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8 Ways IT will grow and mature in 2017

8ways it growWhat will 2017 bring for IT? We asked some of the smartest CIOs we know--Frank Yanan, Victor Tung, Paul Tuxford, and Kendra Von Esh--to weigh in.

 

They see IT evolving into a much more strategic function as technology advances. The march toward the cloud will continue, as will the drive to innovate with data. These are not new trends, but as they unfold, they are creating challenges and opportunities that will take IT in new directions. Here’s what our experts think companies should look for and strive to capitalize on as we begin the new year.

 

1.    Blurred lines between business and IT

The lines between the business and traditional IT are going to continue to collapse. Technology skills are fast becoming a core component in any type of role. We’ll see fewer people who are pure technologists or pure business leaders. Business people are going to become tech-savvy and people who are technology-savvy will be business-savvy. This will happen naturally as people that have grown up with enhanced access to data and mobile and the internet of things (IoT) enter the workforce.

 

 2.    Embracing shadow IT

As these lines blur, so-called shadow IT—business people buying and running their own tools, or maintaining a secret server under the desk—will continue to grow. This has always been a difficult element for IT to contend with. The demand has always been there, but SaaS has created a new ease of procurement and management that lead more people to operate in the shadows.

 

However, even the most tech savvy business people are usually untrained in governance, infrastructure, architecture, system performance or security, and may unknowingly bring risk to the organization.

 

Nobody likes the term governance, but IT has to find ways to help employees understand the risks and tradeoffs, and find ways to partner with them to bring them into the fold where security and compliance can be managed effectively.

 

 3.    Streamlining security

With so many data breaches in the news, security is naturally a big focus, and the security product world is going crazy. A lot of organizations are getting to a point where they have dozens and dozens of different tools, and that can become a security risk itself. It’s too many tools to try to support and patch and manage access for.

 

Similar to what we’ve seen in the application and infrastructure areas over time, in order to become more cost effective, the security tools landscape will likely need to condense as well to more of a complete, suite-based approach.

 

4.    Adding a new customer

IT has traditionally considered its customers to be internal, but as technology moves to the cloud and becomes more self-service, the focus will shift to external customers--the people that are paying your company for its goods and services.  

 

IT will increasingly support the front-end, revenue-generating part of the business by presenting customers by delivering data at the right time and in context. Simple things, such as using technology to be able to tell customers where their delivery is, or helping them find things more easily in a store, will become a basic expectation of IT.

 

5.    Managing more data

IT will have a wealth of data they can draw on to service their new external customers. SaaS providers are sitting on a mountain of data that they can share with customers. The number of ‘smart’ devices is booming. Everything from coffee machines to jet engines are now nodes on the IoT transmitting data back to their owners. Data from the web and social media, and from many new public and private sources can be brought in to find insights from which to develop value added offerings.

 

6.    Growing data maturity

The discipline of using data within an organization will continue to mature. As the hype around big data dies down, organizations are recognizing it's not about how much data you put in a data lake, or in a Hadoop environment, or how much data you purchase. It's about picking the right data to focus on, and bringing the right people or technology into the organization to do data analysis.

 

Some devices will generate data that is assessed and discarded, others will generate data that is stored and analyzed. Increasingly, these generated data points will be assessed by cognitive software robots. Artificial intelligence (AI) is now at the cusp of acceptance into industry, and will change both the nature of IT work and the nature of many white-collar roles in large industries. If you can provide a computer with the information to make a recommendation and take an action, why pay a person to do it?

 

The one person that every company needs: A data scientist. The true data scientist can engineer the data to be relevant and focus on the right things. They understand the metadata and how data structures are created, versus people or machines preparing or combing through data without a holistic understanding of how all the pieces fit together.

 

7.    Rethink the organization

Technology within the organization is moving from being centralized and controlled, to decentralized and more loosely controlled as increasingly vendors come to market with end-to-end offerings that address a business process with a mix of technology and services.

 

This lets IT organizations rethink their enterprise technology and supporting technology. That in turn leads to rethinking their data and what they can do with it, how they staff the department, and how it all fits with the business. The outcome is likely to be greater use of cloud solutions to push support, innovation and upgrades outside the organization, so internal IT can focus on the data and the customer.

 

8.    Evolution of the CIO

The role of the CIO will continue to change. Traditionally, the CIO role has basically been managing a P&L and resources. The CIO of the future will be focused more on innovating to create competitive advantages for the company, versus running a technology operation to support the business.

 

As more of the commoditized plumbing gets outsourced, the CIO’s focus will be more on strategy and enablement. We’re already seeing that reflected in titles such as chief digital officer and chief innovation officer.

 

So much of what IT does is utility-related, and all that still needs to get done, or people are going to pick up the phone and call you, but there isn’t a lot of value added.

 

The new breed of CIOs have to find a way to get all that done, and will need to add partnership and collaboration skills, plus thought leadership and a bit of an entrepreneurial mentality for solving business problems. They will need leadership skill to bring the organization together, to digitize everything, to leverage data and figure out how these end-to-end business services are integrated for the best internal and external user experience.

 

Frank Yanan is Global Head of Security Services for Zurich Insurance. Victor Tung is CIO, Corporate and International at BMO Financial Group and a member of the Coupa Executive Advisory Board, as is Paul Tuxford, an independent IT adviser and former CIO of The Global Fund and Credit Suisse. Kendra Von Esh is Strategic Executive Advisor at Coupa, and the former CIO of Veolia.