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Five key tech trends for digital leaders in 2022 and Beyond

As digital leaders switch their attentions to the year ahead, the Harvey Nash Group has used some of the key findings of its Digital Leadership Report to publish five key tech trends for digital leaders in 2022.

With the pandemic not over yet and economic uncertainty abounding, the future is difficult to predict. However, one thing is clear: technology remains key to the recovery. Businesses across sectors are continuing to focus on digital transformation to drive growth. The investment will not let up in 2022.

 In its 23rd year, and based on the world’s largest digital leadership survey, the Harvey Nash Group Digital Leadership Report’s five key tech trends for digital leaders in 2022 are as follows:

1. The most important technologist in the company will not be the CIO – The Digital Leadership Report, released in November 2021, found that almost two thirds of digital leaders (61%) in the UK expect to increase technology investment over the next 12 months, but at the same time, the pandemic has accelerated the direction of travel for the use of cloud technologies and business-managed IT adoption. This has put much more power in the hands of disparate areas of the business, and the real question the board is asking is “Who can get us close to the customer, who can make us agile and who can bring real insights from our data?” It matters less who delivers it, as long as it’s delivered. So, whilst the CIO remains a key – probably the key – broker with the business, it’s a more diffused picture now with a number of key technology decision makers and ‘brokers’ sharing the limelight in 2022.

2. The proportion of companies that are essentially ‘tech companies’ will cross the 50% mark – Half of companies are expected to transform themselves over the next two to three years into technology companies as the November report highlighted that digital leaders have major plans for transformation. If they haven’t already started, many of these major transformations will kick off in 2022 as organisations continue to re-imagine the way they do business by creating new products and services – an area that has become a top board priority.

3. Don’t take your eye off the ball with the looming cyber threat – We have seen significant investment in cyber security over the last 12 months as it has become a top priority for digital leaders. But, although this investment seems to be paying off with those organisations experiencing a major cyber-attack in the last two years dropping from 32% in 2019 to 24% in 2021, digital leaders mustn’t take their eye off the ball. Not only are cyber criminals becoming more organised and sophisticated, but our view is also that the high levels of confidence shown by digital leaders in their own organisations’ cyber resilience could come back to haunt them if they don’t find ways to combat the huge dearth of cyber skills in the market. Over the last two years, cyber has shot to the top of the skills shortage list (43% of organisations in the UK reporting a shortage), while a recent DCMS report[1] found that the UK’s cyber security recruitment pool has a shortfall of 10,000 people a year. This is an unsustainable position and something that digital leaders needs to manage carefully and proactively, as government action to build a stronger cyber talent pipeline will take time.

4. Gender diversity set to turn a corner – Office of National Statistics (ONS) data found in November 2021 that there has been a step up in the number of women working in the UK’s technology sector, with almost 150,000 jobs created for women over the last two years. We expect this trend to continue as hybrid working delivers the level of flexibility that women with young families have required for a long time. Not only has the pandemic created more opportunities for women, but greater diversity has also made technology teams more effective. Investment in diversity programmes has a clear commercial, as well as equality, case.

5. Get sustainability on the agenda – The Digital Leadership Report found that although UK boards recognise cleaner, greener technology will improve their carbon footprint, it is placed third from bottom in the list of priorities for their technology teams. As a result, only one fifth (22%) of digital leaders in the UK have reduced the carbon footprint of their own technology to any great extent. In the wake of COP26 and with pressure from governments, investors and customers growing on all organisations to play their part in addressing the climate emergency, there’s no doubt sustainability will become an increasingly big issue for digital leaders in 2022: boards will begin to shift the dial on this area and they will be looking for digital leaders to support them. Sustainability can’t continue to sit third from bottom on the priority list.

Bev White, CEO of Harvey Nash Group said:

“Last year we reported the biggest surge in technology spend we have ever recorded. Like the pandemic itself, this surge was unexpected and unplanned for, and – at the time – digital leaders were expecting their planned future expenditure to be cut back to compensate. But as time has progressed it has become clear that Covid-19 has forced organisations to re-imagine the way they do business by developing new products, new services and new ways of engaging with their customers. This all requires significant and sustained technology investment.

 In fact, as we enter 2022, digital leaders are reporting the highest ever levels of optimism for increasing budgets and headcount for the coming year. Digital leaders and their boards are already on the front foot – creating new products and services is now a top three board priority for the first time since our research began, and half of organisations have major plans for transformation in the next two to three years.

 But there will be an additional significant priority as well: the question of how the technology sector can support the journey towards Net Zero carbon will become unavoidable. The technology community must rise to the increasingly urgent challenge on sustainability and carbon.”