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The CIO and its IT department have been required to evolve as technology has become more sophisticated, big data has exploded, and employees and the C-suite have demanded more user-friendly and “self-service” technology.  It’s hard to imagine an IT Department simply responding to ticket requests today. Instead, they are moving toward becoming business innovators.  They are expected to understand what is driving their company’s bottom-line, not just advise on tech offerings in the marketplace. Of course IT should be aware of the available solutions and tools. And the occasional maintenance or “ticket” request will continue. But more importantly, IT is moving away from being the gatekeeper of data and processes and becoming a strategic partner and coach for the organization. CIOs and IT departments must find ways to empower employees to be agile and adaptive. IT must provide decision-makers with tools so that the company can react quickly when an opportunity arises or a problem occurs.  IT cannot be a bottleneck or controller of information. Innovation is vital, and finding solutions that integrate departments and unleash company productivity will continue to push CIOs and their teams in 2018.

More Strategic, Less Mundane

According to Gartner, global IT spending is projected to reach $3.5 trillion in 2017. That is an incredible number, and barring a sharp economic downturn, there is no reason to think that IT spending will be dramatically different next year. But once again, CIOs can’t simply have a charter to spend more money. To stay relevant, their goal should be to improve overall operational performance of their companies and find new areas for growth. This is particularly important because many “mundane” IT services will be outsourced to specialized service organizations. If IT departments don’t evolve, they risk becoming obsolete, at least from a day-to-day perspective. But IT departments can and will grow if they approach their role as one of shaping the business, not just maintaining the status quo of operational efficiency.

Meanwhile, as the head of IT, CIOs must also evolve. The mandate for a CIO can no longer be a systems manager. CIOs are rapidly changing their mandate to be innovation experts and growth partners for their companies, and clearly establishing their strategic value as a member of the C-suite.

Integration and Automation

Part of the challenge in creating an environment where better business decisions are made is the need to connect departments, data and processes. Too often, information gets siloed by different regional or business heads and there isn’t enough integration of hardware, software and services to improve organizational efficiency and customer service. Automation should be used whenever possible to speed delivery and reduce the risk of human error. Integration of technology will provide “one truth” – meaning employees will be able to evaluate the same data across the company (not piecemeal from scattered departments).  Integration will also help companies set better KPIs and foster collaboration.

It’s All About the Customer

Competitive differentiation is how companies win. And IT can foster company growth by shaping the customer experience through technology. This could manifest itself in a variety of ways. Perhaps technology gives your company the capability to respond faster to customer needs or problems. Maybe you can better crunch big data and see additional upsell opportunities. Perhaps technology can help you aggregate and promote incentives or rebates based on purchase history. There’s no question that part of a growth strategy for IT should be finding ways to help your company keep its customers happy, loyal and engaged.

The Future?

New technologies continue to push CIOs and their teams. It was only 10 or so years ago that the smartphone completely upended how we do business. The Internet of Things has connected more devices to data. So what will push IT in the next year? We’ll take a look at a few possibilities.

AI

With data and automation, AI can potentially help companies get better and faster insights into large data sets. Without a doubt, the capacity to glean insights quickly will push organizations to use their data in ways they maybe haven’t thought of yet, or have simply been too overwhelmed to do so manually. Machines learning can surely give companies a competitive advantage – the question remains how IT will lead the way given this new ability? 

Bitcoin and Blockchain

Because of its shadowy origins and occasional use by criminals, Bitcoin has a controversial reputation. However, to date Bitcoin has with withstood every attempt to derail it – from internal strife, to criminal intent, to government mandate. Meanwhile, blockchain, the algorithm underlying Bitcoin, has many more applications than just currency and may be a solution for large socioeconomic problems.

Recently Oracle announced it would be offering blockchain on its cloud platform.  SAP made a similar announcement this year.  So even stalwart tech companies are paying attention to this seemingly underground advancement.

According to the U.K. research firm Juniper Research, more than half of the world's large corporations are considering blockchain. Blockchain is a more robust, reliable, and scalable solution for certain business problems, such as supply chain. IT teams should get well acquainted with the possibilities and potential risks associated with this new technology.  

As time goes on, IT professionals will be pushed more and more toward business strategy, rather than just tech advisory. 2018 is an opportunity for IT to stretch its influence as an innovator, rather than serve as an ad-hoc problem-solver. How far CIOs and their teams will push themselves is really up to them. But there’s little doubt that integration of services, technology and departments, as well as expanding technology’s role in customer support  and engagement will be vital for IT to stay relevant for their organizations.  To learn more about where the future is going for IT and more, check out our additional predictions here.

 

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