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Global CIO survey highlights what tech leaders can learn from COVID-19

The CIO Survey is a global technology trend report published annually by Harvey Nash and KPMG. Featuring the opinions of over 4,200 technology leaders and now in its 22nd year, it is one of the largest technology reports that exists today. 

Data gathered in this year's edition reflects on the effects of the pandemic, offering a unique insight into the minds of our technology peers; how they're navigating the new normal and their plans for 2021.

COVID-19 increased our IT budgets by approximately 5%

During the first few months of the pandemic, IT departments had to act fast, setting employees up to work from home securely and meeting customer demands with digital adaptations. For most organisations, IT spend is now at an all-time high, 29 percent of survey participants believe that the pandemic has permanently increased investment in business managed IT. This surge in investment has left many companies questioning their IT spend and how they can balance, the balance sheet.

Two strategic drivers remain the same when considering IT investment: operational efficiency and customer engagement. But the lens in which decisions are being made has shifted. Short-term decision making remains the order of the day, though leaders say they may be more confident about longer and mid-term planning as we move into the new year. Flexibility remains key as we continue to venture into the unknown.

Out are long-term, riskier investments (such as ERP), in are quick innovations on technologies such as Microsoft's Power Platform, empowering creative 'citizen developers' within the organisation. Today's decisions centre around how technology can manage cashflow, drive innovation speed to market, and realise value sooner.

Each sector has its challenges and opportunities

Whilst sectors like Healthcare have experienced a considerable level of demand, others such as Leisure have struggled to adapt. Each sector followed its own path this year, and their response to the crisis can be broadly categorised in four categories.

A hard reset to survive (7 percent) – Sectors where demand has fallen, there isn't enough capital, or the skills and technology required to adapt to the crisis. Their future is extremely uncertain.

Modify to maintain digital progress (26 percent) – Businesses within these industries have been able to make smaller modifications and will bounce back once demand is restored. Huge transformation isn't required; however, digital progress is needed intermittently.

Surge to meet the ramp-up in demand (29 percent) – For those that have rapidly transformed their business model, COVID-19 has birthed new opportunities and changed the face of their industry forever. Microsoft teams users increased by millions overnight, but how will Microsoft continue to keep users engaged after the pandemic has passed?

Transform to keep up (38 percent) – This subsection represents the vast majority of industries, where organisations have been agile enough to provide some services in-line with their customer's needs. For example, introducing an online range, these organisations are likely to continue transforming.

The digital divide is growing

How individual businesses have responded to the crisis has been primarily shaped by their transformation culture and the infrastructure they have in place. Digital leaders, typically CIOs that demonstrate higher emotional intelligence and greater collaborative skills have been very effective at pivoting during lockdown. They have scaled up ideas and invested in disruptive technologies. Others behind the curve are pulling back.

The report highlighted the most significant investments across five key areas:

Distributed cloud
SaaS marketplace platforms
Intelligent automation
Artificial intelligence / Machine learning
Edge Computing / Internet of Things

Cyber-crime is on the rise

According to the Harvey Nash survey, cyber-crime has increased by 41 percent this year, spear fishing and malware attacks amongst the most common. Security is now a top priority for IT leaders, particularly given the dispersed nature of workers. Despite the demand for skilled cyber-security professionals, there is still a shortage of qualified candidates, Crimson work with a pool of cyber security specialists, contact us for more information.

Today Crimson has released a nationwide survey in partnership with threat intelligence specialists Cyjax. Results from the survey will help IT departments understand more about the current Cyber Security climate and could inform future strategies. To receive a copy of the report, fill in the survey, you will be entered into a prize draw to win £250.

The hybrid human office

Today, business is more human than ever, as we peer into our colleagues' homes each day. Despite the advantages to staff, it has not been without its downsides; 84 percent of IT leaders said they are concerned about their team's mental health. In response, Microsoft Teams is introducing meditation through a partnership with mindfulness company, Headspace. Make sure your organisation look after your people, have honest and open conversations and make use of free government tools. Watch our webinar on remote readiness, featuring mental health expert, David Beeney.

With so many of us still working from home, managers are organising remote appraisals and embarking on redundancy discussions. In our latest Women in Tech webinar, we discuss how to approach difficult conversations remotely, watch the webinar.

A shift to remote working has also meant that organisations can and are looking further afield when searching for talent. Inevitably employers will experience more competition and may need to work harder to attract candidates, read our blog on how to attract IT talent.

More recent surveys suggest firms are settling on a hybrid office model, with information workers continuing to work from home 2-3 days per week permanently.

Meanwhile, how is the jobs market doing?

Research by IT Jobs Watch indicates a 66 percent year-on-year drop for permanent IT jobs in the last six months and around 64 percent for contractors. Pre COVID-19 55 percent of IT leaders in Harvey Nash's survey we're planning on increasing their headcount in 2020, this figure dropped by 10% during the pandemic. It's important to remember that your strategies won't be successful unless you have the right people to deliver them, you can find IT talent by requesting here.

Aside from cyber-security, the report highlights the following in-demand skillsets.

Change Management
Enterprise Architecture
Technical Architecture
Advanced Analytics

A diverse workforce produces better results

The survey reported that more than two-thirds of organisations believe a diverse team improves trust and collaboration. A multi-faceted team also produces better ideas and is more capable of empathising with customers.

The report suggests that female tech leaders still only occupy 10 percent of the technology workforce. Diversity is about much more than gender, of course, but only 24 percent of the survey respondents felt their organisations knew how to effectively promote diversity and inclusion. 

In summary

Over 6 in 10 leaders state that the resilience on technology during the pandemic has made them feel more influential. Despite this, just 61 percent of CIO's are board members.

Our lingering and possibly lasting fear of being infected by a virus will speed the relentless march of automation. The pandemic has no doubt accelerated 'digital transformation'. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, observed that social-and physical-distancing requirements created a 'remote everything', bringing forward the adoption of a wide range of technologies by two years. The theory of evolution is that only the most adaptable creatures can survive.