CIOs are tooling up an assembly line of technologies to get back to business in 2022, including a mix of solutions leaned on heavily to weather the pandemic and new offerings aimed at making the most of emerging opportunities as the pandemic subsides.
At its virtual IT Symposium/Xpo, Gartner identified the top tech strategies it sees CIOs embracing next year, including the “distributed enterprise,” advanced AI, hyper-automation, cloud-native platforms, decision intelligence, and advanced security, among others.
Tying together these trends is the C-suite’s ongoing recognition of IT as an engine for business transformation.
“The two top business priorities for CEOs going into 2022 are scaling digitation and building e-commerce, with the aim of getting back to business,” said David Groombridge, research vice president at Gartner, noting that CIO priorities will vary depending on whether they are tasked with driving consumer revenue or building products.
But all CIOs will have common set of technology priorities, the analyst predicts.
“CIOs tasked with delivering digitalisation at pace to meet CEOs’ demands must ensure they have the technical foundations to rapidly grow and scale, while dealing with the new reality of hybrid working. That will make cloud-native platforms, cybersecurity mesh, and the distributed enterprise as key trends to address in some form as soon as possible,” Groombridge told CIO.com.
Advancing (and securing) the business
Gartner’s “distributed enterprise” comprises the slate of technologies CIOs have come to rely on to support distributed teams during the pandemic and the new operating models they are developing to facilitate hybrid work as the pandemic subsides.
Examples include cloud-enabled workspaces, collaboration and monitoring tools for the hybrid workforce, new remote support offerings, and zero trust security models. The firm predicts 47 per cent of knowledge workers will work remotely in 2022, up from 27 per cent pre-pandemic, a sure sign that for most organisations hybrid work is here to stay.
CIOs will also be key players in building new business models, both physical and virtual, to “reconnect” with consumers that are location-independent, especially in the hospitality, retail, healthcare, and financial services businesses, Gartner says.
To do this, Gartner sees CIOs investing in “generative” artificial intelligence methods and standardising on AI engineering practices. This means moving beyond chatbots to implement advanced machine learning methods that “learn” about content from data and create software code, manage retail stock, automate staff training, optimise manufacturing, and control traffic pattern recognition.
Many leading CIOs no longer view AI as experimental, and will invest next year as part of a concerted effort to standardise their AI engineering practices to capture business value. By 2025, Gartner predicts that the 10 per cent of enterprises that adopt these practices will see as much as three times more value than the remaining 90 per cent of companies that don’t codify their approach to AI.
“Many of these [AI] technologies are far more advanced than many enterprises realise,” Groombridge told CIO.com. “Even where maturity is not yet proven, enterprises are prepared to take more risk than before.”
Autonomic systems and hyper-automation will be other top priorities, Gartner maintains. While it’s true that some of this is driven by the pandemic, these modernising processes have been on the drawing board for some time. Business conditions have simply heightened the urgency.
CIOs, for instance, will invest heavily to develop autonomic systems that can scale, are self-managing and even capable of modifying algorithms to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. Gartner predicts such autonomic systems now common in high-level security infrastructures last year will be incorporated in manufacturing and systems such as robots and drones next year.
Advanced security technologies such as privacy-enhancing computation (PEC), aka preventing consumer data loss, and embracing the “cyber security mesh” will be other top technology action items, Gartner predicts. Up to 60 per cent of large enterprises will use PEC technologies, such as trusted execution environments, by 2025, according to Gartner.
Cyber security mesh architectures (CSMA), which aim to extend security controls to distributed assets beyond the walls of the enterprise, will reduce the cost of security incidents by 90 per cent by 2024, the firm predicts.
Improving the digital experience
Next year will see CIOs extending efforts to identify and automate as many business processes and business decisions as possible. Roughly one third of enterprises surveyed by Gartner anticipate they will refine their decision-making competency by evaluating outcomes and creating structured models.
Stacey Goodman, CIO of Prudential Financial, agrees that embracing automation at scale will make enterprises far more nimble for a new era in business computing.
“Hyper-automation is a critical component in how Prudential’s businesses are executing their technology transformations,” Goodman told CIO.com. “[We] are focused on a seamless experience for customers, even when that means redefining industry practices rather than automating existing processes.”
CIOs are also embracing automation strategies such as robotic process automation (RPA) to increase workforce productivity.
“More CIOS are turning to robotic process automation to eliminate tedious tasks, freeing corporate workers to focus on higher value work,” said Ted Dinsmore, who as president of SphereGen Technologies currently works with 28 CIO clients to build AI solutions. “With the global labour shortages, particularly in technology, RPA will be one of the key tools for CIOs to turn to.”
Cloud and data strategies will continue to be IT cornerstones in 2022 as well. Gartner sees enterprises moving to data fabrics and creating new services specifically for the cloud, rather than simply migrating existing applications to cloud platforms.
“Businesses have been shifting to the cloud for quite a few years, but the pandemic has accelerated this,” Groombridge said. “The acceleration has undercut the ‘lift-and-shift’ of legacy apps to the cloud.”
Data fabrics, which integrate data and application silos with built-in analytics, will be deployed more frequently in 2022. The research firm predicts that doing so will improve data usage by distributed enterprises while cutting data management efforts by as much as 70 per cent.
Hyper-automation, improved data access, native cloud applications, and increased use of AI are all part of a trend to improve what Gartner calls “total experience” (TX), aka the digital experience of customers and employees alike.
Nicholas Evans, chief innovation officer at WGI, says the design and professional services firm is leaning on a combination of strategic technologies, including AI, analytics, and digital twins, to support clients’ TX efforts in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry.
“We’re particularly interested in pushing the envelope with regard to hyper-automation as well as platform and as-a-service business models with a focus on collaborative co-innovation with our customers,” he said.