Next 12 to 18 months to be shaped by key strategic IT investments

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Mark Walker, associate vice-president for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC.
Mark Walker, associate vice-president for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC.

Research found that 62% of surveyed South African CIOs accelerated their digital initiative roadmaps by almost one year because of the COVID-19 crisis, says Mark Walker, associate VP for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC.

This is, according to Walker, a positive indicator that illustrates how digital technology rose to the forefront and is now established as a critical value within the business community at large.

Walker was speakingat yesterday’s IDC South Africa CIO Summit 2021, detailing the impact of the pandemic on local organisations’ digital initiatives over the past year.

IDC South Africa hosted the 13 edition of its CIO Summit virtually, bringing together CIOs from across the region, as well as a keynote address by communication and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Walker pointed out that businesses are now looking to set long-term digital strategies, starting with actively reengineering processes, and enabling automation and efficiencies.

He noted the re-imagination of work as another shift worth noting for the post-COVID-19 era.

“Organisations were forced last year to enable work from home for most employees, providing devices, connectivity, secure access to apps and data.

“Essentially, the future will be shaped by digital ecosystems that leverage platforms that enable cross-industry innovation, collaboration, data sharing and monetisation.”

Walker added that organisations are now prioritising their investments in “key strategic IT over the next 12 to 18 months”, with a focus on process automation, security and resilience, and cloud infrastructure.

The IDC associate VP told the virtual audience the pandemic has led to an accelerated shift in the role of the CIO, who has now become the innovation leader of future enterprises.

Over the last two years, the majority of the CIO’s role focused on operational tasks like running day-to-day IT and support services. The next two years will see the shift towards strategic activities, orchestrating digital initiatives and working to enable products and services.

The CIO will also lead digital transformation, transformation of business models and creating new revenue streams as organisations move towards digital enterprises, he said.

Turning to budget spend, Walker stated that 53% of the funds spent on digital transformation and technology initiatives in 2021 will come from the IT budget.

This will be followed by the line of business/function budgets (31%) and dedicated digital transformation budget (16%). “This is a key indicator of how IT functions are now at the core of every organisation’s success in this new reality.”

Race to cloud

Meredith Whalen, chief research officer at IDC in Boston in the US, told the audience that IDC predicts that by the end of 2021, based on lessons from the pandemic, 80% of enterprises will put a mechanism in place to shift to cloud-centric infrastructure and applications twice as fast as before the pandemic.

In addition, Whalen said, organisations are now seeing cloud as the foundation for their digital transformation.

The IDC’s global COVID IT study shows 35% of organisations will accelerate the use of cloud, while 32% of organisations said they will accelerate their automation plans.

“The pandemic has helped organisations realise how critical cloud is for their operations,” she said. “This will result in more organisations accelerating their cloud adoption plans.”

Referencing one of the survey respondents, Whalen said the CIO expressed that cloud was the foundation but now the focus is on taking it to the next level and digitising all areas of the business by building on the cloud foundation.

“For CIOs and technology leaders, it is really important to outline how cloud will underpin the digital enterprise.”

Furthermore, she stated the pandemic brought to the forefront how important it is to be a digital organisation, and accelerated various organisations’ move to the future enterprise.

She explained that the idea of the future enterprise is what it will take to compete in the digital economy. “The future enterprise looks more like a digital organisation than a physical organisation.

“We believe the leaders of that enterprise – the C-Suite – will work off a new agenda that is comprised of new work models, digital infrastructure, new customer engagement models and new market-driven operations, just to name a few.”

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