How to find and implement emerging technologies as a CIO

Emerging technologies can be beneficial to your organisation but which ones should you look for?

emerging technology - virtual reality [VR] / augmented reality [AR] - virtual display / GUI
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The responsibilities of the modern CIO have changed dramatically over recent years. Instead of focusing exclusively on IT operations, the role is now seen as a strategic business position that is necessary for driving change and transformation within the organisation.

It’s evolved into one of the most dynamic executive roles, requiring constant development and adaptation to digital ecosystems, business model innovations, technology demands and stakeholders’ expectations. Adapting to tight budgets and focusing on internal operations are also now on the growing list of responsibilities handled by the CIO.

In an interview with our sister title CIO UK, SThree CIO Lance Fisher explained the change in nature of his job: "I split IT into two. 'Run the business', and 'grow the business’. You have to learn and understand the business and its competitive advantage, understand how your competitors run their businesses and then look to deliver competitive advantage. I firmly believe as a CIO you are the glue. You need to connect IT to the business, vendors and your clients."

However, despite this renewed focus on the wider business, the CIO cannot neglect their responsibilities towards the overall IT strategy. Digital transformation continues to be the buzzword on every C-suite executive’s lips, but no one knows more about the importance of getting it right more than the CIO.

Digital transformation and emerging technologies go hand in hand, and CIOs need to pay close attention to what is making waves across the IT landscape. Technology should only be adopted if it has the potential to positively impact the business long-term, meaning a CIO needs to be discerning about what is actually beneficial and what is simply hype.

Below, we take a look at some of the biggest emerging technology trends, how organisations are implementing and the inevitable challenges they bring with them.

What emerging tech trends should you look out for?

According to a Forbes report into emerging technologies, CIOs, should be paying close attention to business and robotic process automation; artificial intelligence (AI); blockchain; cryptocurrency; Internet of Things (IoT); virtual/augmented Reality (VR/AR); augmented analysis; mobile everything; wearables; and cybersecurity and privacy.

Throughout Southeast Asia, three of these technologies have emerged as front runners. Support for Industry 4.0 throughout the region has caused a significant boost in the demand for blockchain, artificial intelligence and IoT, with a number of government initiatives coming into effect to help support and nurture its future development.

Both established organisations and startups based in Southeast Asia have already started to take note of how these technologies are changing the way people live, work and communicate and are looking for ways to implement them and mimic the level of success.

Although each of these technologies has its own benefits and potential to transform the enterprise, they also require additional training and skills which are not always easy to find, particularly when it comes to AI.

Furthermore, as many of these technologies are still in their infancy, what might be hailed as life-changing today might turn out to be nothing more than hype the next. Emerging technologies are continuously evolving, making it difficult for some to weigh up whether the potential risks involved with being an early-adopter will ultimately be worth it in the long-run.

How organisations are implementing emerging tech

Earlier this year, the Indonesian hotel chain Alila announced the deployment of Infor HMS for its operations, a cloud-based property management software.

Designed to increase business agility and to enhance efficiency, the emerging cloud technology system that exists is a fully-integrated service hub which combines enterprise power and a streamlined workflow.

Ajay Gamre, head of IT at Alila Hotels and Resorts explained why it is important for organisations to implement new technologies, in this case a shift to the cloud: “As we continue to grow as a business, it is paramount that our systems keep pace and integrate seamlessly together. For this, we wanted to roll out a true cloud-ready application that has a proven cloud delivery record in Asia Pacific and can scale and offer flexibility in integration.”

Another leading emerging technology, machine learning, has been implemented by the airline Lufthansa to determine ticket prices, flight schedules and plan staffing requirements.

Their CDO, Christian Langer, explained that the airline has also created a predictive maintenance platform called Aviatar that analyses data from aircraft parts to continuously assess the condition of each component.

"We have close to 2,000 aircraft in the Aviatar who are constantly monitored," said Langer. "Every second we ingest something like 60,000 data points in our systems coming from all these aircraft in the air, parts in the workshops or aircraft on the ground. We combine all this data and build our models and are able to predict the future behaviour of this specific spare part."

Another example comes from Save the Children’s CIO Karl Hoods – a vocal blockchain supporter.

The charity is developing in collaboration with its child safeguarding director a proof of concept called 'the humanitarian passport', which will enable Save the Children UK to "respond quicker in deploying staff during emergency situations”.

What are the challenges associated with emerging technologies?

While emerging technologies do provide clear value to the enterprise, implementing them is not without its challenges; the biggest being budget, training and approval from the board.

It’s no secret that CIOs are continually battling against tightening budgets, often having to make cuts to the IT strategy already in place. As a result, unless the CIO can clearly demonstrate the financial and business value that would be gained from investing in these technologies, the board can often be reluctant to sign off the proposals.

Additionally, not all board members are technically minded, therefore trying to explain the potential benefits of a complex platform like blockchain can often mean these proposals don’t receive the green light.

A significant lack of readily available talent is also hindering the efforts of CIOs to implement emerging technologies.

According to Gartner’s Insights from the 2018 CIO Agenda Report, respondents stated that the current skills gap means artificial intelligence as the most problematic technology to implement, closely followed by IoT and cybersecurity.

As a result, CIOs are not only fighting for the necessary funding to deploy the technology, they must also invest in training programmes to help support and nurture talent they need to get their initiatives off the ground.

While established companies like Huawei have both the money and the reputation to oversee an initiative such as their promise to help train one million new artificial intelligence developers over the next three years; smaller businesses and startups will have to start offering bigger and better compensation packages in order to recruit the talent they need.