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Andy Barrow, CTO of cloud service provider ANS Group, believes that the biggest challenges CIOs will face in 2019 will be attracting and retaining talent, and effectively harnessing data.  

Barrow was speaking to CIO UK contributor Cristina Lago - Online Editor of CIO Asia - at the 2018 CIO Summit, which which was held at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Shard in London.

He discussed what he had gained from the 2018 CIO Summit event and what challenges he was preparing for in 2019.

"The biggest challenges for CIOs in 2019: keeping and retaining talent is always a main one for any CIO," Barrow told CIO UK. "I think that when tech gets faster and faster, the talent pool that you have access to is smaller and smaller, because there's not as many people aware of that tech."

Data and skills

Barrow pointed to the ways that the 2018 CIO Summit had offered some insight into this problem. "I think that's always been an issue but it's even more of an issue now, so I think that finding new ways to grow talent, whether that be through apprentice schemes, graduate schemes or incubator startups that we heard about today, to actually get access to talent and new ways of thinking is an interesting one for many organisations," he said.

He also highlighted harnessing and extracting the greatest value from data as an area that can prove challenging. "Today there was a big theme about data - certainly near the end we talked a lot about the value in data and how businesses will be using data moving forward," Barrow said.

Making key decisions about data can be the most difficult part according to Barrow. "I think that how to start and where to start - you know how do you even start to build a common data platform; what are we going to use it for; what data do we need and not need; what kind of platform do we need; what kind of investment is it; what kind of skills?" Barrow said, laying out the vast range of decisions that must be made before data can be deployed in a valuable way.  

"I think that that's becoming a big theme now about the use of data over the next few years," he said. "So I think those will be the big things, data and skills are probably the two things I would highlight."

Leadership and culture

He also spoke about what he had gained from the CIO Summit event. "I think there's been a really interesting discussion today," he said, "about the IT leadership that you need now in today's society and today's business."

"We talked a lot about culture, leadership, about how to work on teams, about how to get the best from your teams, about how to keep the business agile, how to keep the business fast, and I think a lot of organisations hopefully learned a lot from the speakers that we've had and their experiences," he said.

"I think that really was the key for the day, the authenticity of the speakers and how they were telling them about real world experience. Not about what you should do but about 'what we've done that didn't work' and 'this is a good idea moving forward' and 'this is what we're maybe thinking of doing next year' - so really good practical advice."