What Gives IT Leaders Nightmares?

The perennial question of what keeps CIOs and other technology leaders up at night changes from one decade to another, but some issues that have plagued IT organizations for years have become even more virulent. These include balancing limited budgets with increasing demands for technology, keeping up with the latest tech trends and finding staff with the right skills.

These issues were highlighted at a recent IBM Webcast entitled “What Keeps CIOs Up at Night?” The moderator, Virginia Sharma, vice president of marketing at IBM’s North America Systems and Technology Group, queried the three-person panel about their take on these challenges. The panel included Roxanne Reynolds-Lair, CIO of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM); Peter Elliot, marketing director at systems integrator Key Information Systems; and Joe Clabby, president of research firm Clabby Analytics.

“My number-one concern is balancing our limited resources with the increasing demands our IT organization faces,” FIDM ‘s Reynolds-Lair reported. “These demands include regulatory concerns, licensing, compliance and keeping up with new technologies.”

“Managing IT with restricted budgets is a big concern of our customers as well,” added Elliot of Key Information Systems. “Balancing needs with costs is very important to all IT organizations.”

Reynolds-Lair’s number-two concern is the need to be forward-thinking when deploying technology—to choose technologies that will scale to meet future needs. She stressed that any new technology should be intuitive and easy to implement—without breaking the budget.

As an example, she discussed FIDM’s mobile app development. When the IT organization started this project, it embedded a feedback form in the app so the school’s students could critique the app. “Students were very happy with it,” she said. “They said they wanted more—now. So we’re working on that.”

The number-three concern of Reynolds-Lair is one that almost every IT leader has to deal with: the need to find and retain the right staff. Also, a trusted technology partner that can help implement new systems is critical to an organization’s success, she added.

IT organizations also need to partner with other departments in their enterprise, Elliot emphasized. As an example, he said that “CIOs and CMOs should work very closely together” on technology deployments.

The need to run an efficient IT organization was another concern of the panelists. Clabby of Clabby Analytics pointed out that achieving efficiency and a solid ROI requires IT to choose the right systems and software, as well as the right people. “Infrastructure is more and more important,” he noted.

Reynolds-Lair agreed. “We need to maximize our technology investments and build on the existing infrastructure,” she said. “We have an integrated platform, and we don’t want to do a ‘rip and replace.'”

Another hot-button concern for the panelists—and for IT professionals in general—is security. “There are so many security points of failure,” Reynolds-Lair pointed out, “so many points of entry that are vulnerable.”

“How can we protect massive amounts of data 100 percent of the time?” Clabby asked. He added that there are multiple copies of documents “flying around organizations,” and many enterprises are losing control of their data.

Clabby said analytics can help take control of data and find anomalies in the data that can prevent fraud. However, he remarked that analytics programs “need to be easier to use. You shouldn’t have to be a data scientist to use one.”

A final point in the panel discussion concerned the need for IT organizations to be innovative. That’s something Reynolds-Lair agreed with. “We do focus on innovation—not simply keeping the lights on,” she stressed.