CIO priorities: What must we do better in 2011?

A panel of CIOs spell out their New Year's resolutions...

...recalibrate the IT governance model," says Adam Gerrard, group CIO at Avis Europe. It is a suggestion that chimes with Kingfisher group IT director Mike Bell, who says a tight grip on governance is the only way to deliver business benefits.

"I've spent almost two years telling project sponsors and the operating groups responsible for technology what I expect them to do," he says. "I also work with suppliers, telling them what I want from them. Governance is about good processes inside and outside - and that will never go away."

3. Dealing with risk management

Economic uncertainty has been accompanied by technological transformation. It is a confluence of conditions that creates a spike in demand for leading-edge IT from the business.

"There has never been enough time for an IT team to deliver the perfect solution, but now we must be prepared to factor in some risk to keep pace with the business and the consumer," says Avis Europe's Gerrard.

"These risks must be carefully managed, consequences clearly communicated and adequate levels of mitigation agreed with the leadership team of the organisation."

Understanding existing resources and the potential for new capabilities will be crucial. To this point, easyJet CIO Trevor Didcock says really effective portfolio management will be a priority. "We are increasing our development spend, and resourcing and dependency management are real challenges," he says.

Expansion requires the identification of new opportunities, with advanced business intelligence and analytics playing a crucial role: "Knowledge and information allows me to provide information to the business to help with decisions regarding customers, supply-chain costs and procurement," says Kingfisher's Bell.

4. Attracting and retaining talent

There are multiple reasons for a concentration on talent. Money remains tight, especially in the public sector, and good staff will be expected to deliver more and often with less. But at the same time, organisations will be under severe pressure to grow.

Businesses that are best placed to emerge successfully from the downturn will be those that have worked hard to maintain a competitive edge. That level of competition is taking an increasingly global perspective, as new countries take advantage of new technologies to assert their position in the world economy.

"There will be a battle to source the best of the scarce IT talent in most geographies," recognises Avis Europe's Gerrard. "For those organisations that already have a high-performing team, significant focus will be required to ensure that the best performers are retained throughout the next 12 months."

Trevor Didcock, CIO at easyJet, also says talent retention will be a key priority for CIOs through 2011: "It's all about getting and keeping real spirit and engagement across the team," he says.

5. Engaging through mobile and social technology

Analyst Gartner says mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide by 2013. As a consequence, CIOs will have to ensure their various web-based platforms can cope with the requirements of mobile operating systems.

The mobile push will be allied to networked collaboration, as organisations rush to capitalise on social media and emerging consumer technology. The clamour from the business will be such that demand for cool technology is likely to outstrip demand, says Avis Europe's Gerrard.

Further attention will have to be paid to other areas of related technology development, such as user experience. As edge IPK CTO Dharmesh Mistry notes, successful engagement will necessitate a consistent experience for the individual across multiple online channels and devices.

The conclusion is simple: "CIOs simply must prioritise making their content and services available via mobile devices," says easyJet's Didcock.

By Mark Samuels

Mark Samuels is a business journalist and editor at IT leadership organisation CIO Connect. He has written for various organisations, including the Economist Intelligence Unit, Guardian Government Computing and Times Higher Education.