Last year was another tough one for CIOs. New procedures had been put in place to deal with the challenges COVID-19 had thrown up, but the pandemic was far from over. As we enter 2022, many of the same challenges to business resilience remain, but technology continues to evolve.\n\nThis year, CIOs in the Middle East will have to manage the acceleration of tech projects sparked by the pandemic, as well as a hybrid approach to work and computing. Here we take a look at the main technology trends analysts have forecast for 2022.\n\nHybrid is here to stay\n\n2022\u2019s resilience strategies will be underpinned by \u2018hybridity\u2019, or the need for hybrid approaches to processes and functions, says Jyoti Lalchandani, group vice president and regional managing director, IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa.\n\nThese will be seen across all areas of a business, from customer engagement, which \u2014 in the wake of the move to e-commerce during the pandemic \u2014 will need to take place on both a digital and physical front, to the continuation of a hybrid workplace with some staff working remotely.\n\nThe outbreak of COVID-19, which has caused Gulf countries to enforce lockdowns and businesses to scramble to set up technology that allows staff to work at home, also led enterprises to increase their use of hybrid, or multicloud, computing environments and this trend is set to continue. For example, more than 25% of Saudi Arabian enterprises plan to use a combination of on-premises and dedicated private cloud systems, public clouds and legacy platforms, according to an IDC survey.\n\nTechnology innovation is also becoming hybrid, with in-house innovation taking place alongside co-innovation with partners and customers. This is also supporting the development of hybrid business models that create new revenue streams through ecosystem partnerships Lalchandani notes.\n\nSecurity is tech priority, AI playing key role\n\nBuilding security capabilities is the topmost strategic technology priority for Middle Eastern CIOs this year.\n\nAccording to IDC, 56% of regional CIOs questioned says that building security excellence \u2014 including developing a security operations centre (SoC), security skills and security processes \u2014 is a key priority for the next 12-18 months.\n\nWith the growth in \u2018hybridity\u2019, security will focus on securing organisations\u2019 growing, distributed infrastructure, with a particular spotlight on cloud security and enhanced threat prevention, says Rajpreet Kaur, senior principal analyst at Gartner.\n\nConsultancy firm Deloitte, meanwhile, forecasts that interest in AI will continue to rise in 2022 as a force multiplier that enables security teams to not only respond faster than cybercriminals but also anticipate their moved and act in advance.\n\n\u201cCyberattacks are becoming overwhelming in their size, sophistication and detection. SoCs [security operations centres] face a huge challenge in efficiently analysing flow of data to detect any breaches\u2026 it\u2019s time to expand to innovative technologies,\u201d says Arzoo Ahmed, technology strategy and transformation practice lead at Deloitte Middle East. \n\n\u201cGlobally, cyber-AI is in the early adoption stage, with market growth expected to be US$19 billion between 2021 and 2025. AI\u2019s ability to adaptively learn and detect novel patterns can accelerate detection, containment and response, easing the burden on SoC analysts,\u201d she says.\n\nVertical and regional clouds grow\n\nThe primary reason that cloud adoption has been slower across the Middle East than other regions is down to the lack of local cloud availability, says Gartner\u2019s Kaur. Regional regulations around the location of data centres and data sovereignty \u2014 the idea that certain types of data should be kept in-country \u2014 may have restricted uptake to date, but this is all set to change as more tier 1 cloud providers are expanding into the region.\n\nAnother trend we can expect to see more of in 2022 and beyond is the vertical cloud, as a growing number of cloud and software vendors are offering sector-specific cloud solutions.\n\n\u201cOver the next 18-24 months we see cloud giants and system integrators developing an a range of cloud-based solutions, accelerators and APIs preconfigured to support common use cases within industry verticals,\u201d says Deloitte's Ahmed. \u201cThey\u2019re designed for easy adoption and can be built upon to create digital differentiation.\u201d\n\nDigital transformation will continue to ramp up\n\nFor most businesses, the impacts of COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation initiatives \u2014 consisting for the most part of moving legacy ERP and CRM systems to cloud data centres \u2014 from years to months and in some cases even weeks, and the trend looks set to continue throughout 2022.\n\nThe pandemic gave CIOs an opportunity to play a larger role in the business and IT leaders in the Middle East have taken advantage of this to shift their companies towards a digital-first strategy.\n\nKaur notes that that Gulf enterprises are digitalising business processes faster than their global counterparts, while KPMG has reported that 68% of Saudi CEOs have developed an aggressive technology investment strategy designed to secure first-mover or fast-follower strategy.\n\nSimilar perspectives have been highlighted by IDC \u2014 a quarter of medium and large enterprise Middle Eastern CIOs recently polled plan on extending the digital-first strategies they developed during the pandemic in response to their customers also moving in this direction.\n\n\u201cMany customers began using online shipping, e-consultation for healthcare or distance learning for the first time during this pandemic. The new digital habits that have been formed will persist after the pandemic ends,\u201d says Lalchandani.\n\n\u201cThis will have a significant impact on the customer experience strategies of organisations. Owning the end-to-end customer journey across both digital and physical touch points has never been more critical.\u201d\n\nCompanies will focus on digital resiliency\n\nThe uncertainty created by the pandemic put a spotlight on business resilience and while many organisations expanded their traditional business resiliency over the last two years, their focus has now moved on to digital resiliency. This is when a company focuses on rapidly adapting to any business disruption, rather than anticipating and preparing for a crisis, which is the case with business resiliency.\n\n\u201cFurthermore, digital resiliency isn\u2019t just focused on recovering and going back to business as usual \u2014 it\u2019s focused on capitalising on the newly changed conditions,\u201d notes Lalchandani.\n\nWith 40% of Middle Eastern CIOs surveyed by IDC planning to invest in their organisation\u2019s digital resilience capabilities this year, it's a trend to keep an eye on.