History will show that 2021 was a strange year to be a CIO.
In 2020, the entire planet was rocked by COVID-19 and the IT landscape changed beyond recognition. CIOs became heroes or villains inside their organizations within days or weeks as their companies rushed to evolve their decades-old business models to meet the immediate need for supporting a newly-minted remote workforce.
But 2021 was different. The pandemic still played a huge role in IT operations, but the emphasis shifted away from managing an emergency and toward finding the most effective path for the long haul. The year began with CIOs wrestling to plug the security and compliance gaps created by IT projects that had been fast-tracked at the onset of COVID-19. The initial rush toward a remote workforce caused many companies to jump into the deep end of the digital transformation pool without really considering how it impacted efficiency or costs. Wisely, many CIOs began to think more deeply about how to seize the opportunity to shift their organizations toward greater productivity, efficiency and cost savings.
So what does this new IT landscape look like, and in 2022, what can organizational leaders do to ensure that their digital transformation initiatives remain on track?
Below are three essential focus areas for CIOs to consider in 2022 to help them better support the modern workplace, “future-proof” their organizations, and be better equipped for the “next big hurdle.” Some CIOs may already be exploring (or even delivering against) these areas, but in 2022, they will need competence in all three to remain competitive.
1 – Go All-In on the Cloud-Native Approach
Many CIOs believe they’ve already moved to the cloud, but not all cloud solutions offer the same value, particularly ones that are not “cloud-native.”
But what does cloud-native really mean? Consider this: numerous organizations have moved some of their infrastructure to the cloud, as the pandemic forced this to a degree. But the difference between a simple “shift” to cloud and cloud-native is that the latter involves a more wholesale migration to a fully baked cloud-first environment. This requires a company to transition off of legacy on-premises applications that has been limping along and potentially impeding employee productivity and innovation for years.
Making this change requires a great deal of consideration. Simply throwing an existing on-premises application onto a cloud server using a combination of virtual machines, containerization, and other IT shimmies won’t work. This is the time to invest in properly implementing software built for the cloud — true cloud-native solutions that are modular, scalable, and leverage the cloud to its full potential.
Without this in place, CIOs really don’t stand a chance of delivering either of the next two points below.
2 – Enable Efficient Hybrid Work
If you consider that the pandemic taught us all how to embrace remote work, then 2022 will be the year we all learn about another new employment model — hybrid work. Logic tells us that since we already moved from the office to the home office, simply shifting to a hybrid home/office combination should be easy.
But there are subtle nuances required for a successful hybrid work environment. Rather than simply moving all the office equipment to a home office (the hardware, paper files, and perhaps even the potted plant and the family photo), supporting a hybrid work model will require companies to provide this same seamless employee experience in both places. In addition, companies will need to learn how to balance these investments, the security, the configuration, and the training required to deliver such a model.
This is not a simple decision based on finance or technical capability, rather it’s more about organizations learning how to provide employees with safe, flexible, and capable IT setups that empower them to work efficiently and seamlessly from literally anywhere. Enabling this hybrid model at scale will require extensive investment, configuration, and training. Failure to deliver it will lead to an increasing number of workers moving to employers that do offer such flexibility.
3 – Automate Everything That Moves
The final piece of the digital transformation puzzle in 2022 is all about automation.
Implementing automation inside your organization will dramatically improve your overall health, customer focus, and agility — even if those implementations are small at first. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML)-based, and robotic process automation (RPA) tools have matured rapidly over the past few years, and smart companies are using these tools today to cost-effectively reduce the paper chaos around client onboarding, invoice processing, HR management, and other everyday, document-intensive tasks.
Modern intelligent document processing (IDP) platforms combine the benefits of traditional document management tools (scanning, sorting, storing, and searching files) with the “intelligence” of AI and machine learning to actually learn the role of each document and smartly move that data where it needs to go without human intervention. The automation of manual, repetitive tasks and processes across the organization will fuel the next phase of digital transformation in 2022 for many forward-thinking enterprises.
IT Never Sleeps
After an incredibly hectic and chaotic — but ultimately revolutionary — couple of years, CIOs across the globe would certainly be justified if they demanded a few months of peace and tranquility to recover in 2022. But to paraphrase Gordon Gecko’s famous “money never sleeps” quote, business and technology never sleep — and 2022 will certainly not be a year that CIOs will want to sleep through.
It seems obvious that the next phases of digital transformation are going to be supercharged by the power of the cloud. We have seen unprecedented migration to cloud services during the pandemic, but 2022 will see CIOs moving the rest of their IT stack to the cloud to remain competitive. This shift requires cleaning up the last of the on-premises legacy systems while ensuring that all cloud offerings going forward are cloud-native, not just virtual machines running on a cloud server.
The message to CIOs in 2022 is clear. Sleep if you want — heck, you deserve it after the few years you’ve had. But rest assured, your peers are not resting on their laurels. They are making the most of the opportunity that faces them in 2022 — the opportunity to take their digital transformation journey to a whole new level. So buckle in and get ready for the ride.
Ron Cameron, KnowledgeLake
Since KnowledgeLake's inception in 1999, Ron Cameron, president and co-founder, has taken great pride in creating a positive company culture where employee and customer satisfaction are the highest priority. KnowledgeLake is a cloud-native solution for document processing that enables organizations to capture, process and manage their content in a single platform. The company combines intelligent document capture and robotic process automation (RPA) to increase productivity. Two million users worldwide employ KnowledgeLake to work faster and more efficiently.