As has become the norm in recent times, the new year is set to bring new challenges for organisations and their CTOs. The cost-of-living crisis will place downward pressure on revenues, while the significant increase in labour and materials costs will drive up outgoings. It’s set to create a perfect storm that will place an enormous squeeze on budgets, meaning an imperative to do even more with even less.
For CTOs, there’s a lot to think about as you plan your year. To help you navigate your way through a challenging 2023, while delivering on your dual aims of supporting business-as-usual and finding time and resource for innovation, we’ve picked out four key areas to focus on:
- Establish an innovation pathway
- Ensure your data governance is in order
- Consolidate strategic data
- Use data to optimise customer interactions and internal processes
1. Establish a robust innovation pathway
The ability to innovate effectively is exceptionally important, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis when customers will be shopping around for the best value in the market. Being able to respond fast when opportunities or threats arise will be critical to your ability to weather the current economic conditions.
To be able to innovate effectively, you need a well-defined procedure to validate new ideas and subsequently develop the credible ones through to a point where you can launch them.
Do you have established processes for validating ideas and progressing successful initiatives from proof of concept to launch?
How quickly can you kick-start this process? What happens during each phase, including proof of concept, prototype, pilot and after go-live?
What are the success criteria that determine if and when you proceed to the next stage?
Do you have internal capacity and processes to enable responsive innovation?
Do you have all the resources you need in-house to validate and develop a given idea? Can you get access to the right people at the right times, often at short notice? How will you mitigate the impact of diverting people’s attention away from core business activities?
2. Ensure your data governance is up to scratch
Data governance is incredibly important, both to protect your organisation against risk, and to create foundations that enable you to turn data into a genuine asset.
While overall responsibility may not fall within the CTO remit, your technology function will need to comply with and help enact the organisation’s policies.
Key areas to think about include:
- Ensure you have access to the right data governance and security expertise, which could be in-house or external
- Make sure people handling data know the rules around its processing and storage
- Implement appropriate lines of accountability around data use and storage
- Ensure everyone understands the importance of data quality – and the implications of errors
- Only store data you need to, balancing benefit against risk and cost
- Foster a can-do attitude when people want to use data in new ways
3. Consolidate your strategic data
Siloed data has long been a major challenge in organisations. The explosion of new technologies risks making the problems worse. It can hamper all of the big-picture aims you have when it comes to leveraging your data.
Break down data siloes to facilitate better sharing of information. From an operational perspective, having a consistent data platform gives product and service development teams more opportunities to use and re-use data, as well as link different parts of the organisation.
It can also enhance your management information in a variety of ways. It makes more data available to bring into your reports and dashboards. And it improves consistency across data from different sources.
4. Use data to optimise customer interactions and internal operations
You and your colleagues will likely have ideas as to where new, more-timely or more-accurate data could streamline internal processes or enhance customer experiences. Make 2023 the year you pursue ways to realise these.
Keep compliance, security, ethics and technical feasibility in mind, as well as whether you have access to the necessary skills to achieve what you’re aspiring to.
Can you make better use of the data and tools you already have?
Would a data scientist, or even a data science function, help you understand your data better and draw out new insights?
Where could you collect additional data?
How easy will it be to obtain, and does it justify the cost?
Are you using, or trialling, artificial intelligence tools?
Where could this and other techniques enable you to offer more-personalised services, which may previously have been impossible?
Further inspiration for 2023
For more insights for CTOs, by CTOs, head over to the Digital Lighthouse episodes of our Techtalks podcast, which feature a variety of technology leaders from different sectors sharing their experiences. You can listen to the Digital Lighthouse episodes all together on SoundCloud, or search ‘Softwire Techtalks’ wherever you get your podcasts.