Improving efficiency is a perennial goal for IT leaders. But this objective is particularly important to many for 2020. With concerns about economic uncertainly, potential recession, and tariffs weighing on their minds, many enterprise CIOs are trying hard to keep discretionary spending to a minimum.
But at the same time, the push toward digital transformation has IT executives concerned about keeping up with the competition. They know they need to invest in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, edge computing, and others if they want to remain relevant in their industries. Cutting back too much could be just as risky as overspending.
“Most companies are caught trying to either cut costs or invest for growth, but the top-performing enterprises are doing both," explained John-David Lovelock, research vice president at Gartner, in a release. "A core challenge facing the industry is how organizations can operate as both a traditional company and a technology company at the same time. These ‘and’ dilemmas will drive future IT spending trends.”
So, what can enterprise IT leaders do if they want to boost their efficiency and prepare for future growth in the coming year?
At the beginning of every winter, the analysts at Gartner, IDC, Forrester, and other firms come out with their predictions for the next twelve months. For 2020, many of those predictions highlight ways that top firms are looking to improve efficiency. And fortunately for IT leaders, many of the best ways to improve IT efficiency also involve investing in the latest technology, which can help them maintain their competitive edge.
The following slides focus on nine different ways that leading CIOs are planning to improve efficiency in 2020.
1. Cloud Spend Optimization
Just about every business is in the cloud these days. In fact, according to the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud report, 94% of organizations are using cloud computing.
But while the cloud simplifies some aspects of IT management, it also brings new challenges. The biggest of those challenges for survey respondents was cloud cost management. Given that reality, it's not surprising that they selected cloud cost optimization as their No. 1 cloud priority.
For some organizations that will mean stepping up internal efforts to manage cloud spending or creating a center of excellence to focus on cloud costs, while others will implement technological solutions that can enforce cloud management policies.
Another way organizations will be looking to improve efficiency in 2019 is by increasing their use of automation. In its Predictions 2020, Forrester forecasts, "CIOs will automate 10% of their IT tasks." And the analysts at IDC advise, "Invest in automation and orchestration systems that can deal with container, microservices, and functions-based applications. Understand and embrace automation and orchestration systems that use machine learning sooner rather than later." Gartner also agrees, listing "hyperautomation" as No. 1 on its list of Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2010.
That automation can take many different forms. A growing number of enterprises will be tapping into the orchestration capabilities of Kubernetes. Others will turn to tools like Chef, Puppet, Terraform, Ansible, Salt, and Jenkins to speed up provisioning and deployment tasks.
Many of the companies deploying automation strategies are doing so as part of a larger DevOps initiative. Embracing the DevOps approach can lead to a number of benefits, including improving employee productivity, increasing application quality, boosting operational efficiency, and lowering costs.
But a transition to DevOps will require some major changes, including transforming an organization's culture. Many companies find that they need extensive training to fully implement the DevOps approach. Still, many also find that the transition is worth it, despite the cost and effort involved.
4. Low-Code Tools
In its list of top trends for 2020, Gartner lists democratization as third most significant. According to the firm, "Democratization of technology means providing people with easy access to technical or business expertise without extensive (and costly) training."
One of the easiest ways to do that is to provide business staff with access to low-code or no-code development tools. This allows them to become "citizen developers," which makes them more productive and takes some of the burden off highly paid professional developers. That frees up costly programmers for other, more important tasks.
5. Predictive Analytics
Many organizations are familiar with applying predictive analytics to their business data, but this technology can also be very helpful when used to analyze IT data. For example, analytics can play an important role in cloud management, helping organizations forecast their future public cloud needs and lock in favorable pricing. It can aid in budgeting and project management, allowing managers to allocate their human and technical resources as efficiently as possible.
Several different vendors offer log data analysis, IT management, and related software that incorporates these predictive analytics capabilities. Some of them are also beginning to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
6. Artificial Intelligence
AI and machine learning are slowly becoming ubiquitous in enterprise software, and IT management solutions are no exception. In its Worldwide CIO Agenda 2020 Predictions, IDC says, "Through 2022, deployment of artificial intelligence to augment, streamline, and accelerate IT operations will be a principal IT transformation (ITX) initiative for 60% of enterprise IT organizations." The company advises business leaders to begin investigating these technologies now or risk being left behind and losing their competitive edge.
Gartner sees this shift as part of a larger trend toward "human augmentation." When humans and machines can work together to accomplish a goal, the result is often greater efficiency.
Yet AI also has a downside, as organizations that increase their reliance on AI also face an increasing need to ensure that they eliminate any AI bias and use the technology in ethical ways.
7. Edge Computing
The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics is spurring an increased interest in edge computing. In a nutshell, edge computing involves doing some information processing and analysis on the devices that generate the data, devices that are located on the edge of the network. Because of edge computing, organizations need to transmit less data to the cloud, which saves on transmission costs and network bandwidth, as well as reducing latency for some applications. According to Gartner, "By 2023, there could be more than 20 times as many smart devices at the edge of the network as in conventional IT roles."
8. Improved Self-Service
Going hand-in-hand with the trends toward more democratization and automation is the trend toward greater self-service. With cloud computing, workers in lots of different departments have gained the ability to stand up their own IT resources. Many organizations are now expanding the opportunities for non-IT employees to meet their own technology needs. In fact, IDC predicts "by 2024 the IT strategy for 80% of digitally advanced organizations will evolve to a broad, flexible, self-service mashup of digital tools to replace the 'walled-garden' IT-as-an-Enabler model." This approach offers the dual benefits of reducing the burden on IT while also improving job satisfaction among their fellow employees.
9. Employee Training
IT salaries continue to remain exceptionally high, and employers often find it difficult to hire workers who already have skills with the latest technology and approaches. As a result, many organizations are investing in training their current workforce as a more economical way to obtain the capabilities they need. Forrester says that in the coming year, "CIOS will . . . look to upskill everyone."
Training your current staff can act as a force multiplier. Personnel learn how to become more efficient and how to implement new technology and approaches that can further increase efficiency. And because employees often value the potential career benefits of training, it can also boost morale within the IT department.Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than fifteen years. View Full Bio