Like many of you, I feel that I’ve spent most of January drinking from the fire hose of fake news and alternative facts about the changing political world order. If you thought you could find a politics-free space in the technology news, think again.
What’s clear already is that 2017 will be the year of AI: alternative intelligence, but technology will be used to discern what is really happening in our world, the arbiter of real intelligence or truth. As technologists, we’re continuing to turn up the dial on our influence, which has me thinking about what that will mean for CIOs and IT leaders sitting in the rising power seat of organisations.
1. The power of technologists is rapidly rising in influence
After the US election, it was widely reported that a British audience targeting company was credited with helping President Trump win. The firm apparently used big data and psychographics to analyse huge volumes of personal data on each adult in the US to determine their personality type.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz was quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald on 24 January as saying: “There are no longer any experts except Cambridge Analytica. They were Trump’s digital team who figured out how to win.”
For me, the US election was an indicator that the power of technologists is becoming superabundant. This may be the year where the tide sharply turns and the CIO becomes the only expert the CEO can trust to steer business strategy and tactics in a wildly fluctuating environment. One where new opportunities and threats are the daily flotsam and jetsam of corporate life.
2. By 2020, Gartner predicts that the world will contain more than 20 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices, generating trillions of dollars’ worth of business value.
As the IoT continues to expand and the condition of connected ‘things’ changes, the data and networks that CIOs are accountable for will never be stable nor complete.
The smartest analysis of these lakes of data will never be ‘perfect’, but ‘just in time’. The IoT ecosystem characteristics and elements should be accepted as fluid, growing and mutable, so that decisions can be made as quickly as conditions change.
Leading organisations continually scan for emerging opportunities to fuel their algorithmic business strategies. This enables them to disrupt markets, drive new humanistic customer experiences and monetise this new flood of information from the IoT.
3. You think you are reading the internet, but it is reading you
As the IoT grows, nearly every action you take and the environment surrounding you is being recorded. Power transfers to those who possess the data and have the capacity to know you better than you know yourself.
As a CIO, you sit at the centre of that universe of data, orchestrating how it can be collected, analysed and disseminated. While that’s always been the case as we grew the capacity of IT, now that power is growing exponentially with every new ‘thing’ joining the IoT. With that power, your responsibility as an ethicist, an anthropologist, a gatekeeper and a business strategist grows in step.
4. Thirty percent of the most active Twitter accounts are bots
According to Pax Technica, a recent book by Philip N. Howard exploring the advantages and pitfalls of the IoT, 70 per cent of Twitter traffic is generated by 5 per cent of Twitter accounts. Of those 5 per cent, at least a third of users are believed to be machine bots, each tweeting more than 150 times a day.
These machine bots try to sell stuff, promote ideologies, sway sentiment, increase follower volumes or just generate noise. They are controlled by algorithms, triggered in response to the content of tweeted conversations. If your organisation isn’t already exploring the influence and spread of machine bots, start now.
5. Artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, new data management technologies and IoT data are at the heart of the "intelligence" component of the modern digital platform
As the IoT connects and diffuses billions of things, data and sentiment across an ever expanding digital landscape, the CIO role ramps up yet another notch. This year, CIOs need to consider, adapt and prepare to take on increasing power, responsibility and complexity in an IoT and artificial intelligence enabled world.
CIOs must radically expand their vision, decision making and leadership capabilities to take advantage and keep pace. Get it wrong and the implications can be damaging for the business and your customers. Get it right and you can change the enterprise’s value.
Jenny Beresford is a research director with Gartner's CIO Advisory team. Previously, she has served as a CIO in global enterprises, held VP and GM roles in consulting and technology firms, worked as a hands-on enterprise agile coach, an innovation lead and a digital transformation director.
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