Looking Ahead: The Most Pressing Challenges Facing IT Leaders In 2021

By Greg Jones, chief technology officer, MobileSmith Health.

Greg Jones

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed the healthcare landscape, and with that, the amount of disruptive technologies flooding the industry at the same time has drastically increased. IT leaders are now not only facing new opportunities brought about by emerging technologies, but many previously unforeseen challenges as well – and this will only continue in the year, and even years ahead.

From new technologies to the people needed to implement them, here are four of the top challenges keeping many IT leaders awake at night.

  1. Maintaining a healthy continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD)

This practice ensures a faster delivery of a developed service and can provide a competitive edge. The challenge today is maintaining a CI/CD pipeline with changing cloud architectures, while also maintaining proper security compliances and legacy services without greatly increasing technical debt. Cloud service providers change supported versions that can impact new development and force tech debt to take priority.

Additionally, having a solid CI/CD pipeline with testing, compiling and automatic deployment is key. The solution to this challenge is ensuring that all services are initially built with CI/CD in mind. Development leads must ensure their teams are approaching the development of every solutions based on this mindset and must be given the time to keep up with technology, service provider changes and too gather current and future service changes.

  1. Getting Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) buy in

Today, machine learning is commonly talked about – similarly to how data was talked about in the ‘90s and “analytics” in the ‘00s. It is essential that business leaders understand the change a company will introduce when implementing AI/ML. This may include new product features, knowledge required by staff, new staff positions, etc.

To successfully combat this challenge, business leaders must start with a feasibility study (data availability, model reliability, costs, product value, supportability, governance issues). This may be performed by knowledgeable staff or consultants and will help communicate at a business level what is means to introduce machine learning into the company or into a product. This can also help start the governance process to ensure expected outcomes match real outcomes.

  1. The forced remote workforce

The pandemic has forced most workforces to shift from an in-person setting to a remote setting. This sudden shift can cause a decrease in motivation and an increase in various types of fatigue (COVID-19 fatigue, security fatigue, quality fatigue, etc.). It is essential that business leaders check-in with their teams to both ensure team members still have a sense of ownership in the work they perform as well as the sense of being part of a team. This practice can assist businesses in maintaining a mentally and physically healthy staff as well as healthy communication.

  1. Finding technical athletes

Technical athletes are those developers that understand today’s game plan, how the agile process impacts tomorrow’s game plan, and have the ability to adapt. This includes continually learning new technical skills, procedure changes based on identified efficiencies, and the competitiveness to strive for the best solutions for the healthcare industry.

In effort to find these types of team members, businesses must have a strategy perspective on all development. This is important to be able to see how much can be developed and maintained in a parallel fashion, as this demonstrates what the limitations are. When these candidates are found, businesses must ensure that all team members are able and willing to learn and support new languages, processes, and architectures.

While IT leaders are posed with many upcoming challenges in 2021, it is now more important than ever than the entire healthcare ecosystem bands together to discuss and implement best practices when it comes to negating these challenges in the year ahead.

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