CIOs Must Defend Their 2020 Hero Status

Community Blog
Written by Liz Ramey

JANUARY 29, 2021

The journey of a hero is never without its challenges. 

Let’s reflect on nearly every second movie in a superhero trilogy, which almost always tests the hero with an existential crisis. In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark has to come to terms with his failing health, which continues to get in the way of his success; in The Dark Knight, Batman’s greatest psychological nemesis (The Joker) disrupts his perfectly smooth crime-fighting operation; and even the infallible Captain America has to battle against his own allies to protect his long-time best friend in The Winter Soldier. In each journey, a challenge looms in the distance, waiting to be confronted (and hopefully overcome) by the hero.

Today, it’s the CIO whose journey will be tested.

2020 was a standout year for the CIO – some might say a ‘heroic’ year. So, what challenges lie ahead on the CIO’s story arc, and what ‘superpowers’ can they use to combat the inevitable challenges in 2021? 

  1. Seizing momentum – influencing and leading the enterprise

Gartner’s 2021 CIO Agenda states, “CIOs have been trying for years to convince senior business leaders to modernize and take full advantage of technology. Now many roadblocks that were thrown up have been removed. Boards of directors have launched a large majority of enterprises on digital business acceleration. CIOs must seize this moment because they may never get another opportunity like it.”

Challenge: Balancing new business expectations with reality. 

Superpowers (Influence and leadership): By influencing and leading, the CIO must be prepared for hard conversations with the business, resetting their expectations of what IT can deliver as the enterprise pushes forward with digital acceleration.

  1. Thriving through uncertainty - empowering people and delivering value

Though 2021 promises a positive trajectory (2020 set a low bar), there is still a global pandemic and looming economic crisis. As the fog begins to rise, CIOs will empower their teams by encouraging their understanding and communications of business value, ensuring every purchase and project leads to lucrative or valuable returns.

Challenge: IT has historically struggled to define their value in terms of business outcomes. The struggle will continue, as business technologies and digital platforms shift and evolve. 

Superpowers (Agility and resilience): Continuing to keep agility and resilience at the center of every strategic decision will position IT for success and help them keep up with the pace of change that will continue this year.

  1. Advancing and scaling strategic, outcome-based technologies

Gartner’s 2021 CIO Agenda states, “Boards of directors have given CIOs a clear mandate: Use technology to speed the enterprise faster to its business goals.” Again, the business has very high expectations for IT to deliver quickly, and they are putting more emphasis on digital business opportunities.

Challenge: With only a slight increase in budgets this year, an increased need to show the value of investments, and the expectation of rapid delivery, CIOs will be tested to empower the enterprise with advanced technologies that will propel the enterprise forward and uncover new opportunities.

Superpowers (Knowledge and grit): CIOs know the power of technology. They know the opportunities that a digital business can yield versus the risks of maintaining a traditional IT environment. With grit and perseverance, CIOs will blaze through the obstacles that test them on their journey ahead.


Liz Ramey headshot

Liz Ramey

Director, Content at Evanta, a Gartner Company

by CIOs, for CIOs

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