AI, cybersecurity shape the CIO agenda for 2019 as IT budgets rise

Companies are scaling digital transformation projects, but privacy remains a top concern, according to a Gartner report.

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CIOs are transitioning their departments into the third era of IT--the digital era, according to the annual Gartner CIO Agenda survey released at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo this week in Orlando.

Digital initiatives and growth are top priorities for CIOs going into 2019, as digital has become mainstream, according to the survey of more than 3,000 CIOs in 89 countries. The move to digital business is supported by steady IT budget growth, the survey found: Globally, CIOs expect IT budgets to grow by 2.9% in 2019, only slightly less than the average growth rate of 3% in 2018.

"CIOs should use their financial resources to make 2019 a transformative year for their businesses," Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in a press release. "Stay active in the transformation discussions and invest time, money and human resources to remove any barriers to change. Enterprises that fall behind in digital business now will have to deal with a serious competitive disadvantage in the future."

SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving digital transformation (Tech Pro Research)

Dynamism--the ability to embrace change and adopt technology--is the biggest predictor of digital transformation success, Mike Harris, executive vice president of research at Gartner, said during the opening keynote address at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. However, privacy is a top barrier to becoming dynamic. "If you don't successfully master privacy, your entire digital transformation is at risk," Harris said during the keynote.

Businesses are increasingly scaling their digital efforts, the survey found: 33% of CIOs worldwide said they had evolved their digital endeavors to scale, up from 17% the year before. The major driver for scale is increasing consumer engagement through digital channels, the survey found.

"The ability to support greater scale is being invested in and developed in three key areas: Volume, scope and agility. All aim at encouraging consumers to interact with the organization," Rowsell-Jones said in the release. "For example, increasing the scope means providing a variety of digital services and actions to the consumer. In general, the greater the variety of interactions that are available via digital channels, the more engaged a consumer becomes and the lower the costs to serve them are."

When it comes to disruptive technologies, 40% of CIOs said artificial intelligence (AI) was the top game-changer technology, followed by data and analytics, the survey found. Some 37% of CIOs said their organization had already deployed AI or that deployment was in short-term planning.

In terms of deployment, AI was second only to cybersecurity (88%), according to the survey, demonstrating that CIOs still own this responsibility. However, some of the security burden must shift to employees, as the rise of social engineering attacks require broader behavioral change, the survey noted.

"Last year, I said that CIOs must start scaling their digital business. They excelled," Rowsell-Jones said in the release. "This year, they have to take it one step further and put their growing digital business on a stable and secure base. Success in the third era of enterprise IT hinges on a sound strategy that combines new, disruptive technologies with a rebalancing of existing investments."

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Globally, CIOs expect IT budgets to grow by 2.9% in 2019. -- Gartner, 2018
  • 40% of CIOs said artificial intelligence (AI) was the top game-changer technology. -- Gartner, 2018

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