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We asked five C-suite leaders at companies that deliver business-critical technology products and services to identify the IT trends that will have the biggest impact on CIO strategies in 2019.
AI and the cloud will continue to dominate enterprise IT agendas, but to capitalize on them IT leadership, more than technical expertise, is what's required of CIOs.
CIO strategy No. 1: Serverless analytics takes off
"In 2019 CIOs should be gearing up for serverless analytics platforms," said Joshua Eichorn, CTO at Pagely, a managed WordPress hosting service.
Platforms from big players like AWS, Google and Microsoft have been around for a couple years, but the supporting tooling is becoming more readily available now, Eichorn said. Utilizing serverless platforms can be a big win, since many analytics workloads tend to have very uneven usage (nightly batch jobs, end of quarter reports, etc.).
Eichorn said serverless analytics is proving to be a huge win for Pagely because the hosting service only has to pay for actual usage. He said it has also made it easier to experiment with new ways to use analytics.
CIO strategy No. 2: AI boosts back-end operations, marketing
In 2019, CIOs will use AI technologies to improve back-office operations, from finance to human resources, said Amar Kanagaraj, chief marketing officer at FileCloud, an enterprise file-sharing service. For example, AI technologies will improve customer service, detect fraud and make it easier for employees to find information. But the payoffs will be tied directly to the integrity of the data.
"CIOs will realize that they need more robust data and continuous tinkering to have AI make a significant impact on internal security, processes and productivity," Kanagaraj said.
One big component of this lies in organizing data gleaned from back-office applications in a way that it can be correlated with specific marketing efforts. This will make it easier to determine how different marketing campaigns correlate with improved sales, increased profits or reduced support calls.
"In 2019, marketing IT budgets will continue to grow and CMOs will [lean on] CIOs to get better visibility into the impact of marketing spend," Kanagaraj said.
CIO strategy No. 3: AI will eat a company's lunch without expert guidance
"Companies need to be aware that artificial intelligence and machine learning can quickly become a black hole for money, and CIOs need to help them understand that before embarking on implementation," said Rix Ryskamp, CEO at UseAIble, a machine learning tools vendor.
A good starting point for CIOs is to pay attention to the kinds of problems AI can solve. AI technologies have been applied most successful to solving problems that are primarily statistical, such as speech recognition and machine vision. But applying AI to problems like business rules management can be much more difficult and expensive, Ryskamp said.
"CIOs need to need to figure out how to deliver meaningful AI/machine learning for their businesses by understanding potential outcomes, having clear ideas about ROI and setting the right expectations with stakeholders from the beginning," Ryskamp said.
CIO strategy No. 4: Cloud services sprawl gets pushback
The ready availability of cloud services has allowed users to experiment with new tools. But ease of use is also creating new problems for vendors and CIOs alike. The term "SaaS fatigue" -- used by cloud vendors to describe the difficulty of selling their products to oversubscribed SaaS customers -- increasingly describes how users feel, according to Darren Chait, co-founder and COO at Hugo, a meeting notes service.
As organizations roll out more software each year for employees to adopt, it's getting harder to get workforce buy-in. "Gone are the days when a CIO can demand adoption and usage of software," Chait said. "Now, there's very much an internal sales process that needs to occur before a tool is adopted."
CIO strategy No. 5: Standardized public cloud architecture is coming
Many executives believe that cloud services will continue to accelerate in 2019. One of the biggest challenges CIOs face as the shift to cloud continues is identifying ways to adapt existing business processes and IT infrastructure to the cloud with the least cost and disruption to employees. Help is on the way, according to Merrick Olives, managing partner at Candid Partners, a cloud consulting service.
"The next big thing for cloud will be automation of DevOps and automated standardization of public cloud architectural patterns by use case," Olives said.
Automation will help address issues facing the cloud industry such as scarcity of skills, awareness and understanding of the client base, and the integration of people, process, and technology aspects of cloud enablement. But CIOs should prepare for roadblocks due to internal resistance to change and a "do it ourselves" mentality, Olives said.