Managing Uncertainty: A CIO’s Framework for IT Prioritization Photo by airfocus on UnsplashWhile few CIOs could have predicted a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, they stepped up to play a central role in navigating the disruption, working closely with their CEO and Board to help address immediate challenges and stabilize operations. The pandemic is illustrative of how organizations operate during times of economic uncertainty and global disruption; they generally move across three modes: survive, stabilize or thrive.

In Survive mode, the organization is in crisis mode and focused on putting out fires to protect the business and preserve cash. CIOs take drastic measures to cut costs to match reductions in sales to assure the organization remains viable. Stabilize mode gives the organization more breathing room to focus on optimizing core systems and applications and restart deferred or derailed plans.

In this mode, the CIO shifts from crisis response to maximizing value from core operations (remote communication, security) and deprioritizing nice-to-haves (e.g., transformation, modernization). When a company enters Thrive mode, they have adapted to the new operating environment and are laser focused on investing in new talent and innovation that improves competitive advantage and supports growth.

Along this continuum, organizations will move between modes – and they may even operate in multiple modes at the same time.

Assessing Your Mode and Have a Plan to Thrive

Today, most organizations spend an average of 90% of their IT budget on ongoing maintenance, enhancements, and operational costs. Ideally, the IT budget allocation goal should be to invest 60% in operations and 40% in innovation. To help rebalance the budget spend, IT leaders need to free up people, time and funds to embark on a business-driven roadmap based on business priorities that support the CEO’s goals and vision for the organization.

The Power of Prioritization

With proper prioritization, the CIO has the power to shift the budget equation and steer his or her organization into a thriving future. However, reacting without evaluating the entire picture could leave the organization bleeding cash.

The CIO should be asking the tough questions – both of their team and of executives – to be able to come back to their CEO and the Board with a proactive strategy and plan. These questions should guide all prioritization decisions:

  1. What will be the organizational impact of this initiative?
  2. Does this initiative drive competitive advantage and/or business growth?
  3. Are there more important initiatives to tackle right now to help us right size?
  4. Can this initiative be deferred?
  5. Are there alternative strategies to eliminate the need for this initiative?

As the CIO evaluates IT initiatives, he or she needs to be ruthless. If a project does not directly contribute to revenue growth, cost reduction or other key initiative, the project should be deferred or canceled – and few if any resources should be spent on them.

Prioritization Framework for the Business-Driven Roadmap

As CIOs struggle to find ways to balance and fund their business operations and focus on growth, it’s more important than ever that they practice extreme prioritization discipline. Honing this skill is the cornerstone to managing an ever-evolving, highly disruptive environment, where mode-shifting can make the difference between unprecedented growth and failure.

Using the framework below, CIOs can optimize IT investments and shift more budget towards a prioritized, business-driven roadmap. This approach can help CIOs narrow their strategic focus and fund what’s important.

Reduce software support and operating costs

Use third-party support and AMS providers to reduce support costs. Avoid or delay expensive, low-value application upgrades. By replacing over-priced vendor support, organizations can dramatically cut costs and reallocate funds to strategic initiatives.

Improve application management outcomes

Take a unified approach to application management and support, consolidating providers and reducing complexity. With a single-provider source, CIOs can reduce operational disruptions, finger pointing, and support gaps between vendors.

Leverage public cloud

CIOs generally shouldn’t be in the data center business. Instead of managing infrastructure, vendor agnostic public cloud providers like AWS, Azure or GCP, allow CIOs to focus resources on business value, not operations. Employing a pure public cloud or hybrid model can help CIOs achieve strategic flexibility, avoid vendor lock-in, and take control of their IT roadmap based on the business objectives of the organization.

Manage public cloud usage

Once the infrastructure is on the cloud, don’t treat it like it’s just another data center. Concentrate on continually improving performance, scalability and security using cloud native tools to drive down spend and extend functionality.

Optimize software licenses

Review software licenses for underutilization and compliance to improve return and reduce risk. By avoiding potential compliance issues and optimizing license positions, CIOs can get more value out of vendor agreements, be better prepared for audits and help avoid hefty penalties.

As the current crisis continues to impact businesses and government agencies globally, and the next disruption looms on the horizon, knowing the company’s current mode – Survive, Stability and Thrive – and shifting where the business needs to go are critical. Working in lock step with the CEO and other key stakeholders, moving across modes and aligning budget models to match are essential to staying afloat. Employing these strategies now will help the CIO proactively manage volatile conditions and emerge stronger on the other side of turbulent moments.


Rimini Street Logo NiB (c) Rimini StreetRimini Street, Inc. (Nasdaq: RMNI), a Russell 2000® Company, is a global provider of enterprise software products and services, the leading third-party support provider for Oracle and SAP software products, and a Salesforce partner. The Company offers premium, ultra-responsive and integrated application management and support services that enable enterprise software licensees to save significant costs, free up resources for innovation and achieve better business outcomes. To date, more than 4,200 Fortune 500, Fortune Global 100, midmarket, public sector, and other organizations from a broad range of industries have relied on Rimini Street as their trusted application enterprise software products and services provider. To learn more, please visit http://www.riministreet.com, follow @riministreet on Twitter, and find Rimini Street on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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