MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Yesterday, Minnesota’s High Tech Association hosted their annual CIO Panel focused on 2019 IT priorities. Five CIOs from some of Minnesota’s top businesses shared insights and ideas from their reflection on this year’s top developments, along with the challenges and opportunities they see for the coming year.

This year’s panel featured:

MHTA 2018 cio panel

(Photo credit @MHTA on Twitter)

Each leader kicked off the event with key learnings and reflections from 2018. Because each company is at different points in the digital transformation journey, learnings were unique and varied.

But after listening to the entire presentation, we took away 6 key learnings that seem to be common trends when it comes to 2019 IT priorities.

Here are 6 key takeaways from MHTA’s 2018 CIO Panel on 2019 IT Priorities:

1. IT Leaders are focused on moving from insulated IT to IT being a business driver across the entire organization.

CIOs are more focused than ever on accountability and results. They are working to shift people’s idea of IT’s role in the business from a project-centric mentality (“IT is just a department that signs off on decisions.”) to a customer-centric mentality (“IT is a department that drives digital transformation.”). This is going to speed up digital transformation and ensure that they’re able to continue to compete in today’s digital age.

2. Security is important and needs to be an ongoing, company-wide conversation.

It seems too often than not that we hear about another data breach happening affecting more and different consumers. That’s why CIOs are focused on making security a living, breathing conversation across the entire organization. “It’s not a matter of if, but when,” they said. But they are focused on making sure everyone is prepared – from the CEO to your cashiers – and feels a sense of ownership over security at their organizations.

“We focus a lot of time and attention on security. Everyone is vulnerable, so we need to provide the right education and training, and put the right processes in place so that we are all prepared.” – Matt Pammer, CIO at Prime Therapeutics

3. Data and security go hand in hand.

Data and analytics are a priority for CIOs, whether they find themselves at the beginning of their digital transformation journey, or much further along. Understanding customers and providing them with a personalized experience is a requirement in today’s “Amazon Age.” But there’s also a question of ethics when it comes to data. CIOs are prioritizing strategic data management, and making sure they are being critical about what data is being stored.

“There’s a big focus on ethics when it comes to data. At Sleep Number, we’re constantly asking ourselves, “Do we need to store this data?” If the answer is unclear, then we should not be storing it.” – Hunter Saklad, CIO at Sleep Number

4. The right talent is key to future success.

CIOs are focused on restructuring jobs and teams, and training talent to meet the skill sets they’ll need in the future. Whether it’s identifying opportunities for machines to create efficiencies and eliminate costly labor, or hiring the right experience to drive the use of new technologies, CIOs are rethinking their work forces.

5. Digital transformation starts in IT, but can only be successful if it spans the whole organization.

Due to the shift in the role technology plays across the organization, IT is becoming more than a siloed department. Companies are starting to act more like software companies, instead of companies who own or use software.

“Digital transformation can’t just be done in IT. It has to be done across the whole business.” – Matt Pammer, CIO at Prime Therapeutics

6. Keeping pace with changing technologies is the only way to remain competitive.

One of CIO’s biggest challenges, is figuring out which technologies they are going to bet on without knowing if it’s going to drive ROI or not. Pilots and tests are an important way that they will keep their organizations relevant while trying to find the secret sauce.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is keeping pace with changing customer technologies, and trying to recognize which ones are going to take off and give us strong ROI.” – Tammylynne Jonas, CIO at Holiday Companies

This is why you see companies like Lunds/Byerly’s piloting drone technology to check stock levels on the shelves of their stores after hours, and the grocery industry at large starting to use blockchain to improve supply chain visibility so they can avoid things like last month’s romaine lettuce recall. Holiday Companies is using AI-powered sensors to control temperatures in their coolers and experimenting with alternative payment technologies at the pumps.

But even beyond that, they are focused on identifying the next real disruption.

“One of my biggest challenges is understanding and predicting disruptive technology – the technology that is changing the rules of the game across every industry. Think about it: hotels now compete with homeowners. What’s going to be next?!” – Tom Butterfield, CIO at TCF Bank

As we enter 2019, CIOs have the unique challenge of managing change across change-adverse organizations, while still diving into risky technologies that haven’t proven themselves yet. After listening to this group of CIOs and understanding their 2019 IT priorities, we have no doubt that digital transformation and disruptive technologies are going to continue to drive change within today’s most successful organizations due in large part to these forward-looking CIOs.

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