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CIO Snapshot: Speed of change, cloud among biggest CIO challenges

We asked IT leaders their opinion of the biggest CIO challenges. Change management, moving to cloud and customer service head the list.

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Technology never sleeps. So it stands to reason there are some things that keep IT leaders up at night. SearchCIO asked IT leaders what they see as the biggest CIO challenges today and in the near future. 

This CIO Snapshot offers a sampling of their responses. They range from the challenge of really living up to the ever-important "know thy customer" rule to the urgency of gaining ground on cloud computing. Be sure to check out our User Engagement Question at the end of this piece to share what you think are the biggest challenges facing CIOs.

Meeting customers' needs

Brad RohrerBrad Rohrer,
Deputy CIO,
University of Miami

We service varied sets of needs here. And they all want something that's a little bit different from IT. It's about understanding, right now, the people we serve and their mission and ultimately the mission we inherit from them. We need to look at what's out there and know when to choose which solution to satisfy their needs. For example, researchers just want to go fast and they don't want to lose data. They don't care if data restore happens in three weeks, as long as you've got it. Clinical is very different. They want to be stable and steady; they need to stay up during a hurricane so we have to design very differently to satisfy their needs.

The challenge for CIOs is to know their customers well enough to make the best choices when it comes to technology and services. That's what we're trying to do here. For example, we chose a medical records system, Epic, that doesn't offer hosted solutions for the version we chose, so we have to handle that one ourselves for now. That was kind of a tough choice, but it was the right choice for the University of Miami and for the healthcare environment. The flip side is with ERP, where there were very good, viable options that were superior or as good as the options we could host ourselves, and again we chose the right tool for the university. You have to be a partner to all of the people that you service.

The shift to cloud computing

Alexander PasikAlexander Pasik,
CIO, IEEE

I think the biggest issue we have right now is that industry is shifting, I think appropriately, to cloud computing. And the problem is that there is so much existing investment in on-premises legacy systems and there is so much advantage to cloud solutions that CIOs have to come up with a plan -- and maybe it's a multi-year plan -- of how to transition their systems to cloud solutions. 

When I was CIO at the Guggenheim, there was essentially nothing in the cloud when I joined; when I left, about 70% of our applications were cloud-based. Granted, I tend to be a little more aggressive than most. And here at IEEE it's a lot more difficult because there's a lot more investment in our on-premises data center. But nevertheless, we are systematically looking for opportunities to move applications to SaaS [Software as a Service] versions from other vendors or Infrastructure as a Service versions where we're just taking existing systems and moving them out to cloud-based infrastructure. 

Managing the speed of change

Tom LaPlanteTom LaPlante, CIO,
TopGolf International Inc.

Just managing the change is the biggest challenge, whether it's change in business, change in personnel, change in the technology, obviously, or change in what the business wants to do. The speed of change seems to continue to increase, as far as BI tools, tablets, the latest version of iOS, and smartphones and other devices that have come out. And then you must handle managing people's ability to absorb that change.

More on CIO challenges

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An Agile approach helps overcome IT obstacles

To do that, you can go back to some of the basics. We don't want to stifle people with the change management process and create it to where it's too cumbersome, but you do need some structure. As a management team, I think we're trying to be judicious and thoughtful about what it is we're implementing. There's a lot of it you can have control over and pick and choose, and there have been times when we've said, 'OK, this [technology] is ready, but as an organization we're not ready for it so we're going to delay it for a certain period of time.'

Keeping up with what's new

Jay Wessel Jay Wessland,
VP of Technology,
Boston Celtics

Staying current is really difficult; there's so much going on everywhere. Sifting through what's important and what's not is tough; it's the old separating the wheat from the chaff. If you read through the hundreds of technology sites where you can get a big list of everything that's happening in the tech world that day, you have to ask, 'Which of these things are at all relevant to the world, or will be relevant next year, next month, in two years?' And then more specifically which ones are relevant to me next month, next year, in two years. 

There's no good answer because if people could predict that, they'd all be rich, including myself. So I’m constantly filtering in my mind what makes sense and what doesn't make sense, what I think is important and what I think is not important. That's a challenge.

This was first published in January 2014

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The CIO cloud blueprint: A strategic planning guide
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