The CIO as orchestrator

Published on the 02/02/2022 | Written by Heather Wright

Finding solutions to wicked problems and supply chain woes…

Wicked problems, supply chain chaos and CIOs as orchestrators – it’s the year ahead for Australia and New Zealand according to IDC.

It’s a year which will bring with it a continuation of challenges seen in the last 18 months, including one area – supply chain resilience – where the solutions haven’t yet been found. 

Louise Francis, country manager and research director for IDC Australia and New Zealand, says at the heart of IT and business for the coming year will be an increasing push for better visibility ‘over the horizon’ and the ability to move fast.

“You will see a number of solutions starting to emerge to address this area.” 

“We talk about agility, but it’s that speed and ability to act very, very fast, regardless of what you’re talking about – whether IT modernisation, supply chain or anything like that – which is differentiating businesses across Australia and New Zealand. 

Francis sat down with iStart to cover off three key areas for Australian and New Zealand businesses to focus on, and some of the technologies that could be deployed to assist. 

  1. Increasing emphasis on modernisation of digital infrastructure – and we’re not just talking modernising applications.

“We saw a lot of emphasis on application modernisation last year and it’s continuing this year, but it’s also about doing it in a way that accommodates for rapid change or conversion to new products and services as we go through the year,” Francis says. “It comes back to that speed and being able to see that things are going to change pretty much overnight – are we prepared for that next change in direction?”

Francis says there’s plenty of scenario planning underway in businesses around digital infrastructure. 

And this is where the ‘wicked’ problems come into play.

“These are the problems, they might be novel problems, that can’t be resolved through traditional ways of using IT, or different processes. Those solutions that require an architecture that is capable to adapt to creative solutions to enable different parts of the business to participate in that product development. We are going to see that more and more.”

The technologies to aid businesses will vary depending on the customer – and the country’s covid experience – but are largely around connectivity, including modernising unified communications and collaborations tools. Yes, that’s something we thought we’d covered off over the last two years, but as many found, many tools aren’t necessarily translating the physical experience to the virtual world, and that’s something companies, and employees, are increasingly seeking in a hybrid work environment. 

Microservice architecture, enabling the ability to adapt very quickly, and automated workflows will become more common, much more targeted and refined and more mature.

“At the moment it is very ad-hoc in its approach. We’re going to see much more structure around that.”

Also playing a role: 5G and network configuration, as companies grapple with ecosystems working more remotely.

SD-Wan is one area where Australian and New Zealand businesses are looking to invest in 2022, with one-third of businesses across A/NZ saying they’re going to be migrating to the technology this year. 

Cloud migration meanwhile continues, along with increased investment around edge computing.

“Everything is melding together to form this connected enterprise. We talk about modernising infrastructure, but without that connectivity it really won’t become viable to a lot of businesses,” Francis says. 

One fly in the ointment is the ongoing skills shortage. An IDC survey last year showed for New Zealand organisations shortages in application modernisation skills was the second greatest skills shortage concern, right behind cyber security, and just ahead of data architecture and security. (In Australia, it’s much further down the list, with cloud orchestration and management skills, data architecture and security and cybersecurity making up the top three.)

“Businesses are struggling with [skills shortages impacting] transformation projects.

“While New Zealand businesses are shifting to external providers to take the pressure off, those external providers are facing the same challenges, so it might bring some transformation work forward, but there are still going to be delays for the foreseeable future until we address the skills shortage.”

2. The elephant in the room: The supply chain.

Last year it was getting supplies in country. By the end of the year for Australia, and this year in New Zealand, the problem was a lot closer to home: The last mile as Omicron saw large numbers laid low, or forced into self-isolation.

“It’s a real challenge for business, and it’s one that hasn’t really been solved yet,” Francis says. 

It’s an area she says is the number one concern for a lot of Australian and New Zealand business, with a lot of investment and work going into supply chain transformation, particularly the last mile, at the moment.

“I think you will see a number of solutions starting to emerge to address this area.”

The supply chain control tower concept is one that’s coming up in conversation more and more, she notes. The idea of having visibility across the supply chain and being able to quickly shift resources to different parts of the chain isn’t new, of course. But it is still a developing area. Tools for intelligence and automation are likely to play a big role in solutions, helping companies predict potential issues before they occur and quickly adjust.

“That visibility aspect is going to become really important to supply chain resilience. We are going to see a whole lot of investment around that.”

3. Secure everything

Another year, same problem! Last year saw cyber crime activity ramping up significantly, Francis says. 

“It was just constantly hammering away at businesses in A/NZ and that isn’t going to stop, so keeping up with how that is evolving will be a big area of investment in 2022.

“Security is going to have to become more adaptive to keep pace with the changes and the types of threats. The threat landscape is expanding, but it is also changing almost on close to a day to day basis. So how do you have an adaptive security in place to do that? There is going to be a whole lot more investment around cybersecurity and cyber resilience.”

And just like the messaging during last year, secure everything extends to the safety of remote employees – not just from a business perspective, but from a personal perspective too, Francis says. 

Also feeding into the secure everything theme: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

“We are already seeing, particularly high in A/NZ, more and more embedding of those types of metrics and how do we invest to create that security and safety across the organisation.”

And the way forward?

Continuing collaboration with the wider business, with the CIO as the orchestrator, remains key. 

“If you are going to focus on one thing, it is that collaborative approach across businesses to approaching these wicked problems through the use of digital technology,” Francis says.

“We keep talking digital first, but when we say that we are not talking about IT department or CIOs. Digital first is when the whole enterprise embeds digital through their thinking process, their mindset, their approach to solving problems.

“Those businesses that have that approach to addressing problems ware the ones who are moving forward a lot faster, they are innovating faster, getting products to the market faster.”

Need some proof points? Those organisations classed as ‘digital first’ organisations reported metrics such as time to market, customer experience and supply chain and operational resilience on average three time higher than those who aren’t investing in digital.

And, notes Francis: “The outcomes are not digital outcomes. They are business outcomes and the CIO is the orchestrator, enabling companies to build new products and services and customer experience.”

Post a comment or question...

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Follow iStart to keep up to date with the latest news and views...