Defining projects and budgets and reviewing longer term IT initiatives takes front-and-center stage at the end of every year for CIOs. But new flash points also emerge--and IT leaders don't always pay enough attention to them. Although these flash points may vary in importance from year to year, some can generate major repercussions if they are overlooked in annual planning.

Predicting the flash points for 2017 is not an easy job, and the following five areas might not top every CIO's list. However, in many cases, these issues could become highly critical if they're not aggressively planned and budgeted for.

1: Human capital management

Human capital management (HCM) goes by many names, including staff management and employee recruiting and training. The term HCM has taken off in recent years as a catch-all phrase in progressive organizations that realize that the employees they already have under management are some of heir most valuable assets.

Unfortunately, this fact often gets lost in the annual IT budget and planning process. HCM is reduced to terms like "headcount" or "bodies." This makes HCM sound like a commodity, when it isn't. Competition for talent in 2017 will be as fierce as it was in 2016. Analytics, network security, IT infrastructure and database, and digital and mobile application development will be in high demand in the open job market. Competing companies will also be targeting these individuals in your own organization. This is why CIOs and IT staff managers should not only be budgeting for new hires, but ensuring that their own key employees stay happy by providing pleasing work environments, along with raises and promotions as warranted.

2: Wasted assets

The budgeting process has a way of looking forward with new spend on new stuff--but it doesn't do enough in the area of asset management, which can identify IT assets that have been lying dormant (shelfware, antiquated hardware, etc.). It's time to sweep out the closet and get rid of these assets and any licensing fees you still might be paying for them.

SEE: Project prioritization tool: An automated workbook

3: Customer service

When the end of second quarter approaches and your company determines it is behind its revenue projections and calls for budget belt tightening, the first areas of IT to go are typically the help desk and training support functions. Think again. Your end-user customers now have options to work around IT and go directly to cloud and other IT vendors for service--and they are doing it. Consequently, IT can no longer afford to think that it has a privileged position within the company and that excellent customer service is not required for its end users. Users see quality of service in how aggressively the help desk answers questions or solves problems--and in whether an IT training function can help them get a handle on how to best use a new application. CIOs need to recognize this. Otherwise, they'll risk losing market share within their own companies to outside competitors because of service issues.

SEE: IT help desk support SLA

4: Storage

There are strategic IT initiatives for servers and processing, for networks and communications, for security, and for database evolution. However, the storage function always gets left behind as an operational area and storage managers are rarely invited to IT strategy meetings. This needs to change in 2017, as advances in storage technology will have a major impact on data center operations and performance. These advances involve movement from hard disk (HDD) to more rapid solid state disk (SSD) technology, facilitated by significant SSD price drops that have now made it an affordable option for many companies. The move to SSD will cause a major shift in IT infrastructure planning and execution. The net of it all is that storage needs to be brought into strategic IT planning.

5: Disaster recovery and data/access management

Disaster recovery (DR) and data access/management continue to lag behind aggressive IT and end-user projects. What inevitably happens is that IT and end users get so busy with new applications and other projects that they run out of time to annually test their DR plans to make sure that the plans work--and they don't reserve the time to review user data access privileges to make sure that access permissions are still accurate. CIOs need to lead in these efforts. They should start by penciling in DR/data access as a project in the IT plan and budget. They should also get their CEO's direct buy-in and support so they can secure the user cooperation that is needed to complete the project.

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