1. Rethinking about internal clients
Some IT managers still don’t fully appreciate the importance of giving internal users the same smooth and user-friendly experience with enterprise software as with general public applications. Yet, if employees think that an application isn’t easy to use, they’ll find a way around it. This is known as Shadow IT, i.e. people using IT systems and software without the IT department’s approval. This is a true nightmare and may endanger security, reliability and simply efficiency.
As far as internal tools are concerned, CIOs tend to prefer a range of functionalities rather than ergonomics or user-friendliness. But this shining Swiss army knife-like software, with all its bells and whistles and a thousand-page user guide won’t be used to its full potential if employees are having trouble finding its features.
Although UX and UI – User eXperience and User Interface – are on everyone’s lips during the design of products for outside clients, it is barely on IT people’s radar when it comes to internal clients. Why the sudden interest? The growing use of mobile devices and new web applications have made CIOs more aware of the value of simple and user-friendly UIs. They can see how easy it is for employees to carry out a wide range of processes with a few taps on a smartphone or tablet.
Still, making software user-friendly isn’t just about creating a mobile version. Its entire uses must be reconsidered. One of the key challenges for CIOs in the next few years is to view internal clients as clients in their own right and adapt to fast-changing technologies.
2. Managing change
In addition to providing efficient IT organisation, CIOs must also help employees change how they behave, in particular when it comes to intra and inter-department collaboration.
Technology may facilitate change, but ultimately, successful change comes down to whether employees embrace or reject the change. You may change technologies very quickly with the right circumstances, but changing how employees view their role, the company and its culture doesn’t happen overnight. The time required for mindsets to adapt must be taken into account in your change management plan.
As the Prussian Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke said in the 19th century: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. This truism equally applies to change management. As your lead your organisation towards change, new and unexpected challenges will crop up.
On the one hand we may be hungry for change, in theory that is, and on the other we are creatures of habit.
Digital requires collaboration across traditional siloes, “But managers and employees tend to resist these changes, putting a damper on digital transformation”, according to a survey by Harvard Business Review quoted in the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal. InfoWorld argues that “Now that cloud computing is the new normal, it’s the company culture — not technology — holding back the cloud”.
The success of a change management initiative therefore depends on finding the right balance between the company’s activities and technology. The desire for change is most often driven by the company’s needs, and the CIO is involved in defining objectives to ensure that the proposed solution is realistic and scalable. If operational needs and the technology that supports them are not aligned, the organisation ends up with fragmented information and ill-adapted objectives.
“You need to implement coaching skills, processes and planning while listening to users so that they can embrace the new technologies we bring them.” (Business et Marchés).
3. Towards unified communications
Helping company teams better collaborate will be another big challenge for 2019. Today, 70% of online time is accounted for by smartphones. “Mobility isn’t optional any more. These figures highlight the importance of readjusting communication processes and show a real need for flexibility if you want to stay competitive. As a result, companies must implement comprehensive Unified Communications (UC) systems if they want to ensure their future and stay strong against competition.” (Les Echos, April 2018)
Interfering with how employees interact is often hazardous. Deploying unified communications tools can carry more risks than deploying other enterprise software, as it affects employees’ entrenched habits on their most commonly used tool. Good change management makes more sense than ever: a project’s success can only be assessed based on how the new tools have been appropriated.
Email is the most sensitive application. It is the cornerstone of all businesses: any, even minor, service interruption can bring the company’s activities to a standstill and have serious consequences. All organisations must learn to manage their email efficiently, particularly as bad user practices can have a major impact on productivity.
CIOs and IT managers are best positioned to lead, not only technology adoption, but also the organisational change required to make the most of new technologies.
4. Security and sovereignty: closely connected
You cannot talk about the challenges facing CIOs in 2019 without mentioning security. With massive data breaches regularly reported around the world, saying that it is a priority would be redundant. The true challenge lies in securing data without interfering with company activity or making it difficult to access.
Privacy protection and data hosting laws vary from one country to the next, some being stricter than others. Finding your way through this legal maze is time consuming and requires a certain amount of expertise.
The question of security automatically leads to the question of data sovereignty. Who owns the data, who has access to it? But the notion of sovereignty is going to keep CIOs busy as its scope widens in the next few years. What is at stake is setting themselves free from the domination of American solutions on the digital market.
With the US president chanting “America First” to the west and China making fast progress to the east, France – and more widely Europe – must find a way to impose itself or risk seeing entire industries being completely locked-in. It’s already the case for front-end applications: email, internet browsers, office applications… There are proven alternatives, and CIOs need to step out of the box to integrate them and regain their independence.
Finally, there is also the issue of open-source v. proprietary solutions and the idea – although waning – that data is more secure when it is hidden away — “security by obscurity”. Your CIO may be more comfortable with proprietary software for critical applications, but this mindset is increasingly out-of-date. Email is the perfect example of a critical application – imagine what would happen if it were out for 48 hours! – where open source is being widely accepted and whose security is no longer disputed.
5. The powerful rise of open source
Open-source enterprise solutions are playing an increasingly greater role in how companies and government organisations modernise their IT infrastructure, in particular when migrating to the cloud. Enterprise open-source software has many benefits as it offers companies options and capabilities they would be unable to secure with proprietary software.
In addition, IT departments are never locked into a single supplier’s solution as the capabilities open source offers are ubiquitous and constantly evolving. Open-source solutions make new solutions easy to integrate, allowing IT professionals to improve existing infrastructure more efficiently than if they continued to work with proprietary solution providers.
For many IT managers, this doesn’t make changing over to open-source bricks any less tricky. If there’s no sales contact, who will I turn to if there’s a major breakdown? (source) (source) A reminder about the key role of software publishers: they must offer a truly lasting solution including support, scalable maintenance and a whole array of services. Open-source publishers create value by turning source code into a usable solution for clients.
Open source is unanimously recognised as a formidable driver of digital transformation. Recent news bears witness to its growing significance and how it will likely affect IT departments in the future – re. Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub and more recently IBM’s takeover of Red Hat which is in fact being dubbed “the most significant technology acquisition of the year”.
6. Innovate all the time
CIOs and IT managers must be the drivers of constant and sound innovation. Coming up with one innovation and resting on their laurels no longer is an option. In today’s environment, you must constantly adapt to change. IT managers are expected to implement platforms that facilitate the fast development of solutions. More than ever, those companies that prove agile will succeed.
CIOs must lay out ambitious and innovative roadmaps quickly. The trick is not to give in to buzzwords or instant attractions while being aware of their environment, being agile and always ready to swivel in a different direction.
Innovating is also about predicting the future compatibility of all the platforms you’re setting up. Open source is a particularly powerful facilitator of innovation in that respect.
“In terms of application development, ‘open source first’ has become the rule for all CIOs. Any new project must rely on this option by default” Alain Voiment, Deputy CTO and Champion for Groupe Société Générale’s open source strategy and VP Major User at Paris Open Source Summit 2017. You can watch his talk here (in French).
One word before we go…
We hope to see you at the Paris Open Source Summit, Europe’s premier open source event, on 5-6 December 2018 to discuss these topics. 5,000 visitors are expected at this year’s edition, with 500 industry professionals addressing the programme’s main themes: Tech / Solutions / Ecosystem.
We are looking forward to unveiling the new version of our email solution. After five years’ work, we are able to offer 100% connector-less Outlook compatibility. By allowing organisations to keep the Outlook client with no loss of functionality or to use other clients such as Thunderbird, the web or mobile devices in a feature-rich, collaborative way, the BlueMind solution offers an open, cheaper European alternative for email and paves the way for an open-source front end.
Find out all about it at our conference talk “Finally, 100% Outlook-compatible open-source email”, Wednesday 5 December from 9.15am. By Sylvain Garcia.