Top CIO tech topics of 2015: Anything but business as usual

The technology topics that grabbed CIOs in 2015 ranged from Dell's audacious EMC bid to the meaning of robotic process automation to some stern advice on how to be a CIO.

The largest technology acquisition ever. The right way to get an Internet of Things project off the ground. How robotic process automation will shake up the job market. A case study of five digital disruptors: The tech topics that drew readers in 2015 are testament to why the CIO job is so challenging. Enterprise IT is never business as usual -- or it had better not be.

Some technology topics took on new urgency for CIOs in 2015. Big data analytics stories continued to be of high interest, but in 2015 CIO readers were most drawn to stories about practical applications: useful new big data tools, success stories and examples of big data mistakes to avoid. The top story about IT security, a perennial concern for IT organizations, offered advice on how CIOs should shore up their security toolkits against escalating cyber threats.

SearchCIO's top tech stories underscore just how important digital information -- its collection, analysis and protection -- has become for business success. As the digital domain expands for companies and for customers, so does the CIO role, some would argue to the breaking point. Not surprisingly, advice on CIO careers -- including what not to do -- was also a popular topic among CIO readers.

Here are the stories that grabbed your attention in 2015.

Dell-EMC merger

"Dell-EMC deal strikes a chord with CIOs," our top story of 2015, asked CIO readers what they made of the largest technology acquisition in history. Many, like SearchCIO columnist and CTO Niel Nickolaisen, took it personally, seeing the Dell-EMC merger as yet another sign of the massive shift from corporate-owned hardware to IT as a service -- and as a reason to reassess their own IT roadmaps.

How not to disintermediate a CIO

"People in CIO positions should stay off this list" offers some stern advice for CIOs who aspire to lead the way on digital transformation. The list in question, from analyst Bobby Cameron of Forrester Research, describes five quagmires that spell doom for both digital transformation and modern-day CIO careers.

Supportive leadership

All-knowing bosses have had their day. In "Fire all your managers: 'Supportive Leadership' is management's new role," SearchCIO expert Joseph Flahiff explains that in the world of knowledge work, productivity and profitability are directly linked to creativity, not overbearing bosses issuing orders. In place of traditional management, businesses and organizations need to put in place a system of Supportive Leadership. Flahiff defines what that concept is and how to get there.

Whirlpool CIO wrings value from IoT

The hype on IoT reached epic levels in 2015, but who is actually doing IoT -- and how are they doing it? Readers flocked to our feature story "Whirlpool CIO: The future of IoT demands a new IT paradigm," which chronicles the efforts of CIO Mike Heim to reinvent the lowly laundromat with IoT. His first task was rethinking how his IT team worked.

Cognitive robotic process automation

Add RPA to the alphabet soup of IT applications that will shake up the status quo.  Drawing on research from McKinsey and KPMG, "Cognitive robotic process automation poised to disrupt knowledge worker market" reports that in the coming decade, the work of as many as 140 million knowledge workers will be handled by cognitive robotic process automation systems. According to KPMG's Cliff Justice, the shift to cognitive RPA -- which digitizes labor through the use of advanced machine intelligence, engagement, analytics, big data, social media, mobile technologies and cloud computing -- will ultimately expand the job market, but not without inflicting pain in the interim.

How to make a mint on big data?

For big data aficionados in 2015, it was all about following the money. The good news in "A tale of two retailers profiting from big data" was that big data doesn't discriminate on the basis of company age. The story explains how an old-school retailer, the 102-year-old L.L. Bean, and trendy upstart Etsy are counting on big data to continuously improve and personalize their customers' shopping experiences. Untraditional project management processes figure large in their pursuits of big data value. Whether any retailer can ultimately compete against retail's big daddy of big data is an open question.

Apache Spark ignites

Apache Spark made some noise in 2015, and SearchCIO readers took notice. As reported in "Is Apache Spark the next big thing in big data analytics?," this year's Spark Summit East in New York showcased companies of all stripes that are using the open source big data processing engine to address complex problems. Case studies in point: using Apache Spark to capture the beginnings of a distributed denial-of-service attack on the bitcoin network, to connect cars to the Internet (of people and of things), and to map money-laundering rings.

The 'bossless' office brouhaha

Zappos' controversial push to institutionalize a management style that favors worker empowerment over the power of a few introduced many CIO readers to a new word. In "Flap over Zappos holacracy puts spotlight on 'bossless' workplace," consultant Rod Collins explains what holacracy -- or going bossless -- means in practical terms for an enterprise and why CIOs might want to takes measures to flatten their IT organizations.  A caution: As Zappos learned, working in a holacracy is not for everyone.

High on cloud computing

What would a list of top technology topics be without a temperature check on the state of cloud computing in the enterprise? Published a year ago in January 2015, SearchCIO's "2015 outlook in information technology: Growth and more cloud services" drew on TechTarget’s annual IT priorities survey of 2,012 IT professionals to assess what was happening with IT budgets and spending in 2015. Among the IT shops whose budgets were increasing in 2015, 43% were plowing money into growing cloud services. In 2016, look for the growth of "industry cloud services."

A toast to digital disruptors

Doing business as usual is riskier than investing in ways to transform the business with technology. Aim to be a digital disruptor, because digital disruptors are aiming for you. That was a recurring piece of advice for CIOs in 2015 from management experts like Jeanne Ross, director and principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan School's Center for Information Systems and Research, as well as many others. Saying you want to be a digital disruptor doesn't make it so. "Five digital disruptors talk successes and strategies" chronicles how four CIOs and one chief digital officer are beating the competition.

More top technology stories on SearchCIO

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Don't make these 7 big data mistakes

Embedded IT or central IT? 

Don't be a slave to IT demand -- shape it

The argument for bimodal IT: Gartner

Lessons on IT security from a year of data breaches

The platform is the medium for digital transformation

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Next Steps

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