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2021 CIO Priorities – Part 1/6

By January 14, 2021April 7th, 2021No Comments

At ISM Grid, a standard process is to create a yearly theme of CIO Priorities – converting experiences of the previous year, to lessons learnt for the present. In 2020, our theme was Digital Transformation (DX). We shared research pinpointing the top 5 areas to focus on to enhance the business value of Information Technology (IT).

We concluded that emerging technologies such as autonomous edge, distributed trust, symbiotic robotics, machine learning, the cloud, and the fog are means to an end. The end remained customer value as defined by the customer, not by IT and not by the business.

As coincidental as it may be, businesses were forced into DX projects in 2020; COVID-19 being the catalyst. IT departments experienced unprecedented challenges.

cio priorities

It is therefore fitting that our theme for this year is ‘Resilience’.

2021 is ideal for developing resilience by creating compartmentalized reserves of capital. Financial capital would be the most obvious – allowing for organizations to respond to threats, and leverage opportunities as we further understand the fiscal dislocations of 2020.

However, if we can think of capital as the preservation of assets and capabilities to be utilized later, 2021 presents a unique opportunity to develop resilience with financial capital, human capital, material capital and change capital – while keeping view of emerging technologies.

Theme for 2021: Resilience

Despite the progress made in the fight against COVID-19, the notion that we will soon be in ‘post COVID’ is radically premature. Organizations need to plan for both recovery and turmoil considering the global socio-economic forecast is anything but stable.

IT leaders need to position themselves as a pillar of organization resilience; enabling the enterprise to rebound from the chaotic blizzard called 2020, while at the same time adequately preparing for unanticipated needs and demands.

A PESTEL analysis conducted by InfoTech Research Group (2020) gives credence to the notion of uncertainty:


  • Governments continue to react to the pandemic by imposing lockdown measures that require employees to work remotely.
  • The SolarWinds cyberattack has highlighted the need for governments to prepare for a COVID-19-like cyber event in the all-too-near future.
  • Logistics around mass and rapid immunization of populations are at this point uncertain and untested.


  • The global recession sparked by the health crisis will continue into 2021, coming out of a year when the world economy is expected to shrink by 4.4%.
  • Volatility is the economic buzzword for 2021, with 72% of Americans believing markets will continue to be unstable through 2021.
  • While the IMF predicts a partial recovery of the global economy in 2021, it also adds the caveat: “GDP will remain below the pre-virus trend, with considerable uncertainty about the strength of the rebound. Much worse growth outcomes are possible and maybe even likely.”


  • Non-technical workers are using new tools to keep up with a shifting job market that rewards digital skills.
  • Increased rates of unemployment in developed economies will continue to threaten social stability. Lower living standards through lost incomes and health insurance could undermine government efforts to respond to the health crisis.


  • Access to materials has been disrupted by global supply chain challenges perpetuated by the health crisis. Such shortages of materials threaten the ability of IT to support the business.
  • Cyberthreats and uncertainty around IT security are top threats for 2021. According to IMC Grupo, cyberattacks and crimes increased by 300% during the pandemic; according to IBM, remote work raised the cost of the average data breach.


  • 2020 was a record-setting year for weather and climate events. Events like the apocalyptic wildfire seasons in Australia and on the American west coast, record flooding in China, and a higher-than-average Atlantic hurricane season impacted many IT departments in ways every bit as disruptive as the health crisis.
  • From all indications, climate events will be no less destructive in 2021.


  • Nation states are increasingly interested in how data is stored, transferred, and processed and are creating legislation to govern these interactions.

Resilience is an old concept; however, it is a concept that modern business has largely moved away from. This neglect of resilience is discernable in numerous practices of the last decade – absent or untested Disaster Recovery Plans (DRPs) and security plans, deserted infrastructure, overcommitted project resources, an absence of succession planning, etc.

Such neglect will start to give way to resilient planning in 2021, and successful CIOs will be those who demonstrate vigilance and enable organizations to better confront what is over the horizon.

In the coming weeks we will explore five (5) priorities in the context of resilience. In the process, we will outline associated risks of action/inaction, potential business benefits, and key initiatives to consider and focus on for each priority.

ISM Grid develops a program of repeatable, data-driven IT engagements – demonstrating commitment to our client’s continuous improvement and success. Email for assistance in implementing recommendations observed within this CIO Priorities series or for general assistance with enhancing your organization’s IT Management program.