How 2020 tech trends will change IT

by Stephen Danos

Analysts and experts have been predicting the main technology innovations, investments, challenges, and strategic initiatives facing CIOs and IT departments in 2020. One thing they all seem to agree on? Amidst a backdrop of hyper automation, AI, IoT devices, and digitization, CIOs and IT leaders will focus on improving experiences for people

As Forrester points out, the top firms they study “lean into constant change and uncertainty.” At these organizations, CIOs do whatever they can to be better business partners, while contributing to the improvement of customer and employee experiences. They’ll also look to automate manual and repetitive tasks in order to free up IT departments for higher value work and so they can achieve more.

IT departments will respond to many strategic technology trends in 2020 in creative and innovative ways. However, to do this effectively, IT leaders must aim to collaborate better with their business stakeholders, including their executive team. Here are three ways IT leaders can position their broader IT department to evolve within the organization.

Illustration of a graduation cap.

1. Prepare IT teams for strategic priorities

While obvious, data privacy and preventing security threats will remain chief priorities for IT leaders. In addition, these leaders will need to find workable ways to digitize and automate workloads and processes, while providing proof of concept for any new technology they want to adopt. 

Forrester predicts that, to gain better control over spending, CIOs will automate “10% of their IT tasks that are highly standardized and repetitive.” While Forrester Research does not expect mass layoffs across IT organizations, IT professionals will continue to face pressure to get in line with strategic changes. 

Managers of IT professionals would do their employees — and their companies — a service by preparing teams to adjust to new changes, including training and building skills in areas like cloud computing, virtual servers, and managing cloud storage. By developing the right hard and soft skills, IT personnel can evolve to handle emerging business challenges as they arise, especially as more organizations work to digitize operations.

In fact, a recent Gartner survey on digitalization efforts shows that the biggest threat to these transformative plans is unrealistic expectations. Those who are moving to a hybrid-cloud system should consider cloud security programs that address “already-known vulnerabilities.

Organizations that don’t establish a clear vision for investing in massive projects, such as a hybrid-cloud-based system, run the risk of the program dying on the vine. In order to avoid failure, IT leaders can establish the strategy for evaluating workloads and machines, while setting cost expectations before the cloud migration begins.

To accomplish cloud changes, mitigate security risks, and more, IT leaders will be expected to understand the business needs of their organization. They must make the case for the right solutions for infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS).

Once IT and the business are strategically aligned on top initiatives, technology leaders can turn their focus to how they are going to get things done. They can invest in the best technologies that benefit the organization, while considering the needs of both IT teams and the business. 

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2. Help people adapt to new technology

Technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace, and your IT department needs to stay ahead of the game. Gartner outlined 10 trends that IT leaders should be thinking about in 2020. These trends fit under two main buckets, people-centric and smart spaces. 

The people-centric category includes hyper automation, multi experience, democratization, human augmentation, and transparency and traceability. IT departments will be expected to find solutions and strategies that compliment these technical concepts.

The digital twin, which is a digital version of a physical machine, that is sometimes created through hyper automation, for example, can help provide “real-time, continuous intelligence about the organization" and drive "significant business opportunities.” This means IT pros can get access to technology insights that help them run their department and deliver value to the business with regularity.

In addition, when choosing and approving software for business users, IT departments should continue to think about transparency and traceability within their own department, and throughout their entire organization. The platforms they buy into should have capabilities that empower employees to make transparency the norm.

Gartner also established a smart spaces category that focuses on edge computing, the distributed cloud, AI security, practical blockchain, and autonomous things. These will (if they aren’t already) shape how IT builds processes and programs in 2020 — and beyond.

As more organizations adopt AI for handling critical processes, from HR management to talent acquisition, IT leaders will need to beef up security. Gartner points out an opportunity to protect AI-powered systems and use AI to enhance security, which includes training security pros to anticipate the use of AI by hackers. Basically, AI and automation are becoming increasingly critical for cybersecurity

As more and more organizations adopt AI and chatbots, expand their use of IoT devices and wearables, and consider migrating to the public cloud, there will be demand for IT pros who can work alongside and understand these technologies. And as more organizations adopt low-code platforms to make sure employees can work as effectively as possible while keeping their data safe, IT pros will need oft-discussed soft skills to work with employees across the business.

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3. Collaborate more effectively with business stakeholders

At the end of the day, IT leaders can choose the right technology solutions and tools to compliment their workforce, but they need their teams to help implement the overall vision. Just as robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), and AI help align IT processes, IT leaders will need ensure alignment with business stakeholders.

Breaking down these silos is easier said than done. While a work execution platform surely helps organizations, CIOs and IT leaders first must partner with their internal customers to determine the best ways to use technology to foster collaboration.

IT leaders can get their team members involved, particularly when they participate in meetings with business leaders. Adding a business analyst to these conversations creates a two-way street of understanding; it puts IT needs in front of the people who control spending, and gives executives more insight into the workloads of IT teams.

As a bonus, working across departments helps IT individual contributors gain a holistic view of different parts of the organization, and provides them with a forum for asking questions and a consistent path toward professional development (especially working on their communication, social intelligence, and many other soft skills) that also benefits the business.

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