8 Challenges CIOs Face in IT Management

My father has been working for an IT department for more than 15 years. 

So, I think I know what I’m talking about when I say I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles of IT departments and the involved business leaders.

Today, this article will talk about the most significant challenges CIOs face when handling IT processes and managing and improving their data.

A CIO is a chief information officer who is in charge of technical processes and data management of big companies and the control of their IT processes. 

Let’s try to understand what creates a challenge for CIOs, in other words, what keeps these CIOs awake at night, and take a deeper look at the problems they face every day.

IT management challenges

1- Digital Transformation and Change Management

Digital transformation is the process of implementing digital technologies to create new business processes -or rework the existing ones- and build healthy customer experiences to meet the fresh demands of the changing market. And to make the digital transformation process work smoothly, CIOs need to rely on a managerial strategy called change management. 

This process aims to solve business pain points, improve usefulness, and offer a more personalized and relevant customer experience.

And it’s safe to say that behind every successful digital transformation journey is a fully devoted, highly invested & skilled IT team. Building and managing this team is getting harder and more challenging as more businesses try to keep up with evolving technologies and cope with change management.

So, what troubles CIOs explicitly here? 

A recently conducted survey showed that 54% of businesses reported that lack of skills was the main reason they failed to achieve their transformation goals. More specifically, they reported that they lacked expertise in cybersecurity, technical and enterprise architecture, and advanced customer data analytics. 

When change resistance joins this picture and these problems, the digital transformation seems almost like a myth that cannot be achieved in the eyes of these IT leaders, CIOs.

These problems need to be resolved by CIOs communicatively and positively; better communication focusing on change projects and an explanatory manner that speaks the benefits of change can help facilitate the process of digital transformation and create smooth change management that works for the CIOs.

Paying more attention to change management can enable these companies to prepare employees for the future. And yes, a technical side is involved in the process of digital transformation but you as a CIO also need to consider the group of people that the plan affects and make sure they are experiencing an understandable change management plan.

To do better, there are a number of digital transformation practices that CIOs can benefit from:

  • Focusing on setting crystal clear priorities that are relevantly connected to business outcomes.
  • No second thoughts about investing in highly skilled people, specifically leaders and those who possess great digital and analytics skills.
  • Making sure that people at all costs feel empowered and motivated.
  • Quickly adopting new practices and keeping digital disciplines up to date.

For further advice, you can check UserGuiding‘s change management articles to get the guidance, from here.

2- Digital Adoption and Employee Training

Digital adoption is a common term in today’s world. The term refers to the use of fresh technology to enhance a business. As digital technology continues to become a vital aspect of business processes, it’s no wonder that CIOs and IT teams are focusing more and more on digital adoption to embrace change.

But just like any new method that’s worth trying, this approach also comes with slight challenges for CIOs. For example, with digital adoption comes employee training and new objectives for the organization. When it comes to employee training, the traditional methods generally don’t do a great job meeting the demands – enabling team members to retain knowledge or keep up with the pace of change- of today’s businesses.

As a result, CIOs should ensure that they practice new employee training, a training method all about human interaction and behavior. This training model will enable the process of digital adoption to reach its full potential and bring many benefits.

New employee training makes sure that everybody -new generations especially- stays engaged and feels comfortable with the new system they are progressively encountering.

CIOs at this point are facing the challenge of the need to train hundreds of employees to use tools across departments and regions. This whole process can turn out to be costly and time-consuming and might delay the digital adoption journey.

Okay, now everything seems pretty dark but note that UserGuiding can help you out with this issue. 

UserGuiding is the all-in-one answer to employee training challenges dealt with by CIOs. With the help of an easy-to-use interface, you can follow many instructions and guides with a single click.

The platform can help you save time by easily creating employee training content; no coding knowledge is needed. With a DAP’s dashboard, you can create training articles, Flows, pop-ups, and more in just minutes. Afterward, it’s up to your preference for what to do with those pieces of content; you can export them to various formats such as a video walk-through and make it easier for your team members to understand and participate in the process fully. 

3- Keeping Up With Technology

There is no room for steadiness in IT departments, folks.

It’s a department that needs to be constantly changing and updating itself according to the latest technology practices. 

This is why another major challenge that every CIO is facing today is the need to keep up with this environment breathing evolving technology in and out. 

It was always difficult for employees to keep pace with this situation, but what about CIOs? Since they control everything information technology, they’re expected to know everything and become a jack-of-all-trades in a technology-oriented world. Larry Quinian, a CIO at Deloitte, states that effectively operating global technology in IT is one of the biggest challenges that his team and himself are paying attention to right now.

I’m aware that it doesn’t sound at all like binge-watching Black Mirror and going online to brainstorm on upcoming technologies. But the case has never been all entertainment for CIOs. 

Their job definition consists of being familiar with the latest trends such as online shopping, new industries, new job fields, digital products and services, and multichannel marketing.

In short, they are expected to be ready to develop new products and services and adapt to changes in IT strategies when necessary.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by this workload, Robert Reeves, a CTO from Datical advises these teams and leaders to go out there talk to people. He says that you won’t get an impactful insight by doing tons of reading here and there, you need to interact with people, ask them what they do, how they do it, and why. He says that the abundance of information you’ll learn about other people’s experiences will surprise you. 

Another wise piece of advice that he gives is paying attention to industries that are…. not keeping up with technology well enough. He has a fun way of explaining this to his listeners; he goes online and randomly searches the phrase ‘Millennials are killing the…’ and focuses very carefully on whatever he comes across. He says he finds out a lot about industries and their inabilities to engage with recent technologies, which helps him learn from their mistakes. 

4- Cybersecurity Dangers

A follow-up to the previous challenge is cybersecurity threats. Rapid changes in technology are transforming how people live and operate their businesses. Still, they are also bringing new and more complicated cyber threats & security risks than ever before.

And the CIO’s role in cybersecurity has become extremely vital to the maintenance of the organization’s well-being. In recent years, hacker tactics have evolved, become more dangerous, and increased significantly.

It’s been reported that in 2021, one of the biggest security challenges CIOs faced was phishing.

Phishing is a kind of social engineering act generally used to steal data. This tactic has been around for quite some time but the way the act is carried out has changed. Scammers have developed a new way of tricking customers into revealing classified information; they started using SMS and phone calls to imitate well-known organizations. As a result, CIOs must pay more attention to their credential management and build a solid security system that works for their organization to fight this ongoing threat.

To conclude this chapter, CIOs need to be ready with a practical and strategic plan to fight these cybersecurity threats to guard their materials, sensitive data, and the prestige of their organization and save their company thousands of dollars.

5- Financial Inadequacy

The things that are 100% certain in life are scarce. What comes to your mind? Probably birth, death, taxes, etc. Let me include one more thing right there: Limited IT budgets.

Only God knows how many sleepless nights those CIOs suffered thinking about meeting organizational goals while dealing with terribly underfunded budgets. 

And Covid-19 didn’t exactly help this situation for the better.

Many organizations are experiencing the impacts of the virus on their priorities, IT budgets, and technology expenses. It was even stated in a recent TechRepublic Premium poll that 62% of survey respondents are feeling optimistic about making reductions in their 2021 IT budgets due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, this situation also causes 17% of tech leaders to postpone their essential projects on the field.

Pat Phelan, a former analyst and a current vice president of market research from Rimini Street, states that IT departments are also going through a great need for participating in digital transformation, leaving no time or effort to maintain the already created services and operations -goodbye to the money already spent- She says that why it’s vital for CIOs to measure their innovation and software expenses wisely.

While struggling with these kinds of financial issues, another intelligent move CIOs can make would be to collaborate with their colleagues in finance departments. As long as these two departments work hand-in-hand to create financial models based on accurate data, it will become easier to manage the budget effectively.

6- An Imbalance in Need and Affordability

For CIOs who are part of organizations that are deeply embedded in the culture, identity, and fabric of the countries where they operate, utilizing global technology effectively might be a challenge. However, as a big company, blending in with the size and scale of the locations you’re working for is a vital need.

For instance, the size of the USA and the size of San Marino are entirely different. This situation might create an imbalance in need and affordability. So, figuring out how to offer your customers the technology worldwide in environments that are dramatically different from one another is an area that you should pay great attention to.

7- Enabling Mobility in a Challenging World

Again, if you’re part of a big company that serves many different clients worldwide, effective mobility is one of the most important things you should master.

Why exactly?

Because a good business mobility approach will enable your organization to work more efficiently and compete more willingly.

Furthermore, to maximize productivity, you as a CIO need to make sure you’re bringing out the best of your organization and providing it to your client. That’s why in a globally recognized company, CIOs need to make sure that clients have access to any knowledge source out there and can travel anywhere they need to, in a secure, cost-effective environment.

Once this is achieved, you’ll have simplified the management processes and met your customer expectations on a greater level.

8- The Process of Migration to the Cloud

Cloud migration is the procedure of moving data, applications, or other elements of business to a cloud computing atmosphere.

Sometimes during this process, CIOs discover that their applications don’t work in the cloud as well as they used to do on-premises. They immediately need to determine the possible reasons for this failure in cloud migration. For example, it could result from poor latency or challenges in compliance. 

Some other challenges that CIOs may face here are as follows:

  • The possibility of exceeding the previously planned budget
  • Security failures
  • Lack of team skills to operate the new infrastructure
  • Misunderstanding or lack of understanding of the process by the team members

What CIOs are responsible for the management of the technical transition, the placement of data, and resolving any legal issues that may occur. However, the main challenge they’re facing is the requirement of a different set of IT and management skills and a different approach to data security for managing apps in the cloud, which is nothing like working with local data centers.

To share the workload, the importance of staff training should not be neglected here. On the contrary, it needs to be a priority. By ensuring that everybody on the team is adequately educated, trained, and on the same page as the CIO, fully aware of how to focus on the control and management of the services, a more straightforward migration process can be achieved. 

CIOs can benefit from team training sessions or video tutorials to shorten the training time of their team.

Final Word

CIOs sure have a lot on their plates, but a successful workplace relies on people and tools. Without the right skills, mindset, and collaboration, an organization can’t reach its potential.

To minimize the challenges of CIOs, collaboration with training managers, department leaders, and finance teams can enable the share of the workload and the creation of a solid digital strategy that can be implemented across the business.

Keep engaging, finding new ways to engage, and never stop testing!


Frequently Asked Questions


What are the biggest challenges in IT?

The biggest challenges in IT departments are digital adoption & transformation processes, employee training, the migration to the cloud, security threats, financial problems, and keeping up with the constantly evolving technology.


What is an IT problem?

Some of the most popular IT problems are lack of internal security systems, outdated or inefficient software/equipment, and data loss & recovery.

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Suay Çakırca

I'm one of UserGuiding’s creative content writers that work hard every day to come up with 💯 content. I usually write about UX, onboarding, and growth. If you like what you read, let’s connect on LinkedIn to talk more about it! I’ll be replying with my cat on my lap and will most probably pause a movie, but hey, I don't mind at all!