Feb 5, 2021

The Top 5 Challenges for CIOs in 2021

Laura V. Garcia
4 min
Manufacturing technology, CIO, security, big data
The challenges facing CIOs today are monumental, let’s review, and not underestimate, what they’re facing...

 Oh, where to begin. The challenges facing CIOs today are monumental. As a global pandemic has businesses worldwide making the transition to remote work, Industry 4.0 continues to revolutionise the production floor with even more urgency. And the face of consumerism slowly recovers from an extreme makeover, CIOs have a lot to concern themselves with.

Adding insult to injury, the threats of cybersecurity loom larger than ever before, as the power of the dark web fuels eCriminal groups and government-backed allies. As Greg Foss, senior cybersecurity strategist at VMware Carbon Black says, “Criminals never let a good crisis go to waste.” 

Once perhaps lacking attention, CIOs have suddenly grabbed a seat at the head of the table.

Let’s review, and not underestimate, what they’re facing.

The Five Challenges Facing CIOs in 2021

1. Home network security

Although remote work brings safety from COVID-19 and the joys of working in sweatpants, home networks have made organisations more vulnerable to cyberattacks. 

Here are some statistics to help put it into perspective.

From a sample size of 41,000 US-based organisations, found that remote home networks were:

  • 3.5x more likely than corporate networks to have at least one family of malware
  • 7.5x more likely to have at least five distinct families of malware
  • Common families of malware are extremely prevalent, including Mirai, which is observed 20x more frequently, and Trickbot, which is observed 3.75x more frequently.
  • More than 25% of all devices have one or more services exposed on the internet.
  • Almost 1 in 7 WFH-RO IP (work from home- remote office) addresses have exposed cable modem control interfaces.

2. Supply chain cybersecurity

Tom Kellermann, head of cybersecurity strategy at VMware Carbon Black says the recent findings suggest a significant renaissance in cybercrime, which he believes is leading to a new era of agile organisation and sophistication. 

“The disruption caused by COVID-19 has created a massive opportunity for criminals to restructure their businesses,” he says. “Traditional criminals are flocking online in a newly shifted digital-first world, fueling the expansion of cybercriminal cartels.”

Carbon Black— As eCrime groups grow more powerful, counter incident response is now seen in 82 per cent of attacks, with island hopping occurring 55 per cent of the time—where an attacker infiltrates an organisation’s network launch attacks on others along its supply chain.

3. The Customer Experience- Redesigning your digital business strategy

According to Acquia, since the beginning of the pandemic:

  • 74% of consumers report their digital experience with brands has changed
  • 84% of consumers used digital channels more in 2020 

The customer experience is one of the most defining aspects of business today. In 2021 and likely beyond, the CIO must work collaboratively with the CMO to co-design a friction-free customer experience. Many organisations continue to struggle with achieving the digital experience that today’s consumers demand.

ICOs must address Inadequate or outdated approaches to how customers engage with your brand. From real-time engagement to supporting customers through third-party devices such as Google and Alexa, customers today expect a seamless, multichannel approach. 

4. Big data

Big data is a big buzzword doing big things. Making sense and putting to use complex sets of data is a must for enterprises today. In fact, a GE and Accenture report says that 88 per cent of organisations said Big Data analytics is a top priority.

Big data and data analytics can be leveraged to lessen supply chain disruptions, improve forecasting and provide insights-driven procurement and sales and ops planning. Part of Industry 4.0, big data merges with AI to predict and prevent machine failures and increase uptime.

Organisations can also gain a competitive advantage by using data-driven insights to better engage with their customers. Big data can provide valuable insights so you can identify growth opportunities and improve the efficacy of buyer-facing interactions. For example, chatbots not only offer cost-effective around-the-clock customer service, but they can also be a gold mine of growth opportunities, such as identifying customer issues and revealing barriers to purchase.

5. Industry 4.0- Increasing efficiencies

CIOs are a critical part of driving profit improvements through innovative technologies. Once perhaps merely a wish list, as many companies struggle with profitability, increased downtime due to supply chain disruptions, and labour shortages due to Covid-19, creating a digital transformation roadmap floor has quickly moved up the list of priorities. 

Smart factories boost production revenue and increase efficiencies, but they also present massive challenges. CIOs must lead the way. However, the talent gap of highly skilled IT specialists may be yet another challenge. Therefore, CIOs are advised to start filling their talent pipeline if they haven’t already.

“The value of digital channels, products and operations is immediately obvious to companies everywhere right now,” says Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “This is a wake-up call for organisations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

CIOs hold a grand opportunity to support a more agile and efficient supply chain and a smoother, more connected customer experience through digital transformation initiatives. And yet, they must do it all while battling the evils of the dark web. It is, indeed, a mighty challenge. May you go forth and conquer. 

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Jun 8, 2021

IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery

Elise Leise
3 min
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) claims that while markets are rising and manufacturing is coming back, it’ll push for global immunisation

After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022

Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery. 

Lingering Concerns Over COVID

Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high. 

Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery? 

IMF: Current Boom Could Falter

Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”. 

Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”. 

Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.

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