Gartner Symposium is as ubiquitous in October as pumpkin spice, when everybody who’s anybody—including some 3,000 CIOs—treks down to Orlando to find out what Gartner has to say about the upcoming year, decade, and beyond.

Predictably, there was a big emphasis for CIOs on digital—digitizing apps and data, as well as something Gartner called “flipping” to digital leadership. By this they meant for CIOs to think digital first, as opposed to legacy first. “Every company is now a technology company,” said Peter Sondergaard, SVP and Global Head of Research, at the opening keynote. “Every business unit is a technology startup."

Organizations also need to become “bimodal”—what some people call “ambidextrous”—in that they need to provide both the reliability of traditional IT and the agility of a startup, Sondergaard continued.  Already, 45 percent of organizations have this second "fast mode,” meaning they are very agile, and that will grow to 75 percent by 2017, predicted VP and Gartner Fellow Daryl Plummer.

At the same time, precisely because of the pervasiveness of connected “things” that are constantly providing information and analytics on what’s around them, CIOs need to pause and give thought to ethical considerations. They must become “digital humanists” as a way of preventing the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data from being too creepy. It’s not enough to have just a “functional view” that helps develop products and applications that can do things, CIOs must also develop a “humanist view” that considers privacy issues and gives users more control over what data is collected and how it’s used, said VP and Gartner Fellow Richard Hunter.

“IT leaders have to develop new practices to recruit for non-traditional IT roles…otherwise we are going to keep designing things that will offend people,” said Plummer. “We need more skills on how to relate to humans—the people who think people first are rare.”

Of course, one of the highlights of the event is the annual list of Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends. No surprises here, as they haven’t changed a lot from the previous year. Last year a top trend was Software-Defined Everything; this year a top trend is Software-Defined Apps and Infrastructure. Last year there was Cloud/Client Architecture; this year there is Cloud/Client Computing. Both years we have the IoT, Smart Machines, and 3D Printing. That said, here’s this year’s list:

  1. Computing Everywhere
  2. Internet of Things
  3. 3D Printing
  4. Advanced, Pervasive, and Invisible Analytics
  5. Context-Rich Systems
  6. Smart Machines
  7. Cloud/Client Computing
  8. Software-Defined Apps and Infrastructure
  9. Web-Scale IT
  10. Risk-Based Security

A number of items are related: Computing Everywhere is part and parcel of the IoT, which will be both Smart and Context-Rich, and perform Advanced, Pervasive, Invisible Analytics. The result is a kind of good news/bad news prediction: By 2018, digital businesses will require 50 percent fewer business process workers. And one out of every three jobs will be converted to software, robots, or smart machines by 2025. On the other hand, by 2018, digital business will drive a 500 percent boost in digital jobs, such as smart machines, robotics, automated judgment, ethics, integration specialists, digital business architects, regulatory analysts, and risk professionals, according to Sondergaard.

Also note the final item on the list—Risk-Based Security. The proliferation of technological devices offers wonderful new vectors for hackers. Plummer said, for example, that there is a good chance that by 2018, devices such as pacemakers will get hacked. Gartner’s annual survey—which included 2,810 CIOs, representing more than $397 billion in CIO IT budgets in 84 countries—indicated that CIOs see security as a major issue. “Eighty nine percent of CIOs agree that in addition to the considerable opportunities afforded by digitalization, the digital world engenders new, vastly different and higher levels of risk, and 69 percent said that the discipline of risk management is not keeping up,” Gartner writes.

What that means is that organizations can no longer count on simply putting in enough firewalls and security apps to keep the bad guys out, but must think in terms of detection and mitigation instead. “Security cannot be a roadblock that stops all progress,” Gartner writes. “Organizations will increasingly recognize that it is not possible to provide a 100 percent secured environment. Once organizations acknowledge that, they can begin to apply more-sophisticated risk assessment and mitigation tools.”

Ultimately, the smart devices and apps will need to learn to police themselves, Gartner predicts.

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