The new year typically brings out the pundits and prognosticators \u2013 and 2017 has been no different! Look at what any one of them has to say, and you\u2019ll get one individual\u2019s view.\u00a0 Look at several, and you may come away with a better sense of where the real trends are. At least that is our hypothesis, so here\u2019s our view of the commonalities \u2013 what\u2019s started to emerge, what\u2019s going to evolve and what will be gaining importance in 2017.\nWhat\u2019s the point? This analysis might help CIOs identify where to adjust plans, shift focus, learn more, or respond to emerging trends in their own business plans. Or maybe you won\u2019t change a thing -- and just feel good knowing you\u2019ve got it all covered.\nLet\u2019s discuss eight trends we foresee as being essential to navigating 2017:\nBusiness Alignment and Specialization: A Must Have\nWorking with business units, meeting their needs, and responding to their priorities \u2013 in other words \u201cbusiness alignment\u201d - has been a top priority for four years running, according to Peter High in \u201cCIOs\u2019 Top Three Concerns for 2017.\u201d Others concur and we\u2019ve seen that as well at Worksoft, as enterprises snap up technology that helps business teams and IT collaborate and communicate more efficiently on enterprise IT projects.\nThen there\u2019s the continued growth in business-driven IT initiatives. In \u201cA CIO Perspective: Looking Ahead at Market and Technology Trends for 2017,\u201d Bask Iyer at VMware reports \u201cCompanies will do well to wholeheartedly embrace and incubate them.\u201d That\u2019s because business-driven IT projects are areas of specialization that can also be important areas of differentiation for the business. \u201cWe must identify the few things we do better than anyone else, and innovate just those things,\u201d advises Tech Target in \u201c2017 CIO priorities: If you do anything next year, do this\u201d by Niel Nickolaisen.\nThere\u2019s an IT Skill Shortage and Talent Gap. Really.\nInformation management and analytics talent is hard to find, at least according to the IBM BP Network blog \u201cThe CIO Budget Checklist for 2017.\u201d This means you really need to make the most of the talent you already have on hand and in-house. It\u2019s also a place where automation can play a huge role \u2013 and allow businesses and IT staff to focus on the higher value parts of their jobs.\nLianna Brinded at Business Insider recently published an attention-grabbing piece - \u201cAutomation killed 17,000 roles at a huge tech and services firm \u2014 but no one actually lost their job.\u201d In the article, one leading IT executive said, \u201cTo be honest, automation eliminated a lot of boring and repetitive tasks for workers. Since we take the approach of augmenting [human staff] with automation, it actually has eliminated more menial work and boosted productivity for staff.\u201d\nFor example, who wants to sit down at a keyboard to test the same purchase order for the sixth time during an upgrade? No one does - and we\u2019re at the point where it\u2019s almost embarrassing to ask people to do so. \u00a0Automation helps give people their time back by liberating staff members through the elimination of manual labor and tedious high volume repetitive tasks.\nEveryone Wants a Superior Customer Experience\nThis may seem obvious, but it\u2019s the truth. The trick for a business is delivering it. Enterprises want every business process and customer interaction to be quick, secure, and flawless. On top of that, the level of continuous quality needs to be available at enterprise scale, which means that IT needs to bring enormous innovation to the table to enable it, a point also made in the VMware report.\nIt\u2019s not a simple thing. A certain sophistication in processes, people, and platforms is required, and in 2016\/2017 we\u2019re seeing many of the world\u2019s largest global brands take concrete steps to lock-in a superior customer experience for their businesses.\nAdaptive IT and Agile: Needed Now More Than Ever\nTech Target also talks about the need for IT \u201cto be nimble and adaptable \u2013 which usually means constantly fighting against complexity.\u201d\u00a0 That\u2019s in their article mentioned above.\nProblem is, in that battle complexity always wins. Business IT is fragmenting today and complexity is growing. Business needs are driving the use of technology in many different ways on a multitude of platforms. IT needs to be able to service multiple groups of stakeholders and make their experience as seamless as possible - so that they don\u2019t even notice the constant technology evolution going on around them.\nCall it handling complexity, managing it, or coping with it. Whatever you call it, automation software will be a key infrastructure component to ensuring that business processes (and the enterprise apps to make them work) are seamlessly updated and maintained within enterprises, despite all the changes. That way you\u2019re not fighting complexity. You\u2019re riding it.\nAnalytics: A Next Big Thing Finally Arrives\nIn CIO.com\u2019s \u201cTech Forecast 2017\u201d Beth Stackpole writes \u201cas companies double down on their efforts to get closer to customers, data has taken on critical importance, with analytics serving as a springboard for success.\u201d\nWhat\u2019s different is that in 2017 and 2018, large enterprises will finally be making platform enhancements en masse that give those analytics a place to live and the internet-of-things (IOT) a place to go.\u00a0 SAP\u2019s HANA and S\/4HANA platforms, as well as those from Oracle and others, provide the in-memory real-time access that will make game changing analytics possible.\u00a0 Or so they\u2019ve been saying, but this year it sounds believable. That\u2019s based on the significantly increased number of technology upgrade\/migration projects the Worksoft team has been supporting for large enterprises.\nData handling and analytics will become an important differentiator, and the way data is analyzed will be a new key to success for some companies. But firms need to move to the new enabling platforms first and quickly \u2013 just to gain a temporary advantage. And speaking of a skills shortage, skilled data analysts will be in high demand.\nCloud, Cloud, Mobile, Cloud\nThe CIO.com article also asserts \u201cthere\u2019s no stopping the cloud computing juggernaut, especially as companies retool IT infrastructure for digital transformation.\u201d\u00a0 We\u2019ve observed this in the marketplace as well, and we\u2019re glad to report that Worksoft platforms are fully cloud enabled today.\nNot only that, but it\u2019s gotten very cloudy out there. One report asks, \u201cHow many clouds does your team work on?\u201d\u00a0 According to a VMblog survey, the average is 8! That\u2019s surprising, but should it be?\nThe shift toward mobile and cloud computing is not slowing down. The innovation challenge is to keep every light on while making updates faster for the businesses you serve. That means managing the interconnected on-premise and hybrid cloud network of business applications in a unified, efficient way.\nInfluence and Innovation: Growing\nIn 2016 Gartner reported, \u201cCompared to two years ago, the majority [of CIOs] feel that their power and influence are increasing.\u201d\u00a0 Why?\u00a0 It can only be because many are hearing this from their CEOs and the rest of the C-Suite, who see the stronger-than-ever connection between business success and IT innovation.\nBut it\u2019s not innovation at any cost. There are still enormous budget pressures in place. In 2017, CEOs are still asking IT to do more with less, and looking for innovation, quality, agility, and cost control \u2013 all at the same time.\nIdeally, an innovative technology helps increase business agility in a highly quantifiable and specific way, while reducing costs. Automation software is a great example of this. In fact, it\u2019s the poster child. First, it\u2019s quantifiable and specific. Teams shorten project timelines by 40% or more since testing makes up a big chunk of IT projects. Second, its universal and big impact. \u00a0Automation can be applied to nearly every project for enterprise apps. Third, test coverage expands dramatically with automation \u2013 which eliminates your team\u2019s fear and risk in deploying frequent updates and new apps. You\u2019ll be able to deploy more changes more frequently with greater confidence and lower cost \u2013 because you\u2019ve replaced manual labor with digital labor.\nDigital Ecosystems: Plan to Expand\nThe digital ecosystem is on the rise. According to Infotech\u2019s \u201cCIO Trends Report 2017,\u201d companies can expect \u201cnew cost reduction strategies, ways for users to self-manage, and opportunities for collaboration on the horizon as a result of the insight gleaned from the ability not just to understand what we are doing, but how we are doing it.\u201d\nAutomation and discovery platforms help here too, and we\u2019ll talk more about new technologies for harnessing business process insight in a later article.\nThese are just a few of the technology changes and trends that CIOs can expect to see over the next year. What other trends have you been seeing that CIOs should take notice of in 2017? Let us know.