The current pace of technological change is dizzying, which makes it an exciting -- and confusing -- time to be in IT.
As automation, cloud computing and other enterprise technology trends become more important to organizational success, CIOs and their teams must assess the various trends with a critical eye.
CIOs are highly focused on how technologies can help their organizations stay competitive in the market in the next few years, said Christopher Gilchrist, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
"When they talk about strategic agenda, they're thinking about how the decisions they make now are supporting future outcomes," Gilchrist said. "It's about where they can utilize these technologies to support the growth agenda 18 to 24 months out."
Here are 10 enterprise technology trends IT leaders should understand.
1. AI use continues to grow
CIOs are focusing a lot of attention on artificial intelligence, seeing AI as a way to help them help their organizations address and overcome the myriad issues they're facing today.
Many tech leaders see AI supporting real-time data-driven actions -- not just insights such as highly personalized customer service -- as something that can drive up productivity and boost revenue. Those are key objectives as organizations face economic headwinds, such as rumblings about a possible recession, higher interest rates and growing labor costs.
"We will see a lot of companies trying to figure out how to incorporate AI [into their operations]," said Seth Robinson, vice president of industry research at CompTIA, an IT training and certification association, based in Downers Grove, Ill. "We will see more executives asking: 'How do we get more AI into our business?' They're looking at business processes and trying to figure out how AI can help them do better."
AI already has a solid presence in the enterprise.
Ninety-four percent of those surveyed already use AI in their lines of business, according to "CIO vision 2025: Bridging the gap between BI and AI," a report from MIT Technology Review Insights, in association with tech company Databricks. Looking ahead, more than half of respondents said they expect AI use to be widespread or critical in companywide functions by 2025.
AI's use in solving labor shortages, such as that seen in Panera's AI drive-through test, will only grow.
2. Generative AI hype goes into overdrive
CIOs and their executive colleagues are also considering how and where generative AI -- the specific type of AI where the technology produces content -- can provide business value. ChatGPT, a specific category of generative AI, has been a particularly hot topic.
"The advancement from machine learning to deep learning to now generative AI ... seems like a big leapfrog, but this evolution has been happening over several years and it's a natural progression," said Suma Nallapati, CIO of Insight Enterprises Inc., a global IT services provider, headquartered in Chandler, Ariz.
By all indications, generative AI use cases will only grow.
Ten percent of employees will use generative AI in 2023, according to Forrester's "Tech Trends To Watch In 2023" podcast.
Generative AI is affecting departments across the enterprise.
For example, IT operations is using generative AI for software engineering tasks, as one example.
3. Multi-cloud strategies gain velocity
Cloud computing is hardly a new technology, yet many organizations are still very much on their cloud journey -- even today, a decade-plus into the cloud revolution.
Companies are still migrating legacy systems from on-premises data centers to the cloud and figuring out how to best modernize not only applications, but their IT architecture and infrastructure in the process.
More specifically, an increasing number of CIOs are maturing their cloud operations and looking to create a multi-cloud strategy as a way to optimize and reduce risk, Gilchrist said. IT leaders want to ensure interoperability of applications and systems that reside with different cloud providers.
"They're focusing much more on how and when to spread processes -- and more specifically, the apps that support them -- between multiple cloud providers," Gilchrist said. "And they're figuring out how to build the right infrastructure to support all that."
4. Cybersecurity becomes a team sport
Executives across the organization -- not just CISOs -- now see cybersecurity as a critical issue.
Seventy-eight percent of executives cite cyber attacks as a serious or moderate risk and that 49% are increasing their cybersecurity and privacy investments, according to PwC's third quarter 2022 Pulse survey.
All this has made cybersecurity a crucial topic for CIOs as they work with CISOs to continue shoring up detection, prevention and response capabilities.
That's true generally and, in particular, for specific verticals, for example, financial services and healthcare.
"Healthcare IT is still a major target for cyber attacks, so all HIT teams are always working to increase prevention and monitoring control," said Susan Snedaker, CIO at El Rio Health, a nonprofit health center based in Tuscon, Ariz.
5. Advanced automation efforts grow
CIOs are also looking to mature their approaches to automation. They're advancing their practices from implementing robotic process automation (RPA) as individual use cases present themselves to embracing hyperautomation and adopting intelligent automation to scale their existing automation capabilities.
Today's economic and labor shortages are putting even more pressure on CIOs to advance their automation agenda.
"Every CIO is now forced to be on this journey if they're not already," Gilchrist said.
6. Data program improvements become critical
Quality data and the ability to utilize that data for near-real-time insights and actions are critical for automation and AI goals. An effective data program also underpins other key business objectives from improving customer experience to increasing efficiencies and productivity.
Given data's criticality, CIOs have been and will remain focused on how IT can enable and improve their organization's efforts around data.
Business intelligence and data analytics is a top area of increased investment for 2023, coming in at the No. 2 spot after cybersecurity and information security, according to Gartner's "CIO Agenda 2023," published in October 2022.
As organizations require the most insight, data's criticality will only grow.
Take data's importance to healthcare.
"Most healthcare organizations have implemented enterprise data warehouse and some sort of data analytics and/or business intelligence function," Snedaker said. "These continue to grow in importance, especially as healthcare organizations are looking for ways to trim costs while improving quality of care."
Many health IT organizations are turning to additional analytics tools to augment this capability, she said.
"It is increasingly important to enhance the ability to consume, digest and take action on large data sets," Snedaker said.
Of course, data is a concern across every type of organization and department, from HR to finance.
7. Modular, platform-based technologies enable agility
Along with a multi-cloud strategy, CIOs are breaking down their monolithic IT environments and instead implementing modular architecture and microservices to increase flexibility and agility.
A growing movement toward a modular, platform-based technologies model enables rationalization and modernization, both of which are key objectives for CIOs right now, Gilchrist said.
These technologies enable IT to support the flexibility and agility needed to quickly deliver tech services throughout the enterprise.
8. ESG initiatives become table stakes
Environmental, social and governance issues are top of mind for today's IT and business leaders. Staying on top of ESG and sustainability developments will be key.
Eighty-seven percent of all respondents believe ESG initiatives are important to their businesses and long-term success, according to the 2023 report "C-suite Insights: Sustainability and ESG Trends Index," from EY.
Many of those executives will turn to their CIOs for technologies that enable their ESG initiatives, Gilchrist said.
Leading CIOs are already investigating and investing in technologies that support tracking and reporting on their organization's ESG efforts, as well as technologies that support sustainability strategies.
9. RegTech market grows
Another area of growing interest for CIOs and their C-suite colleagues is regulation tech, or RegTech. RegTech refers to technologies that help organizations improve the way they manage regulatory compliance.
Forward-looking CIOs see these technologies as a way to help their organizations create value out of compliance efforts, rather than viewing such efforts as only a check-the-box exercise, Gilchrist said.
Researchers have predicted solid growth in this space.
The RegTech market was valued at $7.6 billion in 2021, according to the "RegTech Market by Component" report published by market research company MarketsandMarkets. The market will hit $19.5 billion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 20.8% during that five-year span, according to the report.
10. CX remains critical
With the emergence of customer experience as a key priority, CIOs have put more emphasis on deploying technologies that enable their organizations to identify, serve and retain their customers more effectively. That may be through personalized recommendations or targeted ads or customized content -- all of which require a broad array of enabling technologies.
IT leaders "are thinking holistically about the customer experience, whether they're in a virtual environment, on a website or a mobile device," Robinson said.
Instead of thinking about how to use augmented and virtual reality or how to create a metaverse-specific experience, leading CIOs should think about creating the desired experience across all digital environments and ensuring that the experience is integrated and consistent, Robinson said.
"I think that's what's front and center in the minds of CIOs," Robinson said.