It's clear that 2017 will be a year of action for CXOs, as the C-suite starts to see delivery on the promise of new tech such as AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). However, IT executives will also have to contend with new trends in cybersecurity and increased consumer expectations, experts said.
Here are the top 10 CXO trends to watch for moving forward into 2017.
1. The C-suite will be held accountable for cybersecurity
As major security breaches make headlines daily, C-suite members will be held more accountable for company cybersecurity practices, as these breaches often involve customer data being held for ransom.
"I believe we'll see the C-suite wrestle with the balance between protecting ideas and customer data, and fostering innovation," said Jennifer Carole, vice president of marketing at Bromium, Inc. "This will probably become an extremely intense topic this year as breaches will continue and the business consequences of the breach become a board-level issue."
Issac Kohen, CEO of employee monitoring software Teramind, said he recently has seen more CXOs joining meetings and discussing how organizations can deal with insider threats. "With the most recent data leaks from Yahoo, the Department of Homeland Security, Verizon, and LinkedIn, everyone seems worried," Kohen said.
AJ Shankar, founder and CEO of Everlaw, predicts that in 2017, "cybersecurity will not just be the purview of a single executive. With phishing and social engineering attacks—attacks that can circumvent many traditional security measures—gaining prominence, it'll require an organization-wide commitment, from the top down, to address."
2. Analytics will go mainstream
Business intelligence will be of the utmost importance in companies, said Doug Gray, senior vice president of engineering at Indeed.com. "It's about analytics informing human decision making, and it's becoming much more highly valued by the C-Suite," Gray said.
Further, IT leaders will rely on emerging technologies like machine learning, automation, and predictive analytics to do higher-level work behind the scenes, said Rick Fitz, senior vice president of IT markets at Splunk. "The everyday applications of data science will be democratized—a PhD will no longer be a requirement for IT professionals working with analytics, as automation technologies will empower the masses," Fitz said.
3. AI and machine learning will evolve in the enterprise
In 2017, companies will increasingly integrate AI and machine learning into their products and development cycles, said Bill Loconzolo, vice president of data engineering and analytics at Intuit. "Recent artificial intelligence technology has accelerated the level of personalization available in product offerings, which has made a material impact on enterprises and consumers," Loconzolo said.
Machine learning will also be used as a source of insights that was not humanly possible before, said Rajagopal Chandramohan, chief architect of enterprise business solutions at Intuit. "In 2017, IT teams will look beyond solving for big data and in turn focus more of their attention on putting big data to use as the next step," he said. "Combined with customer feedback, IT teams will utilize insights gathered from machine learning to predict and personalize customer experiences."
4. Businesses will deploy big new solutions rapidly
The fast pace of innovation in the tech market will force businesses to quickly create game-changing solutions rather than incremental improvements, said Alex Goryachev, senior director of innovation programs and strategies at Cisco.
"New business models can pop up like Pokemon GO from anywhere without warning, trailblaze new markets and dismantle household brands in the process," Goryachev said. "The digital economy is forcing big companies to rapidly reinvent themselves, and tap into new reservoirs of their own talent to unleash that next billion-dollar idea. Slow, incremental improvements to core solutions or services are a sure-fire path to the dinosaur wasteland."
Rick Amari, chairman and founder of Columbus Consulting International, calls this the Amazon effect. "In 2017, retailers will need to make themselves nimble, and move fast to decide which technologies they need and what people will help their organization evolve," Amari said. "As a result of the Amazon effect consumers won't wait, so retailers need to figure out how to keep up and do it now."
5. CEOs will become generalists
As we move deeper and deeper into the Digital Age and technology becomes more prevalent in all industries, CEOs will become generalists who are focused on building the right teams to succeed, rather than being an expert in every topic, said Art Landro, CEO of Sencha.
"Every company in every industry, from agriculture, mining and manufacturing to logistics, financial services and healthcare, will become a technology company," Landro said. "Additionally, every technology company will need a CTO who has a deep understanding of the company's technological infrastructure, software development and support needs."
6. More women will enter the C-Suite
Redfin CTO Bridget Frey said she expects to see an increasing number of women in leadership roles in the tech industry. As more tech companies increase the transparency around the diversity of their employee base, Frey said she believes this newfound awareness will bring about change. And the war to attract women to join tech company boards will only intensify, Frey said.
7. Enterprises will adopt AR and VR
While 2016 saw the release of the consumer versions of major VR platforms—including the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR—there were no major AR platforms, said Joe Floyd, partner at Emergence Capital. Enterprise adoption is still in the early adopter phase where people are experimenting, Floyd added. "We predict 2017 will see continued enterprise experimentation in industry verticals with high value workers," he said. "We also predict that more adoption will take place in use cases where value exists on phone-based VR/AR so they can take advantage of mass distribution prior to dedicated headsets becoming mainstream."
VR will enter the mainstream in 2017, said Jake Bennett, CTO of digital agency POP. "This is an extremely important milestone for brands because when critical mass is reached for VR-enabled consumers, it opens up completely new, immersive marketing opportunities," Bennett said. "Companies will now be able to use VR to create deep emotional connections with their customers, allowing them to strengthen their brand in ways not possible before."
8. IoT will further dominate the enterprise
Brian Jacobs, founder and general partner of Emergence Capital, predicts that IoT-specific platforms will play a more active role in the enterprise context. "Companies will use the most ubiquitous people sensor, the mobile device, to tailor physical environments to individual preferences," Jacobs said. "Buildings, which have always been static, will become dynamic to people as they move through them."
Businesses in 2017 will look to leverage massive amounts of data generated by sensors, RFID tags, cameras, and other smart devices to drive higher revenue and profit, said Ariel Roop, senior manager of technology at GOLIN. While harnessing this data offers many benefits, it also requires businesses to find appropriate storage and management solutions for it, and requires close communication between line-of-business owners and IT staff, Roop said.
9. IaaS and PaaS solutions will grow substantially
Enterprises will continue to push to utilizing cloud computing infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions, said Ray McKenzie, founder and principal of Red Beach Advisors management consulting group.
"These cloud computing companies, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, allow organizations to use current technology at a fraction of the typical capital expenditure costs while being able to deploy solutions quickly," McKenzie said. "The trend will allow C-suite executives to focus on cutting-edge technology, lowering business costs and expenses, and move towards focusing on sales and marketing to meet their revenue goals."
10. The IT career path will become more defined
In 2017, the career path in IT—from operators to CIO and beyond—will become more formally defined and established, predicts Bask Iyer, senior vice president and CIO of VMware.
"IT practitioners who aspire to become future CIOs will have a clearer career growth path, including mentorship, certifications and accomplishments," Iyer said. "Furthermore, we will start to see more CIOs viewed as competitive candidates for CEO roles, especially in technology companies or those companies ready to be digitally transformed."
While today, about 75% of CIOs report to the CFO, that is likely to change, according to John Matthews, CIO of ExtraHop. "In 2017, expect the reporting structures and roles to shift as technology continues to expand its influence in the enterprise," Matthews said. "First, the lines that delineate that CIO and CTO role are increasingly blurry. With CTOs traditionally housed within product management and delivery, I expect to see the CIO role shift under this function in the years to come."
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Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.