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Top Focus for CXOs in 2021: Cloud, Cybersecurity, Remote Work

The pandemic was a wake-up call for CXOs to revive their IT strategies and increase their technology spending in 2021.


The pandemic was a wake-up call for most organizations to relook and revive their IT strategies and increase their technology spending in 2021.

According to Sierra Ventures’ CXO Advisory Board Tech Survey on enterprise technology priorities for 2021, during the pandemic, instead of cutting down on funding, executives turned to technology as an enabler of transformation as companies shifted to remote work and accelerated digital transformation.

The survey conducted between December 2020 and January 2021, and includes technology leaders (CIOs/CTOs) across industry clusters such as healthcare, financial services, retail, manufacturing, energy, and technology & internet, reveals that over 50% of CXO’s reported an increase in their technology budget expect to increase investments in areas such as multi-cloud, cybersecurity and remote work technologies during the rest of 2021.

Commenting on the research findings, Mark Fernandes – Managing Partner, Sierra Ventures, told CXOToday, “What surprised us the most from the report was how important technology was in helping enterprises manage through the pandemic.”

He added, “At first, it looked like most of the CXOs would have to cope with severely reduced budgets and sunset a wide range of projects. However, we saw that both areas rebounded very quickly in the summer of 2020 as executives doubled down on technology as a strategic driver for enterprise growth.”

Multicloud is the way ahead

Cloud was certainly a technology of choice and 2021 is certainly the year of multicloud. Quoting the previous year’s report, Fernandes said, “In early 2020, 72.5% of survey respondents reported planning to use a multi-cloud strategy. In this year’s survey, over 85% of the respondents either currently have or plan to have a multi-cloud strategy in place by the end of 2021.”

This year’s survey also showed, Kubernetes  gain traction as a top platform for managing containerized applications. “We saw an increase of 16.5% from last year in CXO’s who reported using Kubernetes,” he said.

Highlighting the technology trends over the next 12 months, Fernandes said, “Kubernetes being an important focus for enterprises over the next few years, we see containerization as a key CXO initiative as they map out their path to mass cloud adoption. As such, Kubernetes Management platforms are becoming mainstream and there will be a continued focus on enabling multi-cloud environments as more companies choose to move down this path.”

“As more platforms are built on Kubernetes, CXOs are also paying attention to other applications like security, edge computing and AI/ML. There are a lot of “green field” opportunities in the startup market for serving enterprises in this sector,” he said.

The survey showed AI/ML solving many technology goals associated with addressing the changes caused by the pandemic like improving online customer experience, acceleration of automation capabilities, and enhancing data intelligence.

The survey also finds that Hyper-Automation platforms gaining grounds, and will solve some of the existing RPA challenges including ease of implementation, leveraging of unstructured data to automate monotonous daily workflow processes, and agile platform architectures.

Rising concerns around cybersecurity

Cybersecurity remains a top Enterprise priority and recent highly publicized security hacks have created more demand to secure assets as employees transition to working off-premise.

According to Fernandes, while many have made cybersecurity a top priority for their organization, since this is such a broad sector and ever-evolving, it is important for CIOs to figure out what the critical short-term priorities are that mitigate the most immediate risk and ensure the most business resiliency to cope with the distributed enterprise.

“We witnessed many CIOs focus their 2020 efforts on cloud Security and Identity & Access Management (IAM). For 2021 and beyond, Cloud Security and IAM will continue to remain important,” he said.

Fernandes further said, “We expect CIOs to also explore leveraging enhanced AI capabilities within their security products, plus security tools to cope with new API and Kubernetes architectures. Data Privacy initiatives are also expected to regain focus in the coming year, with increased government and customer demands.”

Remote Work at the Top of Mind for CXOs 

Remote Work has become the norm with companies planning for hybrid models even after the pandemic has waned. Many organizational challenges were created with the rapid shift to remote work. While technology was a huge driver in ensuring business resiliency during the pandemic, respondents report that most of the challenges with working remotely actually center around employee engagement, communication barriers, and workforce onboarding and training.

“The survey results clearly point towards a hybrid environment where most enterprises have their employees come in 2-3 days per week,” he said.

Looking ahead, Remote Work is not projected to end. By the end of 2021, an overwhelming 92% of the respondents expect a hybrid work environment.

No respondents reported a fully in-office or fully remote approach. We expect continued focus and investment in hybrid infrastructures as the effects of the pandemic have created a new normal for the workplace.

“There will be a continued focus on technology investments that mimic the ability to collaborate and meet in person, plus allow for seamless interactions in the “at-home” environment. Also, HR / IT Leaders will continue to ensure each employee is being trained, on-boarded, and developed effectively, while also avoiding burnout and disengagement.

“As we head into a full year of many employees not being in the office, enterprises expect technologies that help build robust, long-term infrastructure for their distributed teams to gain traction,” summed up Fernandes.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at