IT is on the precipice of unprecedented change. Every company, now in the business of technology, is experiencing glimmers of larger shifts to come: automation, decentralized technology budgets, rapid adoption of cloud-based services, and most recently, artificial intelligence as a business necessity.
Thanks to these emerging and converging trends, technology is increasingly freeing workers from routine tasks, from the warehouse to the C-suite. Massive amounts of data are being ingested in real time, as business decisions are beginning to be offloaded to machines, leaving more time to focus on planning, pursuing leads, and adopting new technologies.
IT stands at the center of all this, poised to change dramatically. To help you navigate the years ahead, we've broken down the forces currently shaping the future of IT work, offering insights from fellow technology leaders on the long-term impact of changes emerging today.
Automation is fast becoming mainstream, moving from experimental projects to the business world. And while automation in business may have a profound effect on employment in the future - a 2015 McKinsey report suggests half of the job functions performed today by people could be automated using existing technology - the impact on IT will be the freedom to be more strategic.
"Finding, extracting, and conforming all this information so it can be used to drive decision-making has been a complex and labor-intensive task for decades," says Timo Elliott, vice president and global innovation evangelist at SAP. Elliott cites the 2015 McKinsey report's assertion that AI and machine learning advances could shave off about two-thirds of the time it takes to do this sort of mundane, time-intensive work.
Freed from the wrangling and maintaining, IT will have more resources to devote to moving the business forward.
"I see the biggest impact that automation will make on IT is that it will accelerate the shift from 'running IT' to innovating for the future," says Chris Bedi, CIO at ServiceNow. "Also, we'll see an improvement in employee engagement as people aren't spending time on mundane tasks."
With automation in place, speed and agility will be key. Technology initiatives that used to take half a decade to be adopted are now in place in just a couple years. This will only accelerate - to your benefit or peril.
"If you go back in time and ask, 'What is the window you have for competitors to really have an impact on your business?' You'd hear something like five years," says Steve Rotter, CMO of OutSystems. "Now it's 24 months. If CIOs are feeling that kind of pressure and sensitivity around speed and agility, to me that's what's going to drive a lot of interesting dynamics in the marketplace."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.