliers to help your organization achieve IT for sustainable growth,’’ Proctor said.

Summing up the actions to deliver IT for sustainable growth, Moyer stressed that CIOs should revolutionize work by creating an IT-enabled brand. Make IT the epicenter of your talent strategy, she said. Deliver resilient cybersecurity to create a long-term competitive advantage.

“You are the ultimate force multiplier. You … will deliver IT for sustainable growth,” she said.

One way to create cyber resiliency is managing your cybersecurity risk–this security risk assessment checklist from TechRepublic Premium can help.

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