Digital Disruption Was the Theme at Gartner’s Expo

A sold-out crowd of 8,000 CIOs and other IT leaders attended hundreds of sessions on both mainstream and emerging technologies at the 2016 Gartner Symposium|ITXPO in Orlando, Fla., from October 16 to 20.

One of the highly anticipated sessions was Gartner’s “Top Strategic Predictions for 2017 and Beyond,” with Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and Gartner fellow. He said the scale of digital disruption is increasing and will “disrupt our lives, not just our systems. So we need to recognize, prioritize and respond to this disruption.”

Plummer spoke about Gartner’s 10 predictions, which he grouped into three categories: Digital Experience and Engagement, Business Innovation, and the Secondary Effects that will have major impacts on people and technology.

The Digital Experience and Engagement group encompasses augmented reality (AR), voice-first systems that eliminate the need for a screen, smart agents that replace mobile apps and algorithms that can alter people’s behavior in positive ways,

The Business Innovation category includes blockchain and the seven digital giants (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) that will dominate engagement activities such as mobile apps and e-payments.

Secondary Effects include the need to innovate and transform; the internet of things’ minimal effect on data center storage; and the IoT’s huge savings on maintenance, services and consumables. Another secondary effect involves the health care savings that will result from the growing use of fitness trackers.

And Now a Word From Some CIOs and CTOs

A large number of IT leaders spoke at the symposium, including Otto Berkes, CTO of CA Technologies and author of the book Digitally Remastered. Fitting in with the disruptive theme of the conference, he stressed that “Software is now a disruptive force—a power that can intermediate companies,” mentioning Uber and Netflix as examples. “Software can keep a company vibrant, relevant and ahead of the competition.”

Berkes also spoke about the importance of openness and collaboration. “To become an agile organization, you have to break down silos and work collaboratively,” he explained. “One of IT’s roles is to become an educator and demystify technology and explain why it matters to the business.

“Everyone should participate in a company’s digital transformation. So IT needs to reach out to all stakeholders and start an open conversation.”

That IT-business conversation should also cover the all-important topic of security—an area that gives most IT leaders nightmares.

Consider Mark Moseley, vice president of IT at Rosetta Stone, which has a workforce scattered around the world and storage demands that keep growing. During his panel at the symposium, Moseley talked about dealing with a huge information security challenge.

“Our most important data was the least protected, and we were paying a lot of money to protect data that wasn’t that important,” he told the audience. Downward pressure on budgets and growing demands from customers were exacerbating the problem.

Rosetta has a hybrid cloud, and, as a result of the increasing challenges, Moseley is evaluating moving everything—including backup and possibly disaster recovery—to the cloud. That should enable him to control spend, buy less storage and improve the security situation.

In closing, Moseley told the audience that IT leaders are now treated as peers by the rest of the C-suite. “We used to be treated like plumbers, but now we’re treated as partners,” he said.  

That’s certainly true for Vic Bhagat, the new CIO of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, who works as a close partner with the company’s line-of-business executives. He believes that in order to get a seat at the C-suite table, IT leaders need to focus on areas that will make the business more profitable and competitive: digital transformation, customer experience (“bringing an Amazon-like experience to customers”), elastic environments, self-healing networks and self-learning technology.

“I need to deliver better, faster service and provide rock-solid connectivity,” Bhagat said. “That includes virtualizing the end points and integrating security into the backbone. That requires balancing customer experience, security, and network speed and capabilities.

The CIO added that in today’s fast-moving, innovative and always connected world, “IT stands for intelligent technology.”