Why CIOs are doubling-down on tech in times of challenge

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The first half of 2023 has been turbulent for business, with economic uncertainty and geo-political crises driving new pressures to navigate the market. However, with significant challenges comes significant opportunity. Take the pandemic, for example; the businesses that thrived were those that adapted most efficiently to new working conditions by accelerating digital transformation initiatives and capitalizing on a global talent pool for recruitment.

Today, the challenges facing businesses come down to the changing cybersecurity landscape, skills and talent retention, and navigating regulation and compliance.

Fortunately, Expereo’s recent research showed that CIOs at some of the largest companies in the UK have recognized the opportunity presented by said challenges and are investing in technology more than ever before to drive global growth. In fact, across the globe, UK CIOs were found to have the most positive outlook, after China, as 40% describe their organizations' current attitudes to growth as optimistic, and a quarter (25%) are ambitious for the next 12 months.

Traditional businesses stuck with legacy technology will typically face the biggest challenges when it comes to overhauling their tech infrastructure and creating a dynamic and flexible workforce suited to the demands of the modern-day hybrid work environment. But this is the challenge that many UK businesses with a global presence can, and are, addressing through investment into key technologies to facilitate growth, improve productivity and empower transformation initiatives, helping workforces become clean, lean and more secure in this new post-pandemic landscape.

Ben Elms

Ben Elms is Chief Revenue Officer at Expereo.

Tech investment

Perhaps unsurprisingly, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies are the top technologies being adopted by UK businesses, cited as the priority area for investment for 60% of UK CIOs.

The mass interest and media attention given towards generative AI technologies is likely a significant contribution to this uptake in the UK. However, it is also worth noting the role AI has to play in automating regulatory processes and time-intensive administrative tasks, which in turn can empower staff to focus on tasks that require human input. AI-equipped SaaS and connectivity technologies are also proving to be huge time and cost-savers for businesses that have adopted them.

The security landscape

Security is the second priority area for investment for UK CIOs, with 58% identifying it as one of their top areas for investment in the remainder of 2023. A significant contributor to this security drive is that there are more users, devices, applications, services, and data located outside of the enterprise perimeter than inside, leading to new security challenges.

In modern cloud-based environments, there is a growing demand for secure access service edge (SASE) and SD-WAN, which can offer enterprises a unified platform to manage security across users, applications, and locations.

Connectivity is key

Our research also found that other priority areas for investment include technology set to bolster business connectivity, such as 5G, public and hybrid cloud, and wide-area networks. This goes hand in hand with the fact that nearly half of CIOs claimed that establishing and managing connectivity in new markets is the single most critical factor in ensuring successful global expansion, and a third (34%) said that their board views global connectivity as a business asset critical to growth, but there are challenges that need to be overcome.

Investment into connectivity also points towards the fact that global businesses based in the UK are looking to expand into new markets and therefore need to improve connectivity between locations, for customers and between staff, many of whom are still remote working, on at least a part-time basis.

Acquiring skills

To support expansion, it will be vital for businesses to acquire the right skills and local market expertise. These are not easy to come by in today’s world businesses market, and therefore, it is imperative for global businesses to work with best-in-class partners whose local expertise around the world can support their goals and objectives.

The key to seizing the opportunities presented by challenging times is building a culture that is adaptable to change, agile and has an ambitious mindset towards growth. This can be achieved with the right leadership and a company culture that empowers a growth mindset amongst its workforce.

Ultimately, without the right technology, network connectivity, talent, or culture, key components required to facilitate fast growth, a business will inevitably be afflicted by diminished productivity and stagnating performance – in terms of revenue and sales – which impacts employee, customer and investor satisfaction.

While it is positive that global CIOs are prioritizing digital transformation initiatives by investing in technology, it is invaluable that they do not neglect the skills and expertise required to implement, manage and maintain it in order to succeed.

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Ben Elms, CEO, Expereo.