Essential CIO insights from Q1 21

CIO-Employment (1)

In this Tech Quarterly

We round up the best of the 2021 CIO and tech predictions from analysts and experts, which show IT budgets on the rise as organisations prioritise digital business projects. Other tech trends set to start making more waves this year include machine learning and quantum computing. Elsewhere, the top 20 European CIOs have been ranked and we find out how President Biden has moved quickly to overhaul US IT leadership since being elected.



Essential CIO insights from Q1 21


Aled Herbert
Content director

Aled oversees all editorial as our content director. He loves a good story – which is no surprise, as he started out in children’s publishing.

Essential CIO insights from Q1 21

02/03/2021 |


1. IT budgets to grow 6.2% in 2021 but CIOs face tough balancing act

Global IT spending is forecast to hit $3.9 trillion in 2021, a 6.2 per cent increase from 2020, according to Gartner. The analyst says CIOs will have to juggle the competing priorities of saving cash and expanding IT this year as companies invest in IT in a manner consistent with growth expectations, not current revenue levels. Digital business, led by projects with short time to value, will get boardroom attention and approval.

2. Process transformation, cybersecurity and CX to drive IT investment in 2021

Research by IDG also shows that tech budgets will increase in 2021. Its annual State of the CIO research found that 49 per cent of CIOs anticipate their IT budgets will increase this year, while 39 per cent expect them to stay the same. The survey found that the business initiatives expected to drive the most IT investment in 2021 will be transforming existing business processes, increasing cybersecurity protection and improving customer experience.

3. Amazon CTO puts machine learning and quantum computing top of his 2021 tech predictions

In his keynote speech at the annual AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said he expects to see accelerated adoption of machine learning this year, thanks to the proliferation of sensors and devices connected to the cloud. He predicts that over 50 per cent of internet connections will be machine-to-machine next year, up from 33 per cent in 2018. Vogels also said 2021 will be the year in which quantum computing picks up, driven by better software.

4. Winning CIOs get future fit in 2021

In its 2021 tech predictions report, analyst Forrester described what it calls a “future-fit technology strategy” for organisations. The secret sauce, it says, is the combination of being able to continually adapt to changing conditions, resilience and the creativity to unlock new opportunities.

5. The nine key elements of a future-ready company

To better prepare for a post-pandemic future, McKinsey & Co has set out the nine imperatives that organisations must embrace to explain who they are, how they operate and how they grow. This includes prioritising speed, flattening operational structure, building data-rich tech platforms, creating an ecosystem of partners and accelerating learning.

6. Energy sector and Germany dominate the list of top European CIOs in 2020

Who are the biggest names in IT management in Europe? I-CIO’s annual ranking profiles the CIOs at the continent’s largest companies. Topping the list again is Shell CIO Jay Crotts, but newcomers to the list include Hanna Hennig at Siemens and Beate Hofer at Volkswagen. The energy sector dominates the list and Germany is the country that is home to the most of this year’s top European CIOs.

7. IT departments struggle with growth of Apple in the enterprise

IT departments that are used to a predominantly Windows-based environment are once again grappling with added complexity caused by the growth of Apple in the enterprise. Forrester research shows a jump in devices running MacOS in the enterprise from 15.3 per cent in 2019 to 28.5 per cent last year. The impact of the pandemic “accelerated a little bit of the Mac deployments that were happening,” says Andrew Hewitt, analyst at Forrester. This acceleration happened especially among enterprises facing supply chain issues with other providers.

8. Determination and sensitivity will be key CIO characteristics in 2021

According to Gartner, 70 per cent of hiring processes of new CIOs rank individual determination and sensitivity as two critical personal characteristics. “CEOs are looking for executives who are capable of weathering crises,” says Daniel Sanchez-Reina, senior research director at Gartner. “They are still unsettled about the future and want determined CIOs who make and implement timely decisions, while displaying emotional dexterity to be tactful and supportive.”

9. President Biden rings the changes in overhaul of US IT leadership

The new US President, Joe Biden, has started to bring new people into key IT leadership positions, including the roles of Federal CIO and CISO and Department for Homeland Security CIO. Here, has a summary of the likely key tech movers and shakers in the new administration. The White House website has also been updated by the Biden administration with a hidden message for IT talent, with the source code including the line “if you’re reading this, we need your help building back better” and a link to apply for the US Digital Service.

10. Return of the interim CIO?

The role of interim tech leader appears to be back on the rise as interim CIOs and CTOs position themselves as boutique alternatives to major consultancies in helping organisations prepare for a post-pandemic recovery.

11. McLaren Group revs up for transformation with new CIO

Chris Hicks has been appointed to the much-coveted role of CIO at the luxury automotive and motorsport group McLaren. Hicks steps up from his role as director of technology services at the company. In his new role, Hicks will oversee the group’s digital transformation across McLaren’s fast-moving businesses and global operations and will take the lead on collaborating with the group’s technology partners and providers.

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