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IT goals for 2018: Five CIO must-dos

Niel Nickolaisen closes the books on 2017 and lays out IT objectives for 2018. Flexible architecture and bleeding-edge tech, along with building your business cred, loom large.

For me, 2017 was a good year. We got a lot done. And the situation in the world -- everything moving at a faster...

pace, constant change, new types of security threats, new technologies, new vendors, acquisitions, the on-going IT skills shortage and so on -- made it easier for me to make the case that we urgently needed to overhaul our organizational culture, processes and technologies.

Last year, in my end-of-year article, I laid out four IT goals for CIOs:

  • Do something with advanced analytics. Use machine learning, artificial intelligence or deep learning to, in a low-cost way, solve a nagging operational or market problem.
  • Continue to evolve security practices and tools to deal with changes in the threat landscape. In particular, sort out how to support the "right to be forgotten" (which is essential to General Data Protection Regulation).
  • Embrace IT specialization by taking one thing you do today and letting someone else -- someone with market-leading expertise -- take this on so that you and your team can focus on what creates your competitive advantage.
  • Get good at containers and orchestration.

In retrospect, these seem like good suggestions. Good enough that I want to give you my top IT goals for 2018.

Top five IT goals for CIOs in 2018

As IT leaders, we need to exert influence well beyond our positional role. We need to convince our leadership team peers, our bosses and our boards of directors that we are business leaders who have mastered technology.

1. Select and modernize a monolithic application. Monolithic applications -- with hard-coded connections to various functional elements and features -- tend to be complex, fragile and difficult to change. In a world that is moving fast, we cannot have difficult-to-revise applications in our portfolios. So, select an application that is something of a Gordian Knot and use a service-oriented, microservices architecture to break it into pieces that talk to each other via a managed-API structure. This architecture allows us to make changes to one of the pieces without critically wounding the other pieces -- as long as each piece continues to get the information it needs, via the proper APIs. This allows everything to do its work and we achieve the loose coupling that is built for speed and agility.

2. Move a nontraditional workload to a cloud platform provider. In our case, we are moving our enterprise data warehouse from our on-premises hardware into the similar service provided by our preferred cloud provider. Doing this helps build a couple of critical capabilities that we need now and will need in the future. First, it makes a service portable -- in a future characterized by uncertainty, we need to know how to change the location of all of our services. Making services portable forces us to achieve some level of loose coupling, and loose coupling (see suggestion No. 1) is critical in a world of uncertainty. Second, doing this helps us learn how to move things around -- and that will happen more and more in the future as we achieve even higher levels of IT specialization.

3. Form a relationship with a local technical training provider. This might be a university, college or a private training provider. Then build a formal apprenticeship program in which you take training program graduates (or near graduates) and help them achieve IT skills mastery. There is a shortage of IT skills. In parallel, there are a number of under-employed people who have the aptitude -- but not the training -- to fill IT roles. By combining an apprenticeship program with a training program, we can help create a win-win situation in which we help people get on a solid career path and meet our need IT skills.

4. Take on a non-IT initiative. As IT leaders, we need to exert influence well beyond our positional role. We need to convince our leadership team peers, our bosses and our boards of directors that we are business leaders who have mastered technology. To build our credibility as business leaders (and not just IT leaders) find a non-IT project or need and volunteer to lead the work. The rest of our world needs to know that we understand customer needs, operational processes and how to make things better. As technology becomes the driver in our society, we need to become the chief possibilities officers everyone else trusts to lead us into this fast-moving future.

5. Select and play with a bleeding-edge technology. There are a number of new and interesting technologies that deserve a look. We are looking at blockchain to overhaul our approach to identity management and data privacy. A number of other new and interesting technologies are in critical areas like information security, process automation, artificial intelligence/machine learning/deep learning, DevOps, communications/collaboration, blockchain and social. We all need the ability to successfully assess, define a business case and deploy new technologies; 2018 is the year to figure this out -- each year will bring more technology innovations and we do not want to be left behind.

Well, there it is -- my list of IT goals I believe each and every IT leader should do in 2018. These give IT goals will not only improve service delivery in 2018, but also build the capabilities we need as the world becomes more technological and as our roles shift from overseeing operational support to defining our organizational future. Go forth and prosper, fellow chief possibilities officers!

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