10 projects top of mind for IT leaders today – CIO

The CIO position has morphed since its inception 40 years ago, shifting from a nuts-and-bolts techie job to an increasingly business- and strategy-focused executive role.
Nearly half (49%) of IT leaders responding to the 2024 State of the CIO Study from Foundry, publisher of CIO.com, say they expect to play more of a strategic role in the upcoming years, with another 36% anticipating a heavy emphasis on transformational responsibilities.
That shift is reflected in the initiatives CIOs increasingly find themselves spending more time on. Long and varied, the list focuses on delivering impactful results for the business, further reshaping the responsibilities and outlook for the CIO role.
A mix of IT mainstays and business differentiators, these “top-of-mind” projects hint at where IT is headed in years ahead. From AI and data analytics, to customer and employee experience, here’s a look at strategic areas and initiatives IT leaders expect to spend more time on this year, according to the State of the CIO.
Unsurprisingly, AI and machine learning top the list of initiatives CIOs expect their involvement to increase in the coming year, with 80% of respondents to the State of the CIO survey saying so.
Other surveys offer similar findings. Tech services provider Logicalis found in its 2024 Global CIO Report that 89% of CIOs reported “actively seeking opportunities to incorporate AI capabilities into their companies,” making it the No. 1 priority among its respondents as well.
Although AI, machine learning, and generative AI — the more recent entrant in the space — are not new, they are becoming more mature, mainstream technologies. This has CIOs moving from experimenting and testing intelligence in pockets to scaling up deployments and rolling out intelligence throughout their organizations.
The approach taken by James Phillips, CIO at software maker Rev.io, reflects that trend. He has set up an AI program centered around identifying business use cases where intelligence could have an impact, such as solving a problem or streamlining a process. A committee reviews potential projects and expected returns, to ensure the company is pursuing impactful AI initiatives.
“We’re making sure they’re the right projects to move forward,” Philips says.
The February ransomware attack on UnitedHealth Group’s Change Healthcare unit reinforced cybersecurity as a pressing concern for executives across the country, and the continuing fallout that includes a federal investigation keeping the issue in the spotlight.
This attack and a steady drumbeat of others over the years have put cybersecurity front and center not only for CISOs but for CIOs, too, says Chad Anderson, assistant professor of information systems and analytics at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business.
“Events like the UnitedHealthcare attack drives conversations around cybersecurity and whether companies are putting enough resources into their own security programs,” he says.
The State of the CIO research confirms that observation, with 70% of CIOs listing cybersecurity as an area of increasing involvement, coming in just after AI. And CIOs said the need for security improvements is the top driver of IT budget increases.
Krishna Prasad, chief strategy officer and CIO at UST, a digital transformation solutions company, says that cybersecurity not only remains top of mind but an area of significant work for IT as it’s tasked with executing much of the risk-mitigation efforts. Prasad, other tech execs, IT researchers, and market reports cite multiple areas of increasing IT involvement in cybersecurity-related projects. Those projects include implementing cloud-based security, anti-ransomware, and user behavior analytics tools, as well as various authentication technologies. IT projects also include deployment of AI-powered security solutions and other technologies that support a zero-trust security model.
Foundry / CIO.com
Similarly, CIOs foresee themselves becoming more deeply involved in three areas closely related to cybersecurity: data privacy, compliance, and risk management.
In fact, 61% of respondents to the State of the CIO survey said data privacy and compliance are areas they expect to be more involved with in 2024, ranking third on the list. Risk management came in at No. 8.
For Rev.io CIO Phillips, that means demonstrating adherence to and certification in frameworks.
He aims by year’s end to earn the ISO/IEC 27001 certification as well as certification for SOC 2, a security framework developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Additionally, he’s working on his company’s annual attestation of compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).
Phillips says such efforts are critical for building trust among partners, especially as his company looks to grow and expand into international markets.
CIOs aren’t only finding themselves more involved in securing data; they’re also increasing attention on making sure their organization’s data is ready to use for analytics, with 54% of CIOs anticipating greater emphasis on data analysis in the year ahead, according to the State of the CIO survey.
Research from PwC had similar findings, with 47% of CIOs saying they’re “prioritizing the transformation of their data platforms to drive business growth.”
Such figures aren’t surprising, given data’s importance for not only powering AI and ML applications but also for feeding conventional business intelligence programs.
“It reinforces the need for good data, data governance, integration points, and having the infrastructure to deliver data so it’s ready for analysis,” says RJ Juliano, senior vice president, CIO, and chief marketing officer of Parkway Corp., a real estate and parking investment, development, and operations company.
Data analysis also feeds into another area of increasing focus for CIOs in 2024: customer experience. Some 51% of CIOs said customer experience was a topic they anticipate addressing more this year, ranking on the State of the CIO survey list.
Goya Foods CIO Suvajit Basu has such work happening within his IT organization, noting that those CX projects lean on business intelligence and data analytics to ensure that the digital touchpoints that customers use to interact with the company “make it easier for them to engage with us.”
Creating a great customer experience fits within another area of attention for Basu: identifying and implementing projects that can impact business success.
“As a CIO, I’m looking at what’s going to move the needle for the business,” he explains.
The vast majority of CIOs say they’re expected to do the same: 88% of CIOs responding to the State of the CIO survey said their role is becoming more digital and innovation focused. That’s up from 85% who said as much in 2023.
That helps explain why nearly half (48%) listed product development and innovation as top of mind for 2024.
Rev.io’s Phillips is implementing an AI-powered platform to assist his company’s customer success and client support teams in their work. The platform, which leverages a large language model (LLM), searches through the company’s records to identify the most relevant information required by those teams as they aid customers. The tool is expected to make team members more efficient, which will slow the need for new hires as the company grows and sees an anticipated increase in volume of customer service needs.
CIOs are using intelligence and other technologies to create better experiences for their employees. Indeed, 40% of CIOs responding to the State of the CIO survey cited employee experience as an area IT will be more involved with this year.
Prasad, the UST CIO, is part of that cohort. He believes providing positive experiences has become increasingly important to retain workers and to meet increasing expectations for frictionless workplace technologies.
“Today’s employees very much look for a better experience in every aspect of how they engage with the organization; they expect a superior experience,” Prasad says.
Similarly, rising expectations among CEOs, employees, customers, regulators, and other stakeholders regarding an organization’s performance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have pushed ESG higher up on CIO priorities lists. (No. 7, according to the State of the CIOs survey, with 47% saying they’re spending more time on this topic.)
There are a couple of reasons for this increasing level of interest in ESG among tech execs, says Yang Shim, technology consulting leader with professional services firm EY Americas. First, the C-suite is turning to its CIOs to implement the technologies needed to track and record ESG data that stakeholders want to review. Second, CIOs are being asked to run their IT operations in ways that can help improve the company’s ESG standings.
Shim expects ESG to become an even bigger focus for CIOs in the future, as more ESG regulations come online: “I think this will be a high priority for next year,” he adds.
CIOs say they expect to spend more time in 2024 preparing for whatever is next.
“The way I look at it, 30% of my job is looking into the future, and determining what decisions do we have to secure the future,” Basu says.
That attitude is reflected by Broadcom’s late 2023 acquisition of VMware, which CIOs and their advisors say has become a top area of attention for many tech execs who are now assessing the deal’s potential impacts on costs and service.
“Broadcom’s acquisition was not a surprise, and its intent with VMware was clearly announced ahead of time, but there is a sense of disbelief that it has happened and that has CIOs working to figure out what it will mean for them,” says Juan Orlandini, who as CTO of Insight North America works with CIOs across industries on their agenda items.
Despite their increasingly strategic role within their organizations, CIOs remain keenly attentive to the technical components of their job as they continue to modernize, shed technical debt, and optimize their environments.
It’s not easy: According to the State of the CIO, 75% of CIOs say it is challenging to find the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence.
“This is something that’s on my plate every single year: the infrastructure side of the house,” Phillips says, adding that he is reviewing capacity and working to ensure the technical environment will scale alongside the company as it grows. “That’s a constant planning cycle, and it requires knowing what buttons we are going to press before they’re needed.”
Basu, too, is readying his company’s infrastructure to meet current and future needs, citing as an example a current modernization project featuring the move to a new cloud-based ERP platform as well as ongoing digitalization initiatives.
“We want to be on a modern platform and doing more for our money,” he says about the move, noting that the projects will bring cost savings and efficiencies and add new digital capabilities. “For us, as a growing company, we want to be continuously modernizing so we’re keeping up.”
Mary K. Pratt is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts.


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