Digital shift for business
The findings from the latest Coeus Consulting (www.coeusconsulting.co.uk) CIO and IT Leadership Survey 2021 reveals that amongst senior IT leaders, over half (53%) claimed that during the pandemic they were able to implement a strategic shift of their entire business operations to digital and almost three quarters (68%) of respondents either strongly, or generally agreed, that acceleration helped them to digitalise more of their operations.

Many organizations were still amid their digital journeys or in the planning stages when they had to re-prioritise and pause non-urgent initiatives to focus on operational continuity during the pandemic, with 70% prioritizing end user solutions (EUS) such as remote working, with 52% prioritizing operational stability, closely followed by cost optimization at 50%.

“The proficiency that businesses have demonstrated in their prioritization and acceleration of critical initiatives is a huge triumph.  Being able to re-direct resources and cutting down their time to market in digitalizing the organization is no easy feat, particularly in the throes of a global pandemic” says Ben Barry, Director, Coeus Consulting.  

“Despite this, the speed at which organizations were forced to adapt meant that short term and tactical business decisions had to be made, and our survey found that over three-quarters (78%) of respondents say they had to implement ‘quick fix’ solutions.”

“Businesses will need to revisit these over the coming months to build on these capabilities with more permanent solutions for the future and ensure that all changes made in response to the pandemic are assessed to identify any tactical risks accepted and create a plan to mitigate, update or accept all of them,” continues Barry.

In deploying ‘quick-fix’ solutions, organizations were confronted with operational, as well as strategic difficulties including agreeing priority changes, implementing the solution and post implementation, each of which encompassed numerous challenges.

Challenges in agreeing the priorities for 2020 included security, which was key for over half of the respondents.  This was followed by governance constraints (44%), business risk aversion (37%), employee reluctance/education (32%) and board level resistance (22%).   In addition, for 50% of respondents cost of implementation remained the biggest challenge, followed by delivery of bandwidth (42%), integration difficulties (41%) and lack of skills and expertise (37%).

Post implementation challenges including respondents experiencing negative process impacts and increased operating costs were cited by 53% and 45% respectively.   Customer and user perceptions were also adversely affected for almost 40% as organizations tackled uncertainty and their own internal changes.  

“These factors were likely exacerbated by the fact that business and IT leaders had to make these decisions rapidly and in a short time frame, having to balance risk with maintaining operational continuity,” explains Barry.

However, 82% of respondents agreed that business and IT leadership played a key role in improving ways of working and minimising disruption across the business.  Furthermore, almost 70% stated that IT leaders were crucial in accelerating large scale deployments in EUS and about a third prioritized initiatives in improving customer experience, increasing revenues and developing or changing products.  

“Almost two-thirds of organizations noted they had received additional funding to help accelerate priority projects, but a large majority of those surveyed (63%) agreed that re-scoping, undoing projects, renegotiating and stalling contracts, as well as redeploying resources, will likely cause ongoing business impacts, and we would expect the cost of doing so to be significantly high,” continued Barry.  

Despite challenges with costs, the survey revealed that when it comes to IT budget expectations 28.6% of CIOs across all sectors are expecting their budgets to remain untouched, whilst 21.1% expect budgets to increase as businesses recognize that IT is a critical part of delivery in all sectors.

“As we move forward, organisations must reflect on these implementations, challenges and the role of IT as they look to establish a more permanent shift to a new hybrid workforce in the future,” says Barry.

“IT Leaders and their teams have had a great opportunity to show their value and will continue to drive the strategic agenda in 2021 and beyond.  This increased visibility and the business’ dependence on IT has given them an opportunity to demonstrate that IT leads in terms of business transformation, and should be funded accordingly.”

Readers can download the full survey at 
www.coeus.consulting/en-gb/cio-and-it-leadership-survey-2021-acceleration