BARCELONA: Gartner's run of 2015 Symposiums are drawing to a close, with the final one for the year taking place in the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona.
For chief information officers (CIOs) and senior IT executives this means the opportunity to start looking at how to put the advice and recommendations made by the analyst house into action.
The theme of the closing Barcelona conference was a continuation of those established in the preceding Symposiums, centring on the evolving role of the CIO in response to digital transformation within enterprises.
V3 identified five key issues that CIOs and forward-thinking IT teams should ponder if they wish to be technology leaders rather than followers.
Gartner has been discussing bimodal IT for some time now. It is the concept of keeping established business-critical IT infrastructure, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, in place and running more innovative technology strategies on new digital platforms in parallel.
Gartner argues that this dual IT approach enables enterprises to retain a stable core of critical business systems and then use separate digital platforms for more risky and experimental projects without putting the entire business at risk.
"An established company may start with old business models and old business processes and attempt to slowly adapt to the customer's need in the moment," said Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president and head of research at Gartner.
"They build their digital business on top of old business processes; building slowly on top of an old mode one platform.
"The mode two platform uses more cloud that in-house infrastructure and applications; the new platform is less about data gathering and more about intelligent algorithms that act upon the data," he added. "[CIOs] need IT that supports bimodal business."
Gartner showcased several organisations that have a bimodal strategy, including MFR Crossrail and its use of mobile devices and Bluetooth beacons to monitor and communicate with staff on parts of the London rail network.
The evolution of bimodal IT leads to what Gartner calls the "algorithmic business", whereby companies create, consume and share code and algorithms that trigger actions based on big data analysis rather than simply collecting big data and applying more traditional business intelligence processes to it.
This idea is that true digital businesses will use algorithms to automate their operations and adjust on-the-fly to insights and predictions found in big data.
Daryl Plumber, Gartner vice president, said enterprises had much to gain from creating an ecosystem of sharable algorithms.
"What we're finding in this digital world is that increasingly the value that exposing your algorithm to someone else might be worth more than keeping it secret," he said.
"This idea of sharing your algorithms becomes very important, because if you don't share them you can never keep up with the volume of connections someone else is creating."
CIOs need to be leaders not controllers
Creating an algorithmic business with more automation will lead to CIOs relinquishing more control over their systems and put more trust in coded processes and external resources, such as cloud service providers.
While this insight from Gartner may have some CIOs feeling threatened, the analyst house noted it is an opportunity for them to become leaders of technology use and adoption as opposed to being merely responsible for "keeping the lights on" with existing infrastructure.
"Technology ownership has shifted and talent has shifted, all these factors have expanded the universe of technology leadership out of your control, but that doesn't have to be bad news," said Sondergaard.
"Accept the reality that you control a smaller part [of IT] but you now have resources to draw on outside of your organisation."
Lee Weldon, managing vice principal at Gartner, said CIOs will need to position themselves as true business leaders if they are to embrace this technology ownership change.
"So many CIOs very proudly say that: ‘We are partners to the business, we have achieved that pinnacle', but what we're finding is when they do that they still position themselves as down the decision-making chain; business makes its decision, IT will then help you implement those decisions," he said.
"But the CIOs that are really having the impact and are starting to be much more influential in digital are the ones who are engaged upfront on what are the decisions that [companies] make, because they can bring to the table an understanding around opportunities [and threats] with technology."
Adopt a clear IoT strategy
Focusing less on control and more on leadership is also something CIOs will need to do when looking at making inroads into the world of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Gartner's vice president and IoT specialist, Jim Tully, said enterprises and CIOs need to build uses cases for deploying networks of smart machines that directly benefit business operations and revenue.
"Recommendations we tend to make are that it's important to put together a team of people; a multi-disciplinary team made up of different people from different departments," he said.
"Not a big team, maybe six people, who are then tasked with identifying how the organisation can use IoT. Having gone through that kind of a process it's necessary then to start to form a strategy for the purpose of the IoT."
Moving to blockchain currency
Arguably not the most prominent of topics at the Barcelona Symposium, bitcoin and other meta currency was still identified as something that CIOs should pay attention to.
The crypto currency that has no borders and regulation but is controlled by an distributed digital ledger, has already been touted as a disruptive influence over the traditional finance and banking sectors.
But David Furlonger, vice president at Garter and a specialist in the field, said that traditional transactional economic models as the market economy cannot properly adjust to more digital-savvy consumers, smart machines and the control and distribution of digital currency.
"We have to innovate more, yet our core technologies are stuck in an economic paradigm from the last century, and our business models don't work anymore. Most large companies have one business model, maybe two, but it's largely rigid and fixed; it doesn't deal with the notion of APIs, openness, apps or someone else outside creating intellectual property that can manage that commercial transaction," he explained.
Furlonger said this situation will evolve into adopting block chain based digital currency, which as it becomes more prevalent will help enable algorithms to carry out more automatic transactions on the behalf of people.
He said this could be used with connected cars, whereby the car automatically collects bids for maintenance services to decide the best one for the job and then pay for it automatically using a digital currency.
Furlonger noted that the subject of crypto currency adoption and its disruptive effect is a tough one for CIOs to consider given it does not fit as neatly into some of the other advice offered by Gartner, but he did suggest CIOs need to consider its use all the same.
"There is clearly noise and money going into the marketplace and I think the first thing you need to think about doing is creating some kind of strategic framework to understand the opportunities and the risk," he said, noting the need to understand how the blockchain environment is quite volatile and difficult to get to grips with.
However, with the changes digital currency is forecast to bring, it is clear that CIOs will need to invest some time to understand how blockchain digital currencies will affect their digital business, or they could risk being left behind using outdated business and economic models.
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