4 key IT trends for CIOs in 2017

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Everybody in the technology sector knows innovation is a good thing. The problem for CIOs is anticipating which innovations will not only improve their IT performance but also help drive their companies’ business strategies to gain a competitive advantage. 

Based on my work with CIO clients at many midsize and global companies, I’ve identified several hot IT trends that CIOs should focus on in the New Year. Here are four key areas that can really help move the needle for business innovation in 2017.

It’s all about the machines

Cybersecurity has become the hottest space in enterprise IT due to the proliferation of damaging hacks and breaches. Obviously, maintaining a strong defense posture should be top of mind in this climate. Smart bots will become a bigger part of the mix to help improve identity access management (IAM) and multifactor identity analytics.

CIOs need to reckon with the fact that they are spending tons of money on user lifecycle management, but their users are no longer just people inside the perimeter of their company’s network firewall. In this era of hybrid and public clouds, users now include partners, customers, and even non-human apps that can talk to each other via designated application identities.

Smart bots will take on a greater role for customer support as well. For instance, robots today can use machine-learning techniques to read tech manuals and quickly learn the correct troubleshooting methods. In this way, CIOs will deploy smart bots to help end-users solve their IT and application problems without a need for costly human interventions.

Lastly, networked robots are increasingly allowed to spend money on automated systems, especially for cloud-based apps. This means CIOs will need to set clear governance policies to ensure that uncontrolled machines do not squander IT budgets needlessly.

The need for better data visualization

Big data patterns will be visualized in more compelling ways to convince CFOs or CEOs to spend money on new business initiatives. Analytics software can already crunch data to generate all kinds of cool graphs and charts for data analysts and IT geeks. But those insights must be presented in clearer ways for non-technical audiences to grasp. For example, vivid graphic displays might show office profitability by location, enabling management to quickly zoom in on the worst-performing sites that are bleeding the most cash.

Forward-looking, predictive analytics will also become more crucial to maintain a strong business edge. Prior-year and year-to-date results will be replaced by platforms that can predict the future, or at least give management the statistical probability for future outcomes. In this way, for instance, CIOs can set aside enough lead time to order new infrastructure long before any critical capacity threshold is threatened. 

Another data management trend involves a shifting approach to data warehousing. For years, IT departments have pooled information from across their companies into a single data lake or data warehouse. Such efforts involved lots of extra work to cleanse and normalize the data. 

Today, IT managers are changing course to let data reside in separate silos for different functions such as sales, HR, operations and facilities. IT managers can now deploy smart bots to search for that data across the enterprise and pull any relevant information from where it resides naturally, rather than migrating it into a central repository.

At the same time, data lakes will still be useful to optimize IT operations rather than for business intelligence purposes. IT managers can use data lakes to compile data about applications, storage, networks and security in one secure place. This allows IT leaders to quickly identify the sources of problems as they arise across the IT infrastructure stack.

It’s no longer if, but how for containers

Following in the wake of virtualization, containers are the next big IT disruption because they greatly simplify IT automation through software-defined functions, rather than by manually managing a vast collection of hardware boxes and applications. 

The question for CIOs is no longer whether containers should be adopted, but rather how they should be used and integrated into the IT layers for workflow orchestration, security and storage. 

New storage architectures are needed

IT shops spent more than $17 billion on data backups last year alone to ensure that no mission-critical data was lost, corrupted or deleted. In turn, most companies had to maintain multiple instances of the same files spread out across various backup systems.

In 2017, savvy CIOs will realize that they are paying too much to duplicate so much useless data across multiple storage systems. A better approach will be to manage a single duplicate copy of all production data to run reports and analytics without impacting the operational environment.

In this time of continual change, CIOs need to keep pushing ahead with the latest technologies to promote their business agendas and improve their competitive positioning. In so doing, IT leaders can convince management to adopt technology as a powerful source of business differentiation.

Mark Campbell is Vice President of Research at Trace3.