Analysts Answer: What Leadership Challenges Will CIOs Face in 2020?

September 25, 2019

Contributor: Kasey Panetta

From changing leadership mindsets to dealing with disruption, CIOs will face numerous challenges in the next year.

The role of the CIO is evolving from technology expert to business strategist, and IT executives are facing some serious leadership challenges. Ahead of Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2019, Smarter With Gartner reached out to Gartner experts presenting at the conference to ask what leadership challenges IT leaders are facing and how to tackle them.

A changing leadership mindset

Christie Struckman, VP Analyst

The biggest leadership challenge in 2020 is for CIOs to shift their mindset from being a technology executive to a general manager of the business. Recognizing that their executive peers are all general managers, just with different sources of expertise (finance, operations, sales, and for the CIO, technology) levels the mental playing field.

CIOs can then build on the strengths that they hone through IT work — managing complexity and change — to partner strategically with their general manager peers to achieve the digital ambitions of the business. But it starts with CIOs adopting their own learning mindset — unlearning, learning, and relearning, and being willing to let go of biases and beliefs that could hold them back.

See Christie at her IT Symposium/Xpo sessions:

  • Step Into the Leadership Gaps in the C-Suite: Behave for the Role You Want (Orlando, São Paulo and Goa)

Dealing with disruption

Helen Huntley, Managing Vice President

Disruptions always occur and often they can be seen coming; however, most CIOs are far too reactionary in their actions against disruption and changing conditions. They must have a proactive strategy that prepares them to deal with disruption before it occurs — and they must identify which role should be responsible for addressing and taking ownership of disruption-related issues. When disruption hits, CIOs have two choices: Play defense and try to resist this force to maintain their existing mindsets and practices or embrace them as opportunities to explore, learn and develop the next practices for success. 

See Helen at her IT Symposium/Xpo sessions:

  • Six Steps for Dealing With Digital Disruption Intentionally Versus Accidentally (Barcelona and Orlando)
  • Ask the Expert: Insourcing — Myth or Reality? (Barcelona)

Expanding responsibility

Frank Buytendijk, Distinguished VP Analyst

CIOs see an expanded responsibility, not only for the digital business, but for how their decisions around the use of technology and data influence the digital society as well. The challenge for CIOs is to develop a vision of how they see their influence on society, and make it an impactful and a positive one. 

See Frank at his IT Symposium/Xpo sessions:

  • The Future of Data and Analytics: Tales and Trends From the Center to the Edge (Orlando)
  • Artificial Intelligence and Ethics: What You Need to Do Today (Orlando and Barcelona)
  • Digitopia 2035 – Why the Future Has a Bad Rep and How the “Pragmatic Futurist” Will Save the Day (Orlando and Barcelona)

Leveraging analytics and focusing on specific issues

Cassio Dreyfuss, VP Analyst

We are living in an “undisciplined environment” where too many threats and opportunities, coming too fast from too many directions, compete for leaders’ attention and action. To focus their attention meaningfully, leaders will need to leverage their analytic skills and be very selective on the issues they address. To make their actions effective, they will have to develop trusted relationships, inspiring and coaching people to collaborate and drive business forward.

See Cassio at his IT Symposium/Xpo sessions:

  • The CIO Toolbox for 2020: Complexity Demands Focus, Discipline and a Bias for Simplicity (Orlando,  São Paulo and Barcelona)
  • Digital Business Demands a New Leadership Style — The Why, What and How (Orlando and Barcelona)
  • Business as Usual and Digital Transformation — CIOs Will Orchestrate Them to Optimize Outcomes (Barcelona)

Finding the right talent

Gene Alvarez, Distinguished VP Analyst

In 2020, CIOs will face three key challenges as the applications they manage change to meet evolving business, customer and employee needs: 

  1. Enabling and balancing product and project management of applications to focus on delivering business outcomes while maintaining highly reliable core business operations. 
  2. Delivering great customer applications experience to end customers and employees. 
  3. Finding and upskilling talent to support new technologies such as low code-tools, API-centric SaaS and APIs for integration that will drive the future of applications.

See Gene at his IT Symposium/Xpo sessions:

  • Three Bold Strategies for Customer Experience Victory (Sao Paulo)
  • CIO Panel: Getting to CIO and Beyond No Matter Where You Came From (Orlando)
  • CIOs Must Drive Customer Experience Strategy to Succeed in Digital Business (Orlando and Goa)
  • How CIOs Can Drive a Culture of Customer Centricity (Goa)

Scaling innovation

Nicholas Evans, VP Analyst

One of the perennial issues CIOs face is in scaling innovation — successfully taking ideas from concept to value. To do this, they must navigate a number of pitfalls across the leadership disciplines of strategy, culture and process. The good news is that although there are many pitfalls along the way, there are also a number of proven approaches and go-to techniques to minimize these pitfalls — or even avoid them entirely. CIOs can respond by tapping into some of the go-to techniques of the “innovation heavyweights” and implementing within their own organizations in their own style.

See Nicholas at his IT Symposium/Xpo sessions: 

  • Navigate the 9 Common Pitfalls to Scaling Innovation (Orlando and Barcelona)

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