IT leaders, get ready for 2018

3 strategic technology trends that will drive 2018 and beyond.

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It’s said the only true constant is change. That’s certainly the case in the business world, and perhaps even more so in the technology industry, where dealing with disruptive forces has become the norm.

Successful technology leaders have learned to not only deal with game-changing innovation, but embrace it and benefit from it. Knowing that new technologies will initially disrupt, but eventually improve, how you work and run your business is useful and sometimes takes a leap of faith.

Looking ahead to next year, change is again on the agenda. At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017 held in October, the analyst firm highlighted its predictions for the top strategic technology trends for 2018, and how they will drive change throughout organizations.

Gartner defines a strategic technology trend “as one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use… with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.” Descriptors like “disruptive,” “emerging,” and “volatility” tell us that adopting and leveraging these trends isn’t likely to be easy. That’s why organizations are looking to technology leaders to guide them.

I’m focusing on the following top three strategic technology trends as the most instrumental that leaders should be prepared to take advantage of in 2018.

Digital transformation 

This trend is well underway, but because it’s so strategic it continues to be an important one for technology leaders to embrace. Deloitte defines digital transformation as “the ability to articulate the value of digital technologies to an organization’s future.” This is, in essence, the top responsibility of today’s technology leaders – navigating the waters of change, separating reality from hype, and understanding not only what digital technologies their organizations should use, but how to implement multiple disruptive technologies holistically and get the most out of them.  This bigger picture approach to technology demands industry vision and superior communications skills to drive IT into the heart of the corporate mission. What could be more important today?

Artificial intelligence 

According to a recent Gartner survey, 59 percent of organizations are already gathering information to build an artificial intelligence (AI) strategy, while the rest have made progress in piloting or adopting AI solutions. As ever-smarter and faster machines begin to transform industries and impact society, it’s natural for organizations to wonder where artificial intelligence (AI) fits into their business plans, and what (or who) it will displace. But, I don’t think that’s the right question to ask. Despite its transformative potential, human intelligence will continue to drive artificial intelligence for some time, not the other way around.

Reversing the equation in this way highlights the greater need for what humans are best equipped for, at least for now – communication, dealing with people, empathy and ethics. These are things that machines driven by simpler objectives still can’t do as well.  Even in a new AI world order, those traits that make us truly human will continue to give companies an edge for growing businesses in line with an equitable and sustainable economy.

Blockchain 

This trend promises to change forever the way organizations conduct transactions across their supply chains, unifying what are often fragmented processes to improve information exchange and business operations. With IBM’s Hyperledger move into this area and the rise of peer-to-peer blockchain ecosystems like Ethereum, blockchain is already impacting business. Just last month, Australia’s main stock exchange announced that it will become the first global market to use the technology to clear and settle trades. 

True, Gartner warns that we are likely a decade away from experiencing blockchain’s full potential. But I recommend that businesses get out in front of blockchain now to understand how it can reduce transaction costs. This is one trend you don’t want to pass you by – if trading partners in your supply-chain ecosystem adopt blockchain before you, they may prefer to do business with your competitors who are also embracing the technology to gain an edge. 

Successful IT leaders must be able to not only handle change, but leverage it to their organizations’ advantage. They need the vision to be able to see how disruptive technology can benefit them, the courage to evangelize new trends and get colleagues on board, and the perseverance to stick with an adoption plan, even when times get tough. The sooner IT leaders can understand and embrace these three trends, the sooner their organizations can begin benefitting from them.

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