The 2021 CIO Agenda

By Christopher Key and Rick Pastore
February 1, 2021
Season 1, Episode 9

Chris Key, global IT advisory practice leader for The Hackett Group, discusses findings from our IT Key issues research with Rick Pastore, senior research director. With digital transformation at the top of the enterprise agenda for 2021, IT must drive digital transformation within its own organization, in order to more effectively support enterprise transformation. But IT is behind the curve, having neglected its own digital transformation, and must focus on automating manual processes, building the skills and relationships it needs, and taking a leadership role in the enterprise. All this must be achieved in the context of shrinking budgets, reduced staffing, and increased workload in 2021.

Show Notes

Today’s episode of the Business Excelleration Podcast is hosted by Chris Key, Global IT Advisory Practice Leader for the Hackett Group.  Chris’s guest for the episode is his colleague, Rick Pastore, who is the Hackett Group’s Senior Research Director.  The conversation focuses on the results of the annual key issues study that Chris and Rick’s organization recently completed, using data and analysis from the study to clarify key changes to the IT strategy the year ahead will bring.

To start the discussion, Rick provides background information on the study.  It was a poll of executive management companies in a variety of fields (such as IT, finance, and HR), sampled companies from across the globe, and focused on mid- to large-size companies.  Rick also shares about the enterprise objectives and how they translate to IT function, particularly focusing on the central need for IT to grow in 2021 in the area of digital transformation.  This area of growth represents the top goal for the new year, and is related to other common aims for the new year, such as bolstering operational stability and continuity and transforming IT itself both digitally and operationally.

In recent years, IT has been behind the digital transformation curve, as it has been more focused on delivering transformation in other areas than on transforming itself.  But the recent study data indicates that only a couple years of intense investment in IT development pay off a great deal for a company.  And when it comes to steps to take in advancing IT, many organizations are taking a more nuanced take on IT outsourcing, planning to automate remaining manual processes, upskill and re-skill talent, close talent gaps, and rationalize project development.  There are a number of skill gaps to close, and Rick and Chris discuss the importance of skill such as relationship building and maintenance and strategic thinking and analysis.

The issue of talent gaps also relates directly to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led many companies to grow their remote work practices.  This enables hiring of IT talent anywhere, which allows companies to hire the best workers they can.  And while Rick and Chris see positives in the fact that many companies plan to maintain a strong remote work culture even after the pandemic is over, they acknowledge that having IT workers and business stakeholders working remotely also raises dilemmas.  There is much work to do to resolve these issues, but in the meantime, Rick leaves listeners with the most basic changes needed to make 2021 a success.


1:22 – Chris introduces himself and his guest, Rick Pastore.

1:43 – This episode deals with the results of the recent annual key issues study.

2:15 – The conversation turns to enterprise objectives and IT function.

4:10 – IT has been behind the curve in recent years, but a couple years of investment makes a big difference.

6:56 – Chris and Rick consider IT changes many companies are planning

9:15 – They go into more detail on the issue of a talent or skills gap.

12:36 – The pandemic has led to more remote work, which brings some benefits.

14:47 – Business stakeholders are also working from home, and dilemmas arise when these individuals and IT workers don’t encounter each other.

19:20 – Chris asks for final thoughts on the minimum changes needed for 2021 to be considered a success.