Why CIOs are working harder than ever (and three key ways to ease that burden)

Why CIOs are working harder than ever (and three key ways to ease that burden)

Today’s CIOs face a myriad of responsibilities, ranging from sustainability to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, navigating through complexities that were unforeseeable two decades ago. However, Arthur Hu, SVP and CIO for Lenovo, Chief Technology and Delivery Officer for Lenovo’s Solutions and Services Group, explains how strategic investments in technology can alleviate potential burdens, enabling CIOs to assert control over their diverse duties and spearhead innovation, thereby propelling the entire organisation towards success.

Arthur Hu, SVP and CIO for Lenovo, Chief Technology and Delivery Officer for Lenovo’s Solutions and Services Group

The role of the CIO is becoming broader, as technology becomes ever more central to the way businesses operate. CIOs now take responsibility for a vast number of work streams including everything from the carbon footprints of data centres to Digital Transformation.

Lenovo’s 2023 Global Study of CIOs found that nine-in-10 CIOs believe they have more responsibilities than they did before, and 84% of IT leaders believe they contribute more to organisational success than other C-suite leaders. It’s never been more rewarding, or more challenging, to be a CIO.

The responsibilities today’s CIOs struggle with are all-encompassing, the research found, with CIOs making decisions on everything from diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) (42%) to data analytics and business reporting (56%). The CIOs in the survey still fear that their budgets will run short, with 83% worried that they will be left with insufficient budget to achieve their goals.

Today’s CIOs are battling with three particularly thorny problems, including the challenges of investing effectively in AI, the evolving hybrid workplace and the challenges of sustainability. Thankfully, the right tech investments can help ease their burden.

Technology and the workplace

Technology is woven into every part of the modern workplace, functioning like a nervous system which joins together corporate strategy, operations, finance and innovation. This in turn loads more challenges onto CIOs, who are grappling with recruitment and retention (59%), managing a remote workforce (59%) and DE&I (55%). The technology environment is also changing, with employees now using two devices on average, combined with a sharp increase in ‘bring your own device’ usage.

For IT leaders, technology can help to bring simplicity to this shifting landscape. Optimising endpoints using one centralised platform helps to bring order to the chaos. This means that IT teams can focus on business-critical tasks, with end-users enjoying a better experience, optimised by AI. 

Meanwhile, ‘as-a-Service’ models offer the flexibility and simplicity to empower teams with the technology they need, in a simple, scalable pay-as-you-go model. These models allow businesses to stay up to date with the latest and greatest technology, meaning that employees are never held back by older devices, and that less secure devices are not as likely to be used in the workplace.

Lenovo’s research found that ‘as-a-Service’ options were highly popular with CIOs, with 92% saying they would consider adding new offerings over the next two years. This provides them with the flexibility to deploy hardware and software with ease, eliminating bottlenecks and freeing up teams to innovate rapidly and supercharge business strategy.

Harnessing the power of AI

The current boom in Generative AI has sparked a level of excitement around technology not seen since the dawn of the smartphone era. For CIOs, this poses further challenges: there is high expectation for organisations to engage proactively with AI, and for the technology to deliver business results, fast. The demand to engage with this emerging technology is very real, with 43% of CIOs saying they felt ‘urgent pressure’ to deal with AI.

But it’s not simply a case of buying solutions and sitting back and waiting for results: AI has to be used effectively. Edge Computing technology helps to bring AI to the data source and will be hugely important for any organisations hoping to reap the benefits through cutting-edge applications such as virtual assistants, Generative AI and computer vision. With Edge Computing, organisations can gain AI-powered insights right where data is created, which can be immediately used to improve outcomes across store aisles, manufacturing floors, hospital rooms and service desks all over the world.

Edge AI computing can also process thousands of data points in real-time to gain the insights required to make decisions. In customer service, for instance, it can analyse data to make live recommendations for personalised products and services, or identify issues before they become pain points, enhancing the overall experience.

Technology that delivers data centre-like computing to the Edge will be crucial to delivering improved experiences in industries from tourism to retail, as well as improved emergency response and public safety. 

A sustainable approach to IT

In previous decades, sustainability has not fallen within the traditional purview of IT leadership. But with increasing attention on the issues such as e-waste, and the emissions associated with data centres, thinking about Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues is yet another responsibility on the shoulders of today’s CIOs. 

With data centres responsible for up to 1.5% of global electricity use, according to the International Energy Agency, it’s critical that CIOs engage with technologies such as water cooling to increase efficiency and reduce electricity demand. Modern workloads mean that older air-cooling technologies now struggle to keep up while becoming very expensive.

Liquid cooling technologies will be an important factor in responsible computing going forward, and will also enable the sustainable supercomputers which will be crucial to tackling the challenges of climate change. 

Decision-makers in IT must also be bold and move beyond the ‘make, use, destroy’ of the linear economy to the ‘design, use, return’ approach of the circular economy. The world produces 50 million tonnes of e-waste every year, and just a fifth of this is recycled. Asset recovery services (ARS) will be key to this, helping to find the most efficient and clean ways to deal with hardware at the end of its service life, whether that’s using the parts in manufacturing, refurbishing, reusing or environmentally friendly scrappage. 

For CIOs grappling with the challenges of sustainability, the flexibility of ‘Device-as-a-Service’ models, where devices are recycled or repurposed at the end of their service life, can also help switch to more efficient, environmentally friendly hardware without up-front capital outlay. 

Easing the burden

CIOs shoulder responsibilities today including everything from sustainability to DE&I, and wrestle with complexities that tech leaders 20 years ago could barely have anticipated. It can feel like a lonely battle. The right tech investments can ease this burden, empowering CIOs to take charge of their many responsibilities and drive innovation, powering the success of the whole organisation.

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