This article is part of The Water Cooler, a recurring column for technology executives to digest, discuss and debate. Next up: How are you working with internal security teams to assess the IT risk of Log4j?
For tech executives primed to make the most out of their budgets — and their existing staff — the start of the new year means ruthless prioritization when it comes to project execution.
CIOs are beginning 2022 with more resources, as Gartner expects IT spend to rise 3.6% in 2022, the biggest jump in a decade. Organizations expect the increase in spending to improve the way they operate, given technology's central role to most businesses.
External pressure on IT projects is also mounting. The risks of potential cyberattacks is a top executive concern, as well as disruption from more technologically advanced competitors.
In the tug of war over pressing projects, how can executives decide what to address first? Here's how 5 IT executives are prioritizing projects in 2022:
(The comments below have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
Sampath Narayanan, CIO at Everside Health:
"It is critical to involve business stakeholders in the prioritization process."
CIO at Everside Health
Gone are the days when you plan your IT initiatives for the next three years. In our dynamic world, a CIO must continuously watch for market trends, the competitive landscape, and their clients' voice and be nimble in order to plan and execute on a quarterly basis.
For example, mid-last year, we saw the lack of an intuitive patient mobile app in the market as an opportunity, and created Everside Everywhere, a digital experience platform for our patients, in five months. Since then, we've seen 79% of our engaged patients use the app to receive care beyond the walls of our health centers.
It is critical to involve business stakeholders in the prioritization process — both for business alignment and transparency in the roadmap. Importantly, we set aside 20% of our capacity for unplanned critical projects. This sets up both our technology teams and business stakeholders for success on what to expect over the next quarter.
Anu Khare, SVP and CIO at Oshkosh Corporation:
"We use the VSP framework to prioritize business projects that use digital technologies."
SVP and CIO at Oshkosh Corporation
At Oshkosh IT, we use the VSP framework to prioritize business projects that use digital technologies. Three elements of our framework are:
- Measurable business value.
- Strategic alignment to business strategy.
- Passionate business sponsor engagement.
A team consisting of finance, IT and business uses this framework to prioritize projects. This prioritization approach has helped us to scale up business value and scale down time to deliver value.
Recently, our supply chain and IT team prioritized — using the VSP framework — an AI project that predicts components shortages for manufacturing. The team developed and implemented a predictive model that leverages machine learning algorithms to predict part shortages. This model improved our ability to predict what parts will arrive at our warehouse on time.
Miles Ward, CTO at SADA Systems
"Our top priority is to keep our customers safe by keeping our employees safe."
CTO at SADA Systems
Our team is made of technologists, so doing IT here is quite hard — think being a doctor for a doctor, or a lawyer for a lawyer.
However, prioritization is easy: Our top priority is to keep our customers safe by keeping our employees safe. This, like a few other of the tasks our IT team handles, aren't subject to prioritization, they're simply mission critical.
For items below this tier, we're focused on speed: What can we do to help our staff help customers faster? Reducing friction is absolutely imperative in a world as dynamic and nonstop as ours, so we need to take bold steps to simplify at every step. Simplifications that affect more employees can affect more customers, so we stack rank for scale of impact.
Jason Conyard, VMware CIO
"Organizations that are prepared to adapt quickly, recognize the need to build adaptable foundations."
CIO at VMware
Technology leaders need to be focused on transformation. We should be prioritizing efforts that truly move our businesses and organizations forward — and not with small steps but rather with giant, quantum changes.
As the pandemic has demonstrated, fortune favors the prepared. Organizations that are prepared to adapt quickly, recognize the need to build adaptable foundations and that think big and take bold action will win the day.
Technology leaders must also be business leaders and prioritize the things that build the future.
Aranya Ghatak, VP and CIO at Vectrus
"Managing cyber risk has to be high on the priority list, as do reliable IT systems with high uptime."
VP and CIO at Vectrus
Making key investments in new areas of innovation has to be a priority in order to create a sustainable competitive advantage. If a project isn't going to grow a business, why would you prioritize it? Growth coupled with worker productivity enhancement are key considerations on prioritizing projects.
I lead a global technology team that supports worker productivity of 10,000 of our members operating in diverse, far-flung locations, while keeping the organization's digital assets secure.
Managing cyber risk has to be high on the priority list, as do reliable IT systems with high uptime, which enable digital worker productivity. Enabling our best technology and business simplification to improve operations allows for a better experience for all.