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The inevitable and revolutionary future of IT

The inevitable and revolutionary future of IT

A radically different model will become the norm as competition, customers, employee experience, organisational structures, and leadership place exponentially higher demands on the IT organisation, writes Forrester analyst Sharyn Leaver

The ability to exploit technology to its highest potential will determine a company’s fate and fortune

Sharyn Leaver, Forrester

Technology has changed virtually everything: the way we work, the way we live, the way we play, and, at a basic level, how humans relate to each other.

On the business front, it has fueled the power shift from institutions to customers, driven the emergence of startups and super-scaled platforms that are undercutting and remaking traditional markets, and changed the way employees work.

Technology’s impact is both revolutionary and unsurprising. Ironically, it has not (yet) changed the fundamental model of IT.

For years, IT’s mantra was to provide a safe, reliable service, following the requirements that the business defined.

IT expanded to master the internet, went mobile, and commercialised digital properties — but it was still largely a technology shop challenged to drive business value, coaching the firm on how best to capitalise on new technology and protecting it from outside and inside threats.

But that is going to change. Driving forces from every corner of the ecosystem will combine to challenge the structural and technological foundations of your business.

A radically different model will become the norm as competition, customers, employee experience, organisational structures, and leadership place exponentially higher demands on the IT organisation.

Here is a shortlist of dynamics that conspire to create a far different future for IT:

  1. The way work gets done is changing: from clear functions, jobs, and deliverables to a fluid set of tasks that naturally embed technology.

  2. The destruction of stale, hierarchical organisational models will soon be replaced by shape-shifting  organisations that are highly adaptable to hyperdynamic markets.

  3. Linear development and even agile co-creation will prove insufficient in a world where new competition constantly experiments with technology to drive innovation.

  4. New, technology-savvy board members and CEOs will feel more comfortable with and obligated to technology as a strategic weapon.

All told, the combined market, technological, and economic forces will overwhelm — and destroy — traditional ways of thinking about IT and replace the function with a bolder, immersive version of IT that can drive a whole new set of innovations and possibilities.

IT, and its corresponding digital capabilities, will need to continue to grow in order to sustain any hopes of market leadership.

Investments in automation will bring IT in front of the workforce by improving productivity and adaptability at the employee level. Modernising the core tech stack will improve agility and adaptability at the business level.

The future of IT is a stark change from IT’s original mandate to support the business and control an alien set of technologies.

The CIO role is getting far more consequential and exciting — but harder

Sharyn Leaver, Forrester

It changes the idea that technology should be bound by the current rules and norms of business to the idea that technology itself sparks new ways of thinking, new ways of creating value, and new ways of working.

How will this affect CIOs? The CIO role is getting far more consequential and exciting — but harder.

No longer a support function and now the creator of customer value and strategic advantage, the CIO will become a central figure in what the company is and does, as well as how well it fares in a hyperdigital world. Part VC, part architect, part orchestrator, the CIO will move from caretaker to disruptor and from technocrat to business visionary.

The reality, though, is that no one person will be able to do all of that; each CIO will come with their own bias, making the collection of successful CIO personas that much more dynamic.

Against the measuring stick of acting as an innovator and value creator, Forrester estimates that no more than 20 per cent of current CIOs can fulfill this expanded mandate.

And yet, the mandate for the CIO and her team will radically evolve and expand further as CEOs wake up to the fact that parsing out responsibility to CTOs, CDOs, and CIOs only exacerbates the problem.

No matter who sits in the chair, the CIO and her team will be core to business design and take the lead role in technology-driven innovation.

Technology-driven innovation can seem like a fancy way of saying technology for technology’s sake, but it is better seen as a way to widen the corporate imagination and allow any company, startup or old guard, to adapt to and thrive in a market shaped and fueled by technology.

The ability to exploit technology to its highest potential will determine a company’s fate and fortune. Organisations will not change immediately, but 2019 will be a stepping stone for CIOs and their teams.

'Part VC, part architect, part orchestrator, the CIO will move from caretaker to disruptor and from technocrat to business visionary'
'Part VC, part architect, part orchestrator, the CIO will move from caretaker to disruptor and from technocrat to business visionary'

Sharyn Leaver is SVP, research at Forrester. This is an excerpt from the Forrester report on the future of IT.

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