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Organizations today are under increasing pressure to move faster to stay relevant. It requires CIOs to embrace a new way of thinking about IT, one that distributes the IT function throughout the business rather than concentrates it in a single team.

Below are five technology trends that I predict will have a major impact on businesses in 2018.

1. Safe self-service IT will hit a stride

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2018 will be the year that self-serve IT goes mainstream, as organizations look to become more agile by decentralizing IT and empowering internal teams to drive more of their own innovation. One approach that will gain increasing popularity centers around IT creating an API marketplace, where the wider business can easily discover and reuse IT assets and capabilities.

In the same way that Apple taught consumers “There’s an app for that,” IT teams will start to teach employees and partners that “There’s an API for that.” When the need arises for a new digital function, such as the ability to connect to a backend system to leverage its capability, non-IT teams will learn to browse the API marketplace to see if that data and capability already exists rather than starting from scratch. For instance, analysts could find Tableau data sources for sales insights or developers could find customer data for use in mobile apps. As the marketplace grows with new IT and possibly non-IT projects adding APIs, an application network will organically form, where digital building blocks can be plugged in and out as market conditions change.

2. AI will be in high demand, but enterprises must prepare for it

AI will play an increasingly important role in every enterprise. It will make business processes more efficient by automating manual, repetitive tasks and therefore freeing up organizations to focus on more value-add activities. Also, AI’s ability to analyze data from a wide variety of sources will help provide new insights and support the overall business decision-making processes, helping to change the speed of business.

In 2018, enterprises will need to get ready for AI. The catch is that they can’t just plug AI in like an engine. AI is like a disconnected brain that does nothing unless there is a nervous system to help it take action. What this nervous system looks like is an application network, where disparate systems and databases in the enterprise can plug in and out via APIs. Given the value of insights provided by AI is only as good as the data on which those insights are based, enterprises need to lay the foundation for connectivity between systems and data stores to fully realize the power of AI. Rather than having multiple point-to-point links between systems, the application network seamlessly connects applications, data, and devices via APIs to make them pluggable.

3. CIOs will revisit IT foundations

CIOs looking to modernize their organizations won’t find success if they don’t have the right infrastructure in place to build software to scale for the next 10 years. In 2018, organizations will reinvest in their IT foundations to support an ever-changing world and will migrate to evolutionary architectures that are more agile, secure and reliable.

To get buy-in, CIOs need to help CEOs understand how the world has changed— from the impact of mobile, social and cloud to the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. As a result, IT shouldn’t be treated as a cost center but rather a strategic asset. CIOs also need to give CEOs metrics to measure against in order to know if IT is well aligned with the business’ initiatives and overall vision.

4. The IT and business partnership will strengthen

2018 will see CIOs forge stronger relationships with CEOs and CFOs. As companies increasingly tap into cloud, mobile, IoT and AI technologies, business and technology strategies are now becoming so aligned that they are one and the same. In fact, three Fortune 500 companies—Goldman Sachs, Norfolk Southern and most recently GE—have appointed former CIOs as CFOs within the past year, signaling to the market that IT is a strategic asset worth investing in. If done right, IT has the power to change the way organizations win. To achieve this, the broader business needs to view IT as an enabler and IT needs to understand the business problems it’s solving.

Today, every organization should have a CIO at the executive table. With a strong technology advocate and facilitator at the board level, companies will be better equipped to understand the impact of technology on their organization and to understand the benefits of digital transformation, critical for surviving in today’s fast-paced and competitive landscape.

5. Hyperspecialization will continue to complicate the SaaS landscape

We’ve entered an age of hyperspecialization, where what used to be done by one monolithic system now often requires a dozen best-in-breed SaaS applications. Hyperspecialization has led to a groundswell in SaaS applications, with more than 5,000 in the marketing technology landscape alone. The challenge in 2018 will be two-fold: How do we prepare our businesses to incorporate the ever-evolving SaaS landscape, and how do we ensure our SaaS applications are not fragmented but work in concert?

For organizations to experiment with SaaS apps and have the ability to easily swap them in and out as market conditions change, an application network is needed. This is a platform where applications, data and devices can be plugged in and out using APIs. As a result, organizations can ensure they isolate themselves from particular apps and focus instead on the valuable data and capabilities they provide. This approach significantly reduces time and cost when bringing in new technology and removing old.

What do you think? Are these five trends impacting your organization? And what other trends should we watch out for?

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