The 5 hardest decisions IT leaders will make in 2019

The 5 hardest decisions IT leaders will make in 2019

Philip White

17 April 2019 - 7 min read

Digital TransformationLeadership
The 5 hardest decisions IT leaders will make in 2019

“What we see here is a milestone in the transition to the third era of IT: the digital era.” Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president, 2019 Gartner CIO Agenda.

For CIOs leading strategy in this ‘third era’, the pressure to make the right business-critical decisions is ever-present.

They must negotiate the balance between risk and reward while scaling their digital business to meet consumer and employee expectations.

The landscape is changing from “tentative experiment to application at a massive scale”. CIOs need to oversee projects that automate, streamline, integrate and transform.

But where exactly should they focus budget, resources and innovation?

And which decisions will lead to optimum growth and competitive advantage?

Here we explore five key decision-making challenges faced by CIOs globally as technology relentlessly marches on.

Start Digital Initiatives

Digital transformation is now a vital business objective that can’t be ignored. Consumer and employee expectations demand it.

The decision is: where does it come on your 2019/20 agenda?

Gartner’s latest annual global survey reveals that, alongside the eternal quest for growth, CIOs’ top priority is introducing digital initiatives

For 22% of them, advances such as embracing AI-powered data analytics, upgrading legacy systems, adopting bespoke software and maximising cloud capabilities are central to this.

49% state their enterprises have already changed their business models or are in the process of changing them to incorporate the latest technologies.

Any form of digital scale-up requires both firm foundations and fundamental change. Both of which require a slice of an in-demand budget.

CIOs expect their IT budgets to grow by 2.9% in 2019 which is just as well because Gartner’s Rowsell-Jones suggests that CIOs should “use their financial resources to make 2019 a transformative year”.

“Enterprises that fall behind in digital business now will have to deal with a serious competitive disadvantage in the future.”

Beware of the Hype

Blockchain, artificial intelligence, immersive experience, internet of things: all buzzwords with the promise of revolutionary transformation.

The decision is: which, if any, are relevant to your business?

CIOs can feel the industry pressure to adopt every type of new tech on the market. Bombarded with messages that without them their enterprise is doomed, it might be hard to resist their allure.

But, as with all business decisions, any digital addition must deliver value. This isn’t about execution for the sake of it. It’s about choosing a software application that translates into tangible benefits and solid ROI.

For example, blockchain has been described as potentially having “the same disruptive impact the internet has had on our world over the past 25 years”.

But, it’s also been dismissed as “the most overhyped – and least useful – technology in human history”.

It was ranked as a game-changer for just 5% of respondents to the 2019 Gartner CIO survey. And just 11% have already or will deploy blockchain in the next 12 months.

When it comes to AI, 37% of those asked by Gartner have already or are planning to deploy the technology. This comes second only to cyber security at 88%.

But Rowsell-Jones warns that: “On the surface this looks revolutionary. However, this bump in adoption rate of AI may indicate irrational exuberance instead.

“While CIOs can’t afford to ignore this class of technologies, they should retain a sense of proportion. This latest batch of AI tools is yet to go through its trough of disillusionment.”

So, ask yourself whether investing in a dazzling new piece of tech is business-critical? If not, put it on hold and watch its evolution with interest.

Build Teams

Whatever the scale of your digital transformation project, it’s likely you’ll need to boost your team to guarantee a quality outcome.

The decision is: do you recruit or outsource?

The first step is to assess your existing set-up. Do you have the necessary developers, testers and analysts in-house? Can you curate the perfect team to effectively resource your specific project?

If not, outsourcing to a dedicated software development company is an option. Designed to lower risk, introduce agility and seamlessly integrate with your team, high quality skilled suppliers could make all the difference to a project’s success. With the right brains on board, you’ll get to market faster.

Research and evaluate thoroughly to ensure the best fit: analyse skill sets, dig deep into case studies, establish rapport and understand processes before making a commitment.

When it comes to the recruitment option, the IT skills gap is well-documented. The Digital Skills for the UK Economy report, produced by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, calls this “a major risk to business growth, innovation and broader societal development”.

Indeed, Accenture have estimated that the lack of available talent could cost the UK £141 billion in GDP growth.

This talent is the main driver of execution and innovation. But finding it can be time-consuming and expensive, especially for those on the hunt for highly-specialist skills in a red-hot jobs market.

Once on board, retaining those great people depends on enticing company culture, a crucial sense of ‘belonging’ and dynamic progression opportunities.

Get it wrong and a poor recruitment decision could end up costing thousands. The Recruitment and Employment Federation estimate that a bad hire at mid-manger level, at a salary of £42,000, could cost a business £132,015.

Drive Diversity and Inclusion

Only 19% of UK tech workers are women. And just 22% of tech directors are female. Across the world, the spotlight is shining not just on the gender gap but on overall diversity and inclusion.        

The decision is: how will you attract and retain the diverse talent your business needs to compete?

LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 reports that diversity is “the biggest game-changer” and “the hottest source of corporate growth”. 78% of respondents cited it as very or extremely important.

CIOs who embrace this important trend can position themselves as genuine revenue-drivers for their company.

The key is to embed the initiative with your company’s most senior stakeholders and bring the entire business with you. Position it as a mindset, rather than a strategy. One that’s directly related to improved company culture and performance.

Get it right and you could be attracting high-calibre candidates like computer scientist Katie Bouman whose work played a major part in capturing the first image of a black hole.

Conquer Cyber Security

The threat of cyber-attacks is ever-present. And with increasingly sophisticated tech at hackers’ fingertips, it’s a growing concern.

The decision is: should you invest in further protection?

A staggering 95% of CIOs surveyed believe the number of security threats will increase in 2019. Only 1% believe they will decrease.

This kind of data breach can be devastating for any business. It can destroy customer trust and rip apart an established reputation.

And current systems may not be sufficient to tackle the rise of next-generation AI-powered attacks. Fighting back with equally advanced tech will become increasingly essential.


Need more advice about which decision is right for your business? Speak to Audacia today on 0113 398 4199 or at

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Philip is the Managing Director of Audacia and is responsible for the company's overall strategy and culture.