Technology is changing everything, and the rate that technology is changing is accelerating and will never be this slow again. CIOs must identify and capitalize on trends that are driving significant change. IT leaders must understand that data is the epicenter of digital transformation and that making data actionable is the new calling of IT professionals.

Yet, another developing trend complicates this. Business leaders are increasingly driving IT decisions, requiring a new type of IT leadership to align with these business decisions. Moreover, businesses are increasingly interconnected through people and things. The rapid expansion of these digital ecosystems makes the management, protection and proliferation of an organization’s data a daunting task. Staying the traditional course will at best make you a laggard, but will more likely end your business and your career.

Artificial intelligence

Over the past few years, the pace of innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies has been staggering, predominantly coming from small vendors. CIOs are in the perfect position to educate the company’s CEO and board about recent developments in AI and illustrate how AI might influence their business and their competitive landscape.

By following this approach, CIOs can potentially flip the traditional engagement model between IT and the business, influencing business strategy at the outset, rather than simply developing implementation projects that follow up on the executive team’s decisions. 

AI will be used to render new insights, transform decision making and drive improved business outcomes. It includes many areas of study and technologies behind capabilities like voice recognition, natural language processing (NLP), image processing and others that benefit from advances in algorithms, abundant computation power and advanced analytical methods like machine learning and deep learning. These rapidly advancing capabilities are behind new business models based on data and a wide range of impacts across the enterprise. Most organizations may not pursue the leading-edge uses of AI, such as building robots and self-driving cars; however, AI will play an increasingly important role in the top 3 business objectives cited for the office of the chief data officer (CDO) — greater customer intimacy, increasing competitive advantage and improving efficiency.

While many enterprises will be content to leverage applications incorporating new capabilities, enterprise leaders should understand leading use cases, determine where the greatest potential exists for AI technologies, assess where “quick wins” can be obtained and determine organizational responsibilities to address the breadth of opportunities. At its core, AI is about solving business problems in novel ways. It stretches across any organization from innovation, R&D and IT to data science.

Expert Q&A with David Furlonger, Distinguished VP Analyst

Emerging trends continue to arise year over year and as technologies change, we continue to find new and advanced ways to move the enterprise forward. Here’s a brief Q&A on two of today’s most discussed technologies: blockchain and artificial intelligence.  

Q: How has AI evolved recently?

A: There’s been a large explosion in the amount of funding and the number of companies that are claiming to have AI capabilities; however, less than 5% of enterprises surveyed are using AI. This supports the notion that there is great science behind AI, but not any engineering. The challenge lies in the fact that AI compared to IT is not easy and is very expensive. This has resulted in companies waiting to see how other companies can succeed with the capabilities of AI.

Q: What’s one of the biggest mistake organizations make when it comes to AI?

A: IT leaders are making a different mistake than the CEO. IT is too focused on operational activities rather than developing a vision on how the business can achieve a significant impact with AI. CEOs are failing to push their senior IT leaders to develop a long-term strategy and vision for how AI can become a greater part of the digitalization strategy.

Q: What about blockchain?

A: There’s usually a disconnect within organizations between the alleged aspiration of blockchain and what is actually possible in reality. There’s also a lack of education on blockchain and the impact it can have on society. In most cases, what is being reported as blockchain, isn’t actually blockchain. Organizations tend to misunderstand or ignore what blockchain is all together. Business leaders need to educate themselves quickly and develop a better understanding of the problem they are trying to solve using blockchain.

Blockchain has introduced two fundamental ways of society working. The first is a decentralized market, which means to move from a one-to-many market to a many-to-many market. The second is a new economic model, which allows for multiple forms of values that are not centrally issued or controlled.

Q: How are IT leaders leveraging this topic to transform their organizations?

A: Not every industry is going to be amenable to transformation, but you shouldn’t avoid it. Also, you should look toward optimization and focus on how AI can affect the benefits and the cost side of the business.

Q: Finish this sentence: If organizations don’t get their artificial intelligence strategy right, they will …

A: … run the risk of being out outflanked. The laggards are going to be outperformed. 

Q: Finish this sentence: If organizations don’t get blockchain right, they will …

A: … risk overestimating the extent to which the technology is working, but underestimating the extent of change that will happen in the future when the technologies are working as they should. 

GartnerArtificial Intelligence Predicts

  • By 2020, 50% of organizations will lack sufficient artificial intelligence (AI) and data literacy skills to achieve business value.
  • By 2020, 20% of companies will dedicate workers to monitor and guide neural networks.

The Internet of Things

IoT is not a technology looking for a business problem. Perhaps more than any technology initiative of our age, IoT will be business-driven.

Businesses are driven by two immutable forces: making money (that is, generating revenue) and saving money (that is, operational efficiency). IoT serves both of those masters. By connecting and instrumenting things, business can be more responsive to clients, react faster to issues and create new business opportunities, all of which can help make and save money. Hence, most IoT solutions will start as business-led initiatives to create new business value. 

IoT will spur a new wave of IT systems to store and analyze the flood of data generated by thousands or millions of devices, or “things.” The unprecedented volume, velocity and variety of this data will force organizations to change their IT infrastructures — especially their data management and analytics infrastructures — and to adopt new platforms, practices and mindsets.

Gartner Internet of Things Predicts

  • By 2020, there will be a quarter billion connected vehicles on the road, enabling new in-vehicle services and automated driving capabilities.
  • By 2020, less than 5% of IoT connections will go through SIM-based, M2M cellular services.
  • By 2020, security solutions made from IoT architecture will unleash an era of inexpensive surveillance and spying, and a $50 billion global market.
  • By 2020, the connected kitchen will contribute at least 15% savings in the food and beverage industry, while leveraging big data analytics.

Hot topics covered at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo™ will include:

  • AI and machine learning
  • Blockchain
  • RPA
  • The Internet of Things
  • Edge computing