Today’s CIOs need to be more than strategic, they should be visionaries, too.
With that in mind, many are already looking ahead and planning for what they, their IT departments, and their organizations as a whole will need in 2025.
Todd Cassidy, managing vice president and CIO of associate experience at Capital One, is in that camp.
“We are constantly looking ahead to make sure we are ready for what’s next,” says Cassidy, who is also the company’s chief of staff for technology.
He cites the technology-enabled changes in how people work as well as general advancements in technologies like cloud, machine learning, and open source as trends impacting the three-year roadmap. He cites the continuing need for agility in IT and ongoing training as essential for success in the years ahead.
“CIOs need to be positioned to ride the wave of innovation by not only leveraging advancements in these technologies, but also by leaning on their engineering organizations to accelerate adoption and innovation in that space,” he says.
IT leaders, other executives, and management advisors acknowledge that it’s impossible to know for sure what the future will hold. Yes, they say, something could come out of left field and shake up well-researched plans — as the COVID pandemic did in 2019 and the Great Recession did a decade prior. That said, enterprise officials also say they still must plan ahead, using available information and insights to create their best estimates of what 2025 will bring. And CIOs, they add, are particularly critical to these divinations given how intertwined technology and business have become.
“To continue to grow value, leaders will need to and intend to extend their efforts into digital transformation. CIOs need to be leaders in these efforts,” says Irving Tyler, a distinguished research vice president at research firm Gartner.
More cloud, metaverse on the horizon
CIOs, analysts, and researchers predict that they’ll see a maturation of the technologies they already have in place in the years ahead. They also say they expect some technologies that they’re now only watching or testing to become mainstream by 2025. As they see it, this constitutes an evolution, not a revolution, of digital trends moving forward, making their lists of critical enterprise technologies for 2025 familiar.
Multiple sources, for example, say their three-year roadmaps are heavily weighted toward cloud — in particular, increased public cloud adoption.
“Be prepared for cloud to be the dominant way, where all of our data platforms are service-provided, where all cyber platforms are service-provided, where [the tools] we develop with will be in a hyperscale cloud environment,” says Barry Brunsman, leader of the CIO Advisory Center of Excellence at KPMG and a principal in the firm’s CIO Advisory practice.
Moreover, CIOs and researchers believe a robust cloud environment will be mandatory for capitalizing on other technology trends expected to be in play in 2025. This includes a surge of interest in and use cases for augmented reality, virtual reality, and the metaverse, according to CIOs, even though that latter technology is currently far from prime-time ready.
“We see real enthusiasm for Web3 and the metaverse,” Brunsman says.
Others agree, noting that CIOs are being tasked to imagine the art of the possible with the metaverse and how organizations can use it to engage and support employees and customers in new ways.
But Brunsman tempers expectations for the metaverse and its potential in 2025, explaining that many executives are reluctant to be on the leading edge of metaverse adoption.
Connected devices, torrents of data
CIOs and IT advisors also expect the high growth rates of connected devices to continue over the next three years.
“The internet of things is going to continue to explode,” says Craig Wright, senior partner for advisory and transformation at digital consulting firm West Monroe. “We’re already in the billions of devices, but we’re talking about trillions [in the upcoming years].”
As a result, CIOs are plotting out what they’ll need to support, monitor, and secure that burgeoning endpoint infrastructure, he says. This means looking at biometrics to replace passwords and even tokens for security, more edge computing devices to process data, more intelligence tools to understand the data being generated by the endpoint devices, and more automation to react to the data analysis.
This emphasis on data is a key facet of CIOs’ 2025 outlooks. They anticipate a tsunami of data — even greater than is experienced today — with data coming from not only the growing number of endpoint devices but also systems of record and other applications, which will only be increasing the amount of data they produce and collect.
“The trend around data will continue. Organizations will continue to mature in how they use data and its impact on decision-making. It will be critical for the technology team to have knowledge around data, what insights it can provide, and how to use it to further business objectives,” says Joan Holman, CIO of the law firm Clark Hill. “We need to be thinking about where our data exists, how do we protect it, how do we pull together all of the pieces and drive value in supporting the organization.”
Consequently, CIOs will be building out more advanced analytics — either on their own or in partnership with their data and/or digital executive colleagues. And they’ll be seeking, in 2025, to harness more of that data to fuel a growing suite of artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, says Benjamin Rehberg, who as managing director with Boston Consulting Group leads the firm’s Technology Advantage practice in North America.
CIO as chief integration officer
To succeed, both now and as the future unfolds, CIOs will need to synthesize a range of technologies cohesively to deliver experiences, functionalities, and services to employees, partners, and most definitely customers.
“When you think about 2025, our teams will continue to focus on serving both customers, internal and external, and to find ways to make our business better on a daily basis,” says Richard A. Hook, executive vice president and CIO of Penske Automotive Group and CIO of Penske Corp. “In addition, our teams will continue to evolve their skills to ensure everyone has at least a security baseline of knowledge (deeper depending on roles), increased depth on various cloud platforms and configurations, and the skills necessary to build automation within IT and the business.”
And they must do that in a frictionless and intuitive manner, and in ways that anticipate the needs of each individual that their IT solutions serve.
“We see that leaders increasingly recognize the next phase of new value will come from transformational efforts — seeking to change their business models, finding new forms of digitalized products and services, new ways to reach new customer segments, etc.,” says Gartner’s Tyler. “CIOs won’t own the visions needed but have the opportunity to be leaders in development of these transformational visions.”
The IT workforce of the future
CIOs are also thinking of the capabilities and skills they’ll need in their tech workers and in themselves to create the IT department of the future.
Joanne Lee, principal research director of CIO advisory services at Info-Tech Research Group, predicts the need for more critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as more emotional intelligence (EQ), so that IT can continue to build its ability to identify ways of using technology to create new opportunities.
“Innovation and ideation will also become increasingly important,” Lee says, adding that CIOs can expect to the need for data-related skills and expertise around environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) to rise.
In addition, CIOs anticipate further need for IT to grow its business acumen and its ability to collaborate with the other functional areas within their organizations. It is also expected that IT capabilities will further extend into other functional areas within the organization and that CIOs and IT staff will need to learn how to use the technology talent of workers within those other departments effectively, Tyler says.
“The IT function cannot be the only source of technology,” he says. “CIOs need to enable greater access to technology tools and data and expertise to enable strategic business capabilities to transform in order to generate and deliver more value.”
As a result, cross-functional or fusion teams that blend technology and business professionals to ensure side-by-side collaboration on business initiatives will become more of the norm for organizations seeking to transform.
“Increasingly technology will be produced and operated by fusion teams across the business with the IT organization equipping and enabling these efforts through new forms of shared expertise, services, team structures, and technology communities,” Tyler says.
This “democratization” of technology will put CIOs in more of an orchestration mode, one in which they must ask, “‘How can I and my organization enable expanded development and use of technology outside of IT in an optimal way? How do we help build the technology talent and support business technologist across the enterprise to enable their success?’” Tyler says, adding, “CIOs need to focus on transforming technology delivery and fully integrating the IT operating model with the enterprise operating model.”
Similarly, CIOs say they must further evolve their DevOps practices and truly embrace agile methodologies, as organizational leaders will likely expect delivery of new tech capabilities to happen even faster in the future.
That, coupled with the growing complexity of IT and cyber operations, will also drive up automation adoption, which in turn means IT will need more expertise around automation and AIOps.
Future-looking CIOs acknowledge they don’t fully know what they’ll need for 2025, but with a good sense of what’s ahead, they’re already prepping — one of the main benefits of drawing up the roadmap.
These roadmaps by and large include speeding up cloud investments while shedding legacy technologies, developing a talent strategy along with training requirements, selecting vendors whose services can keep pace with their own roadmap, and aligning all of that with the business’ own vision for 2025, industry observers say.
“CIOs today are very much trusted advisors, meeting their C-level peers often and discussing market and customer trends,” says Gordon Barnett, principal analyst with research firm Forrester. “Experienced CIOs will understand which core, essential, and supporting business capabilities will be the basis of their business’s strategy. By understanding the capabilities, CIOs and their subordinates will analyze the required competency and capacity needs of those capabilities. It is this understanding that will drive CIOs to research which technologies and practices need to be invested in to support the strategy.”