Predictions 2020: Uncertainty equals opportunity for the CIO

Some tips for navigating the challenging waters ahead

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As we look forward to 2020, we do so with a healthy dose of built-up potential energy — consumer energy as consumers become more values-based, constructing personal ecosystems and forcing firms to take sides on social issues; security energy as industrial and nation-state cyber risks surge and, in some cases, merge; technology energy as automation, AI, and robotics move deeper into the organisation, closer to the customer, and more profoundly into the very makeup and operations of the company.

In 2020, firms will turn their attention even more toward the economic uncertainty that began to unfold in 2019. This will have a direct impact on a firm’s transformation agenda and result in an opportunity for CIOs to step forward and lead.

To help CIOs navigate these challenging waters, here are a few of our predictions for the year ahead:

CIOs focus on people

CIOs will automate 10 per cent of their IT tasks and look to upskill everyone 

2020 will be the year of people management for CIOs.

The uncertainty of the forthcoming year will frame CIOs’ transformation agendas — but not only for the expected cost-cutting and efficiency angles. Leading CIOs will take this as an opportunity to step forward as business leaders, showcasing their tech-driven innovation, ecosystem-building skills, and people management.

The ongoing volatility and slowing growth in 2020 will still put pressure on CIOs to control costs and improve efficiency.

CIOs will look within their own organisation for those efficiency gains, automating 10 per cent of their IT tasks that are highly standardized and repetitive.

We do not expect layoffs, however, as Forrester Analytics data shows that IT staffing forecasts for 2020 will remain relatively flat. Instead, CIOs will train their teams for more complex tasks as part of agile DevOps teams.

Beyond the IT department, smart CIOs will become a trusted advisor and partner to employee experience and HR teams to help with changing workforce dynamics, including working with new emerging technologies or interacting with robots.

2020 will be a wake-up year for many firms, as the total cost of getting data wrong will become apparent

These CIOs will bring workforce analytics capabilities to help their firms better predict changes and rationalize the portfolio of HR technologies. And they will actively work to ready their firms for automation to minimize growing pains and truly unlock the power of their digital transformation.

Immersive, adaptive IT takes hold

80 per cent of enterprises will recognise the threat of automation islands and set up strike teams 

 Technology-driven innovation — the ability to deliver new business results through opportunities discovered by continuously experimenting with technology, both emerging and established — will soon be table stakes for leading organisations.

Tech-driven innovation magnifies the importance of technology (and, thus, IT). But it requires companies to operate and organise differently.

IT will follow the broader organisational future of matrixed, shape-shifting organisations that form and morph to changing priorities. This goes beyond DevOps. The boundaries between what is IT and what is the business are already fading to reveal a much more powerful and fluid IT capability.

This more embedded, connected, and adaptive IT approach will gain momentum in 2020 — particularly as firms address the opportunity and challenges of emerging technologies.

One such challenge is islands of automation.

Eighty per cent of enterprises will recognise the threat of automation islands and determine that they are no longer sustainable.

Firms already have multiple robotic process automation (RPA) tools, conversational intelligence platforms, and machine-learning projects.

To address this, CIOs will set up automation strike teams that sit between traditional IT and domain experts and have unique roles such as robot architects and automation jump-starters.

Data strategy unlocks transformations

 Advanced firms will double their data strategy budget

While interest in big data has waned over the last couple years, enterprise data strategy continues to be a top initiative for executives. It’s critical in unlocking a firm’s digital transformation — and necessary to take advantage of AI and machine learning. 2020 will be a wake-up year for many firms, as the total cost of getting data wrong will become apparent.

Unsurprisingly, getting data right is a multifaceted exercise — from technology investments to talent recruitment and management, governance, and process re-engineering. In 2020, we’ll see a top-down mandate to break down the data logjam, wherein the amount of time needed to prep data for AI and machine learning is so great that it’s ultimately not worth the effort.

Data literacy, too, will be a priority, with 40 per cent of firms launching data literacy programs for everyone in the organisation.

Firms will also attempt to access differentiating and external data, which may prove difficult as enterprises clamp down on data sharing due to privacy and ecosystem concerns.

CIOs looking to push more into the cloud and exploit edge computing are also staring at a new reality where the transactional cost of data processing and movement will outstrip storage. Advanced firms will understand the benefits of getting all of this right and will double or triple their data strategy budget to soar past competitors.

Our predictions for 2020 will move leaders’ attention to adaptability: the ability to understand and anticipate market dynamics — and adapt and rapidly exploit opportunities, both big and small. Whether dynamics enable breakout growth, protection of existing markets, or eking out small gains in market share, leaders will see and capitalise on possibilities by best predicting how 2020 will unfold.

sharyn leaver of forrester Forrester
sharyn leaver of forrester Forrester

Sharyn Leaver is senior vice president, research, at Forrester




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