CIOs must grasp emerging digital business technologies or face being marginalised

The Internet of Things, cognitive technology, 3D printing, wearable technology and similar innovations represent challenges which IT manager must face up to if they are not to be marginalised, says Gartner.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

New digital business technologies represent a pressing challenge to IT managers, but many CIOs do not grasp either the threat or the opportunity that they pose, according to the latest research from the analysts at Gartner.

For harassed CIOs, the problem is simple to explain but difficult to deal with — there is just too much new technology for them to come to terms with. So Gartner has identified six core technology areas that CIOs and IT managers have to consider, although it admits that these do not represent all the areas they might want to look into.

The six are:

  1. The Internet of Things, which Gartner says has the potential to create political tension between operations, product development and IT
  2. 3D printing, which Gartner believes has "considerable transformational potential".
  3. Human augmentation and wearable technology — an enormous potential growth area as well as one that, as Gartner points out, will force CIOs "to consider human, legal, social and ethical issues".
  4. Robotics and autonomous machines, which will raise the rate at which companies will look to replace human labour with machines. CIOs need to look well beyond just labour-cost savings towards other benefits which "may include less machine wear, shorter lead times, greater safety and less downtime", Gartner says.
  5. Cognitive machines represent another enormous area where "CIOs should look for repetitive use cases and think about using these technologies in a way that complement, rather than replace, human employees".
  6. Cybersecurity, while usually being seen as a distinct issue for security departments and not one for IT, is likely to become more and more an IT issue as digital business technologies are used in physical security infrastructure in the same way that they are used in IT security infrastructure.

The core issue, according to Gartner, is that CIOs need to decide how they will position their IT organisation in relation to these emerging technologies.

According to Gartner vice-president Hung LeHong: "CIOs may hesitate to make digital business technologies part of IT's responsibilities, because these technologies are operations-focused and emerging in nature."

But LeHong argues that this is because IT organisations are used to owning and supporting "back office" and infrastructure technologies.

The result will be a split, Gartner says, between CIOs who play a supportive role in relation to digital technologies, and those who will wait for operations and other business departments to take the lead.

Whichever options CIOs decide to go for, the most important point is that they take a stance and pursue it, LeHong believes.

"Regardless of the eventual stance, CIOs should have an opinion, and should participate in innovating and in testing the business cases for these technologies in the early stages," LeHong says. "There is too much at stake — in both business value and technology investment — for CIOs to stay in the margins."

If you are interested, you can find the report on the Gartner website.

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