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Top IT priorities for Nordic CIOs in 2018

Nordic CIOs tell Computer Weekly about their intentions for the year ahead

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CWEurope: CW Nordics: Nordics CIOs’ priorities in 2018

For Nordic CIOs, the start of the new year is the time to set out their priorities for the next 12 months.

In 2017, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain dominated the public debate and IT departments were kept busy by several large-scale cyber attacks, but what about the year ahead? Computer Weekly asked a select group of CIOs and analysts in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden for their take on the top IT priorities in 2018.

As in 2017, digital transformation will continue to be a buzzword in 2018 as Nordic companies seek to reap the business benefits of digitisation.

“For the CIO, this means that both the technologies and the IT service delivery models must be updated,” said Anders Elbak, research manager at analyst firm IDC in the Nordics. “But also, the CIO needs to understand the company’s business, and start discussing its strategic direction, to drive the digital agenda. CIOs will increasingly be responsible for creating new business rather than just supporting the needs of business units.”

Juha Penttilä, CIO at Finnish dairy giant Valio, agrees. For him, a key priority for the year ahead is to develop further how IT and the business work together, both to improve existing business processes and to create new models.

In 2018, the Finnish Tax Administration (FTA) will do this by merging its operational and IT development teams into a single organisation, according to Markku Heikura, CIO at the FTA. “The goal is to improve the agility of our development functions as well as better match customer-centricity and our operational needs,” said Heikura. “At the same time, we aim to enhance how well our development actions meet our strategic goals.”

Focus on data

Going hand in hand with Nordic organisations’ digitisation efforts is a focus on data. Data is enabling companies to gain new insights into their businesses and automate their processes, and for Swedish construction company Svevia, the first step is to expand its sensor network. “For us, a key priority is collecting data from our production machinery and trucks, weather data from stations and sensors,” said Emil Dahlin, CIO at Svevia.

At Finland’s Valio, data management is playing a central role in 2018, in particular transforming data into business-relevant information by combining different data sources, smart analytics and machine learning. This is necessary to achieve the company’s goal of introducing more proactive IT services.

“The aim is to move from the traditional ‘ticket world’ towards a predictive operational model where problems are fixed even before an end-user reports them,” said Valio’s Penttilä. “Also in this sector, analysing data collected from our processes will play a central role.”

Read more Nordic CIO interviews

Data is also closely linked with new regulatory requirements. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect in May 2018, requires all companies to re-evaluate their approach to data management as future breaches can lead to fines of up to €20m, or 4% of an organisation’s worldwide annual turnover. This will sharpen companies’ focus on data, including data classification, flows and security.

“This includes an intense examination of [legacy] IT systems and procedures, and identifying and documenting where data resides, where it is backed up and when it is in transit,” IDC’s Elbak said. “This broadly requires new tools and discontinuation of old systems, but more notably new processes to both secure and document the different types of data.”

For many Nordic companies, the first half of 2018 will be taken up by a last-minute dash to attain GDPR compliance. Fred Johnsen, management consultant at PA Consulting in Denmark, said many IT departments expect to be so tied up with new regulations that they will have limited capacity for further digital development, especially as they cannot afford to reduce their cyber security investments.

“With the recent wave of data breaches, widespread ransomware attacks and theft of cryptocurrencies, I don’t see any pause in spending time and money on digital security in 2018,” said Johnsen. “The buzzwords will be phishing, encryption, physical security and doxing.”

Digital workplace

Another IT priority expected to continue in 2018 is the popularity of the cloud. In 2017, Computer Weekly and TechTarget’s IT priorities survey found that more than half of Nordic respondents planned to increase their cloud spending – and the trend shows no sign of abating, with cloud-based services attracting interest as companies aim to make their workplaces more digital and mobile.

The Norwegian municipality of Trondheim started its cloud transition in 2016 and is now accelerating the process.

“When we moved into the cloud for office support and collaboration tools, we realised we were taking our workforce into a new decade of efficiency and job satisfaction,” said Bjørn Villa, CIO at Trondheim. “Taking this further, we are bringing all our services to all screens and putting an even stronger focus on mobile first. To increase general end-user satisfaction, we are also planning to shift volume purchase away from Microsoft OS-based devices over to Chrome OS.”

Svevia’s Dahlin has similar plans for 2018, with the construction company rolling out a new digital workplace platform based on technologies and cloud services from Microsoft. The platform includes collaboration and document management tools for both PCs and smart devices, with emphasis on ease of use – such as face recognition for logins – and the safe use of third-party mobile devices with role-based segmented integration with its IT environment. 

Cognitive computing

Finally software robots, or robotic process automation (RPA), continues to be a priority for many Nordic CIOs looking to improve efficiency. Most of these robots are still rule-based and are used to replace repetitive manual tasks, but this year companies plan to add more intelligence to their automation efforts.

“The next step will be to implement more advanced functionality related to cognitive technologies in existing RPA solutions,” said Johnsen. “These include machine learning, natural language processing and the ability to deliver advanced analytics back to the business.”

IDC’s Elbak agreed that companies’ interest is growing in the capabilities of AI and machine learning technologies – but there are still a few bridges to cross.

“Many organisations lack the competences to build a cognitive system – and even to identify how it can be used,” he said. “But as machine learning, in particular, becomes easier to access via software, cloud and APIs [application programming interfaces], organisations will embrace the technology.”

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