How are CIOs responding to a dynamic business environment?

Ben Elms, CEO of internet solutions provider Expereo, shares his observations on how CIOs are responding to the opportunities and challenges of the evolving digital world

Senior Businesswoman Explaining Strategy At Office
The current business environment is tough. How have you observed CIOs responding to this?

Despite an ever-growing set of economic challenges facing technology leaders, business expectations for the coming year are characterised by a heightened level of optimism globally. Why? They are betting on automation and AI technologies to enable growth.

From the businesses that have spent the past few years strategising and preparing for execution to the businesses excited and ready to take on AI initiatives at scale, 2024 will see many global enterprises prioritising AI. They’ll use it to automate business operations and processes, drive efficiencies across the business and empower customer experiences.

Of course, it is not all about AI. Expansion into new geographies and cost containment initiatives are also driving CIOs’ responses.

What are some key drivers of technology investment in 2024?

Delivering business growth, cutting costs and improving experiences continue to be the ultimate drivers of tech investment. It is one of the most exciting times to be a technology leader, and CIOs are in a prime position to support growth and efficiency gains through their technology strategies. 

While the CIO is traditionally responsible for driving technology initiatives, they must attain buy-in at board level; any disconnect between the board’s expectations and those of technology leaders will only inhibit company ambitions. 

Fortunately, achieving buy-in of AI initiatives should not be as challenging as it has been, as there is no motivation quite like the ‘fear of missing out.’ Without the latest technology, enterprises risk falling behind their closest competitor, damaging their reputation, and even losing customers and revenue.

There is no point onboarding AI tools and innovative technology if you do not have the right infrastructure to handle and scale it

AI is a hot business topic. Where should organisations start if they want to prime themselves to take advantage of this emerging technology? 

There is no point onboarding AI tools and innovative technology if you do not have the right infrastructure to handle and scale it.

This includes having the correct network infrastructure to deal with the huge amounts of data that AI applications will generate. AI initiatives also require a network that can embed security, limit network outages and provide the performance levels applications need to run smoothly and effectively.

Again, aligning with the board is imperative here. That means agreeing on key performance indicators, providing comprehensive training and setting expectations of what AI can and should do. This should be bespoke to each department as AI has different use cases across each job function. Understanding how it can, and how it cannot, be used on a granular level company-wide is crucial to prevent disappointment and to avoid inhibiting ambitions.

For global enterprises, navigating different compliance and regulatory laws across markets can also be complicated. Acquiring the right expertise and guidance on these challenges and market differences is key to assuring a consistent and confident AI strategy.

How do you see the role of cloud connectivity and network visibility evolving in helping CIOs achieve their business goals? 

Strong cloud connectivity is the bedrock of modern-day business operations. Without it, issues such as network outages or packet loss can lead to significant inefficiencies, which pile pressure on IT and cause staff frustrations. And firms can lose revenue if customers can’t access sites or services reliably.

The internet is extremely fragmented. There are over 100,000 distinct internet networks operating today, and no two offer identical performance; understanding this performance requires fully transparent network visibility and management tools. This enables network managers to rapidly identify and resolve critical network issues such as downtime. It allows tech leaders to predict potential risks, such as a surge in network traffic, and address them before they materialise into tangible issues.

Once network management tools are in place, and with the right support, CIOs can be confident that their investment into new technology and services is sound, and thus build a far more flexible and scalable business.

How can CIOs address skills gaps in priority areas such as cybersecurity, data and AI?

With technology increasingly impacting every industry and function, there is an increasing pressure to attract and retain top talent, and to drive digital reskilling across all sectors. As of 2024, cybersecurity, networking and data/AI/automation-related skills are particularly difficult to find worldwide. 

The good news is that there are ways to help bridge the skills gap. External partners, such as vendors or MSPs (managed service providers), can play a key role by supporting reskilling initiatives and by filling gaps in networking, cybersecurity, AI and automation.

Pre-register for more insights from global CIOs in Expereo’s forthcoming Enterprise Horizons 2024