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IT trends 2015: Top five CIO trends and resolutions CIOs

The monolithic app is dead, standardization often trumps innovation, and more. CTO and SearchCIO expert Niel Nickolaisen lays out the big CIO trends in 2015 and how he plans to respond.

As I ponder what took place in 2014 and what I think we face in 2015, one thing is clear -- the pace of technology-driven change continues to accelerate. As this continues, I have to think of ways to improve my systems, department and leadership agility. After all, the "machines" are getting smarter and getting smarter faster, which means that what technology has done in the past pales in comparison to what it will do in the future.

Heading into new year, here are the 2015 IT trends I am taking very seriously:

Five IT trends in 2015

1. The large, monolithic enterprise application is dead. The application architecture of the present and future is composed of services -- the smaller the better -- that connect to each other in whatever combination best fits the current needs. This gives me maximum flexibility at a time when ...

2. The real currency is speed. With the pace of technology and business change, we cannot afford to be slow. Thus, we should purge from our lives anything that slows us down -- that includes large, monolithic enterprise applications, long-term contracts and any form of complexity, which leads to ...

3. We need a sharp focus on innovation but innovation focused only on what creates our sustainable competitive advantage. The only activities that deserve creativity and uniqueness are those few things we should do better than anyone else. For everything else, we should adopt best practices, standardize and simplify, and the optimal way to do that is to ...

4. Tap into the surrounding eco-system. There are a whole bunch of things we invent or maintain or enhance that we would do better if we leveraged the work of others. For example, our primary product needs a rules engine. I could allocate some staff to design and build a rules engine, or I could do business with someone who has a passion for innovating and building the world’s greatest rules engine. Leveraging the work of others keeps me at the front edge of innovation while still keeping me focused on what I do better than anyone else (and for me, it is not rules engines). Tapping into the surrounding eco-system also means that I should think of ways to extend my applications and technology so that others can tap into me.

5. We swim in an ocean of data and that ocean is getting deeper and broader. Rather than trying to manage the data, I should think about having the right filters in place so that I get only the data I need to make better decisions.

Five 2015 resolutions

Here is how I am incorporating these 2015 IT trends into my plans:

1. Refactor away my large, monolithic applications. There are a number of standard, open frameworks we can use to create or get to API-centric enterprise applications.

2. Standardize away any complexity and uniqueness I have built into my internal systems. In my case, we have built our own order management systems because the order management systems the rest of the world uses do not meet our unique requirements. Guess what? We really do not have any unique order management requirements, and so 2015 is the year I replace our homegrown system with order management that someone else will innovate and support.

3. Measure not only quality but time to delivery. In the quest for improved speed, I want to make sure that we find every opportunity to shrink cycle times.

4. Experiment with advanced analytics. The entry costs are low to use advanced algorithms to see what our data can tell us about ourselves and our markets. We can rent massive compute power for minutes or hours. The MIS departments of most universities and colleges are looking for data sets they can use for student projects so why not let some bright, motivated students see what they can find in our data? And, there are data competitions galore where data scientists see what insight they can gain from our data.

5. On top of all of this is the ongoing transformation of my approach to leadership. I need to mentor more, direct less and push decision-making to the edges of the organization. I cannot have fast IT if I am the bottleneck that dictates the speed of my organization.

Niel NickolaisenNiel Nickolaisen

About the author:
Niel Nickolaisen is CTO at O.C. Tanner Co., a Salt Lake City-based human resources consulting company that designs and implements employee recognition programs. A frequent writer and speaker on transforming IT and IT leadership, Niel holds an M.S. degree in engineering from MIT, as well as an MBA degree and a B.S. degree in physics from Utah State University. You can contact Niel at

Next Steps

Read Niel's 2014 resolutions: A CIO's journey to IT transformation in 10 steps. Then read cloud computing IT trends for 2015 and server virtualization trends for 2015.

This was last published in December 2014

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What is the bottleneck in your organization that gets in the way of doing 'fast IT?'
The roles played by the IT departments include organizing information, capacity building, management of the information systems, digital libraries and sharing of resources. My organization has in the past succumbed to the problem of inadequate storage for the company data. Delivering documents and sharing resources has been a common a drawback too. This implies that the IT department lags behind and needs more investment. In response to the situation, we are resorting to the cloud.

I believe the answer to the question is multi-faceted, complex and impacted by multiple stakeholders/organizations interacting with occasionally conflicting objectives. For example, Business executives many times are attempting to optimize their own functional needs from a process and technology standpoint. While IT leadership is frequently taking a more objective enterprise-wide view. These two views can produce a divergent IT roadmap which is "owned and executed" by separate orgs sometimes creating sub optimal solutions. From my experience this scenario tends to be a significant bottleneck which impacts the ability to drive agility and "Fast IT".