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10 factors reshaping the role of the CIO in 2024

CIOs will approach the evolving pace of technology, demands for innovation and increasing pressure for efficiency with new urgency. Discover the factors driving these challenges.

After a year of rapid transformation, much of it led by generative AI, CIOs are expecting similar disruptions in 2024.

Analysts, researchers, executive consultants and CIOs predict that many factors will affect enterprise strategies and, thus, the expectations of both IT and IT leaders. As all those factors come together, they'll produce a similarly fast-paced, high-pressure adventure for CIOs in 2024.

Although predictions vary, the consensus is that CIOs will continue seeing technology evolve at a good rate, growing demands for innovation and encounter increasing pressure for efficiency. But multiple IT leaders said those issues will take on new urgency as markets, technologies, people and the world itself change in the months ahead.

With that in mind, here are 10 factors that will reshape the CIO role in 2024.

1. Generative AI and AI overall

Generative AI (GenAI) suddenly appeared in late 2022. It enthralled some, terrified others and confounded many more throughout 2023. It's no surprise that AI remains a top topic for CIOs.

"GenAI and all the things happening with it and all the innovations around it are going to affect CIOs across the board," said Josh Lazar, founder and CEO at IT services company TechThinkTank.

Its impact on the CIO's role will continue to be significant, he and others said.

IT departments already are contending with a slew of issues, from innovating with the technology to controlling the risks of sanctioned and unsanctioned use of GenAI among employees.

Moving forward, CIOs must continue to help their C-suite colleagues navigate AI-enabled transformations, the societal anxieties associated with the use of AI and the anticipated government regulations for the technology.

"CIOs need to be on top of all that, as organizations will look to CIOs for guidance and information on GenAI and what to do with it," said Giacomo Mascillaro, a technology and cybersecurity leader at Konversant.Net.

According to the "2023 SIM IT Trend Study" by the Society of Information Management, AI and machine learning as a category ranked sixth out of a list of 30 important IT management concerns -- up from 22nd place in 2022.

2. A growing enthusiasm for emerging technology

GenAI isn't the only tech gaining attention. Enterprise executives are interested in emerging tech as a whole much more than before, said Marcus Murph, a principal at professional services firm KPMG working in advisory and digital enablement.

He pointed to the findings in the "2023 KPMG US Technology Survey Report," which found that the number of businesses with leadership buy-in for emerging tech jumped from 10% to 32% in just one year.

Murph credited AI for boosting executive enthusiasm in this space.

"The AI family of technologies has really changed interest among leadership wanting to spend money on emerging tech," he said. "So CIOs are going to have to get really good at managing expectations, helping [their colleagues] understand that these technologies aren't going to solve every problem and that they also come with a tremendous amount of risk."

Other research indicates where companies will be investing. For example, the 2024 iteration of the "Annual CIO Survey Report" from Info-Tech Research Group found that the top five technologies for new planned spending are AI, robotic process automation or intelligent process automation, no-code/low-code platforms, data management solutions and IoT.

3. Even more investments in technology by business units

That increased enthusiasm for technology has led to higher levels of business unit spending on technology, Murph said.

Data backs that statement up. Gartner found that 41% of employees acquired, modified or created tech outside of IT's visibility in 2022. It estimated that figure will climb to 75% by 2027.

Such findings have an impact, Murph said, as CIOs find that such spending can upset an enterprise digital agenda. He noted that the No. 1 challenge slowing transformation among the 400 U.S. enterprise technology leaders surveyed for the KMPG report was IT's lack of governance and coordination.

"That stuck out as a billboard-level highlight in our recent tech survey," Murph said. "Technology has become so easy to procure that anyone can buy it, and then you might have multiple agendas that aren't very well aligned. So CIOs need to step up to make sure they're seen as senior leaders at the table driving the transformation agenda."

Role of the CIO.
The CIO's role in the enterprise will continue to evolve in 2024, shaped by these factors.

4. The economy

CIOs are also affected by economic uncertainties heading into 2024 that will create challenges in formulating plans and strategies for IT, according to multiple sources.

"CIOs don't know what to prepare for," Mascillaro said.

CIOs have their budgets set for 2024. But Mascillaro said lingering questions about whether the economy will stay resilient or fall into a recession mean CIOs need to think about what tweaks they might have to make.

Additionally, those economic uncertainties have CIOs under more pressure to get better returns and prioritizing more projects that generate efficiencies and cost savings.

5. The expectation to do more with less

On a related note, CIOs are reporting that they are being asked to do more work with less resources in 2024, Murph said. He noted that this scenario is a result of the "tremendous amount of uncertainty in what's going on in the market."

Although reports show that many CIO are getting more money in their 2024 budgets, Murph said the extra money doesn't go that far since inflation has taken a bite out of many budget increases.

Consequently, CIOs are putting more attention on optimization, said Marc Tanowitz, managing partner for advisory and transformation at management consulting firm West Monroe.

Tanowitz said he expects CIOs will spend more time in the upcoming months rationalizing the IT environment as well as cutting duplicate and excess resources to bring down costs.

6. Innovation

Meanwhile, CIOs are expected to keep up their innovation efforts, said Allen Smith, CIO at advisory CPA firm Baker Tilly U.S. He believes "run, grow, transform" will remain the mantra for 2024.

"It's really a balancing act between running a hyper-efficient operational technology department while, at the same time, being very innovative and investing in the future," he said. "Economic forecasting is challenging right now, so CIOs do need to do the blocking and tackling that can save money. And they need to find efficiencies where they can while still making investments in new technology and innovations."

7. IT-business alignment giving way to shared accountability

IT's place in the enterprise has evolved from a back-office function to one that enables the business. Now it's making another transition, experts said.

"The CIO today is really driving the business strategy, not just following it. They're leading the business strategically," said Mark Taylor, CEO at SIM.

Others also cited this evolution as an important factor shaping the role of the CIO in 2024. CIOs are taking on more shared responsibility and accountability for traditional measures of business success, such as increasing sales, revenue growth and profitability.

The "2024 Gartner CIO and Technology Executive Survey," which surveyed 2,457 CIOs, found that "45% of CIOs are beginning to work with their CxO peers to bring IT and business area staff together to co-lead digital delivery on an enterprise-wide scale."

"CIOs used to determine business strategy and then figure out how technology can support it," Smith observed. "Now the technology and business strategy are one and the same."

8. Cybersecurity

CIOs continue to rank cybersecurity as a top-level concern in the face of ever-increasing numbers of security threats, according to researchers, analysts and CIOs themselves.

CIO respondents in the SIM survey, for example, ranked cybersecurity as their second greatest concern. A multitude of concerns and challenges fall into this security bucket, Tanowitz said.

In addition to risks from internal threats and external bad actor threats, CIOs are focused on helping their organizations ensure they're meeting data privacy standards whether they're set by requirements, customer expectations or both.

As if those weren't difficult enough tasks, the growing use of AI -- and particularly the use of GenAI -- has made such work even more challenging and critical.

Tanowitz and others said cybersecurity has CIOs working alongside their chief information security officers to implement new technologies and adopt more modern approaches, such as the zero-trust security model.

Reports showcase this trend. According to the Info-Tech Research Group survey noted prior, 66% of CIO respondents list identifying risks and improving security as one of their top use cases for AI. That makes cybersecurity their No. 3 AI use case, just after business analytics/intelligence at 69% and automating low-level tasks at 68%.

Meanwhile, the Gartner survey found that the top area of increasing investments for CIOs in 2024 will be cybersecurity, with 80% of respondents stating that they're getting more money to bolster their security postures.

9. All things data

CIOs are also investing more in data programs. The Gartner survey, for example, found that 78% of CIOs will increase their business intelligence and data analytics investments in 2024.

Such figures aren't surprising, as executives now recognize data as one of their most valuable assets, one that can help them perform better and differentiate themselves in the market.

"AI and analytics feed on the quality of data, so data is going to continue to be an issue for CIOs," Mascillaro said. "You're also likely to see data investments on governance and in projects to clean up the data."

10. Tech talent

Despite some headline-making layoffs at tech firms last year, demand for tech talent remains strong and will likely stay that way throughout 2024.

The unemployment rate for technologists was a mere 1.7% in November 2023, less than half of the national unemployment rate of 3.7%, according to IT training and certification organization CompTIA.

That high demand/low supply of tech talent, and the corresponding high costs of getting and keeping talent, will keep CIOs focused on their personnel strategies, said Joe Puglisi, a longtime CIO now serving as an IT advisor and SIM leader.

"Talent is the watch word for 2024 and beyond," he added.

Mary K. Pratt is an award-winning freelance journalist with a focus on covering enterprise IT and cybersecurity management.

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