Key Courses for CIOs in 2021

Key Courses for CIOs in 2021

Continuing courses education is a necessity for everyone. But for many of us, especially those of us who head up IT functions, time is a precious commodity. It’s hard to get away from the relentless demands of the business.

The continuing education questions that are on many CIOs’ minds are what type of continuing education do I need, and can it fit within the time that I can spend?

Let’s take a look at 2021.

We are just starting to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees are beginning to return to brick-and-mortar offices, though a significant number of them will continue to work remotely — and may do so permanently. We also find ourselves in a situation where cyber safety and the threats to it are increasing.

In terms of IT projects, many of them were deferred and now have to be completed on more conservative budgets. These projects involve DevOps, IoT, AI, and many other newer technologies that are iterative and continuously evolutionary. That means that they may not easily present discernible project endpoints (and returns on investment) to management.  At the same time, it’s getting harder to find “ready made” skillsets in new hires that can address these new technologies, so existing staff must be retrained. Business departments are using citizen developers, and collaborative and soft skills are needed on the IT side. As these projects and culture changes are evolving, CIOs must manage the change.

At a high level, CIOs are aware of these trends. They also understand the need to stay abreast of change and all the forces that continually impact IT and the business. The educational courses CIOs choose during 2021 should reflect these needs.

Here are some top CIO educational topics with representative courses or materials that are highly relevant in 2021: 

1. Overview of CIO Issues and Priorities in 2021

IT research and analytics firms regularly offer high level briefing sessions on relevant technologies and business trends for CIOs. For 2021, The Gartner CIO Leadership Forum focused on driving a culture of customer-centricity, accelerating digital technology in uncertain times, building transformation-ready workforces, rethinking the technology funding model, and delivering successful business outcomes.

Gartner offered these sessions virtually last year. The sessions also offer networking and an exchange of ideas and problem solving among CIOs. The value of courses like this are their generalist approaches. They aid CIOs and other high-level executives who have broad responsibilities.

2. Ethical Hacking for CIOs

Cyber hacking is on the rise, threatening corporate intellectual property, security, and reputations. It’s not a bad idea to get up to speed with the latest hacking techniques and technologies and how your staff can counter them.

One online course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cybersecurity for Managers: A Playbook runs over a 6-week period and focuses on creating a robust cybersecurity framework for the security of business operations. Topics include cybersecurity risk management, privacy, approaches to managing cybersecurity, and vocabulary and language for informed talks with CTOs and CISOs. Participants get access to the techniques of cyber defense mechanisms so that they can build an advanced cybersecurity framework according to industry standards. This program is for both CIOs and non-technical executives. A second option is a three-hour free video course, Ethical Hacking, offered by Simplilearn.

3. Finance for Non-financial Executives

Many CIOs lack formal training in finance but must oversee IT budgets and understand the financial nuts and bolts of the business.

Coursera offers an online Finance for Non-Financial Managers course that covers the essentials of business financials, analysis, and ratios, and that was developed by Emory University.

4. Contract Law

CIOs aren’t attorneys — yet signing and executing contracts is central to what they do.

To tighten up contract skills, Arizona State University offers online materials to help, Contracts 101 for Non-Lawyers, that goes though the elements and legal principles of contracts.

5. Team Building

Collaboration and strong team leadership will be more important than ever as employees return from remote offices and engage in interdisciplinary projects. IT will be in the thick of this activity, called upon to demonstrate both leadership and cooperative engagement. It will be up to CIOs to foster a team-friendly work culture so this can happen.

xTEAMS offers team building materials that focus on creative leadership and team building in a distributed and diverse work environment.

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6. Internet Law

The law always lags technology, but legal guidelines and case law precedents are emerging for Internet law, and it’s important for CIOs to understand them. Global Internet Law in a Nutshell is a helpful and informative book on the subject.

7. Technology Trends

When it comes to future forecasting for your technology roadmap, Forrester offers excellent insights in Predictions 2021 for IT Leaders. This year’s discussion provides insights on why only 10% of CIOs will play a part in their company’s AI strategy, the emergence of new C-suite leaders such as CISOs and CTOs, and how enabling work from anywhere will help with IT talent recruitment.

There are many excellent continuing education choices for CIOs in 2021. The best news is that most courses are flexible and can be worked into the windows of time that CIOs have available.

Related Content:

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IT Meets Finance: How CFOs Drive Digital Success
CIO Role Expands into Company Culture, Customer Experience
Forecast of the Future of Work from MIT Sloan CIO Symposium



Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally recognized technology commentator and President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology services firm. Prior to founding her own company, she was Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information ..

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