the future of IT and how CIOs must prepare for it today

The future of IT and how CIOs must prepare for it todayAs technical advancements radically transform the business landscape in the last decade, lines between technology and business are fast dissolving. This trend will only continue and what the future holds is anybody’s guess. Through all the impending changes, one thing is certain. Synergy between roles, divisions, industries and services will be the order of the day in a marketplace more competitive and fast paced than ever before. In this transformed scenario, CIOs will find themselves being much more than the tech honcho.

The CIO of the future will spend a lot more time on understanding business needs, innovating and mapping technical expertise to create impactful solutions. CIOs of the future will need to focus on leveraging technology for business growth and advancement. Here are four major trends that are likely to transform businesses, IT and the role of the CIO in particular:

1. the onslaught of new technologies

Artificial intelligence, ubicomp, robotic process automation, cloud computing, big data, nanobots, blockchain, fintech and a host of other nascent technologies will create a profound impact on every aspect of our lives. Besides quickly assimilating these new technologies, CIOs will have to offer compelling perspectives on what the technology enables, how it can support changes and contribute to business growth. Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda report reveals that the duties of 84% of CIOs at top-performing digital businesses have evolved beyond the IT function. Innovation and transformation are now key components of their responsibilities. As the company’s profitability continues to become closely enmeshed with its digital-technological prowess, CIOs may be called upon to play a critical guiding role.

2. changing business models

As the digital economy booms, interconnected users will rely more upon each other's contributions. Most successful business models today are platform-centric—think Uber, Airbnb, Facebook—and rely on communities to drive their business forward. This trend will impact technology as well: from being consumed as products or services, technology will move towards being offered on platforms. This will usher in opportunities for CIOs to step forward as technology experts, bringing platforms to life and driving centers of innovation. Since platforms rely so heavily on people, CIOs will not only have to be technologically nifty but community-savvy.

3. a changing workplace

New technologies and business models will inevitably impact the workplace. According to one report, in the next five years, the global bring your own device (BYOD) enterprise market is set to grow at a combined annual rate of 24%. CIOs will therefore face the challenge of implementing solutions based on a wide array of devices and differing work needs. Moreover, flexibility will no longer be an incentive but a prerequisite; virtual employees working remotely will become the norm, core business functions will move to the cloud and virtual hardware will become increasingly common. All these trends will necessitate new ways of establishing control and ensuring security. The ask will be on the CIO to ensure a fine balance between providing secure and reliable technology solutions and allowing for role-based customization that enhances productivity across the board.

4. new sourcing landscape

With innovation taking center stage, outsourcing of key functions will no longer be considered desirable. Instead, companies will look at getting the work done inhouse. Given the rapid pace at which technologies are evolving however, this could prove difficult as the demand for new skilled workers will far exceed the supply. CIOs will have to play a judicious role as they plan their hiring and retention strategies. They should work towards developing a continuous learning model, where upskilling and reskilling of workers occur on an ongoing basis. They will also have to invest in their own learning so that they can make strategic decisions.

the CIO’s evolving role

The CIO’s evolving rolePrice Waterhouse Cooper’s 2017 report on the ‘Changing role of the CIO’ points out several ways in which the CIO’s role will change and evolve in response to the changing business landscape. Here are four big asks on the CIO of the future.

1. strategic visionary

As technology takes centre stage, CIOs will need to evolve from pure play technical roles to more strategic ones. CIOs should prepare themselves to step out of their comfort zone and forge meaningful partnerships that impact profitability.

2. advocate for agility

To keep up with the changing business landscape, CIOs will have to constantly imbibe and champion agile methodologies such as DevOps, continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD), and simplified governance. They will have to rev up and become responsive instead of reactive—spotting opportunities for growth, efficiency and differentiation, ahead of the rest of the market.

3. a multitasker

As businesses rely heavily on technology, CIOs will need to gird themselves to wear several hats —Chief Digital Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Head of Security and Chief Data Officer—and add value to each. They will need to actively seek out opportunities to work alongside multi-faceted teams consisting of subject matter experts.

4. data-driven decision-maker

As the emphasis on data and analytics continues to grow, savvy CIOs will find themselves presented with the opportunity to create meaning out of data through actionable insights. Instead of hoarding the data, inculcate the practice of disseminating information based on data to the current decision makers.

The alternative will be redundancies. As PwC notes: “To counter the divide between business and IT and stem the creation of shadow IT capabilities and platforms, the CIO must adapt their operating model, capabilities and IT architecture to be responsive to the types of requests coming from the business. Without this vision and without adopting new ways of working, IT runs the risk of being migrated to the back office for the long term.”