A new season for IT leaders: 4 lessons from the Gartner Symposium

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It’s that time again in the Northeast U.S. Temperatures are steadily falling, pumpkin spice is everywhere, and leaves are transitioning from green to all shades of autumnal goodness.

But at last week’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2015, while the palm trees in Orlando, Florida, were still the greenest of green and the air was lacking any chill, a different kind of shift was in the breeze for tens of thousands of CIOs.

Now, I’m not a CIO – but while spending last week at the symposium, I was privy to a rare peek into some of the things these women and men are facing at a time when technology is changing faster than the Cleveland, Ohio, weather will turn from pleasantly fall to “why-do-I-live-here-again?” winter. From sitting in on the analyst-led sessions to chatting with IT leaders during shuttle rides and networking events, I can say one thing for sure: CIOs have a tough job. And based on what I heard throughout the week, the challenges – and changes – aren’t going away any time soon.

Here are four lessons that stood out:

1. When it comes to applications, less is more

With a shift toward more autonomous (and IT-savvy) business units pursuing their own solutions for specific needs, more and more organizations are suffering from IT sprawl. For CIOs and other IT leaders, multiple, disparate applications mean more vendors to work with and pay, more products to upgrade, and more systems to maintain, secure and protect.

It’s no wonder that organizations are looking to rationalize applications and seek platforms to help eliminate this sprawl and the resulting information silos. By consolidating one-off solutions and leveraging a common platform for business applications across the enterprise, IT leaders can reduce costs, streamline operations and, ultimately, provide better service to customers.

2. IT leaders are starting to see double: Bimodal IT

A concept introduced by Gartner about a year ago, bimodal IT was heavy on the agenda at this year’s symposium. This model splits IT goals and projects into two different modes. Mode 1 features the more predictable, traditional IT objectives (enterprise solutions, conventional tools and systems that increase reliability), while mode 2 involves work that is exploratory and innovative, requiring flexible tools and agile systems that can rapidly respond to business units and customer needs alike.

While teams and resources may differ by mode, Gartner asserts that work should flow between modes, allowing organizations to maintain consistency in operations and efficiency via core systems while enabling innovation and embracing disruptive technologies like mobile, cloud, and big data and analytics to improve customer experiences and further growth. And according to VP and Gartner Fellow Dave Aron in a session covering the 2016 CIO agenda, about 38 percent of CIOs are already embracing the bimodal IT wave – a number that will only rise in the years to come.

3. The face of BPM is changing – and it’s looking more human-like

While traditional business process management (BPM) and supporting technologies continue to deliver value – especially in back office spaces like AP and AR – IT leaders are looking toward a newer approach to process to continue to evolve their organizations and serve customers, students and constituents.

Several symposium sessions – including a thought-provoking discussion led by Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst Janelle Hill – focused on the transformation from automating for process efficiency to empowering knowledge workers to provide the best, personalized customer experience. To enable this, organizations are seeking functionality beyond standardized workflow. They’re looking into solutions like case management capabilities that equip knowledge workers with the information they need, in context, to make decisions and serve their customers effectively.

4. Change is challenging – take it step-by-step if you need to

While many sessions looked toward the future and discussed exciting, disruptive concepts like the internet of things (IoT), cloud strategies and smart machines, I was surprised to hear from more than a few IT decision-makers that they were still seeking solutions to better manage information and content.

One IT director at a large governmental agency said, “Network shares and spreadsheets aren’t cutting it. I know we need something better, but…”

Of the potential barriers to embracing “something better” (cost, resources, too many choices), what came up most frequently was change management. Without acceptance from business units, new systems, practices and processes are doomed to fail. Change is difficult – especially in organizations (like the governmental agency mentioned above) where the same practices have been leveraged for years and years, with near panic ensuing at the mention of a shift. So, these IT leaders are starting small, taking a step-by-step approach to improvement rather than rip-and-replace and large sweeping innovations.

But even small changes can bring tremendous results.

Overall, it was a whirlwind four days at the symposium. And with challenges like these on a CIO’s daily agenda, I give these women and men full props as they take on the not-so-easy task of adapting to seasonal shifts in the IT landscape.

If you’re a decision-maker in the IT space, are these topics relevant for your organization? How are you planning to respond to changing demand and embrace disruptive technologies in 2016 and beyond? We’d love to hear from you!

Amanda Ulery

Amanda Ulery

In her more than five (wonderful) years at Hyland, creator of OnBase, Amanda Ulery has taken on the mission of sharing the business value of OnBase with anyone who will listen. A proud member of the product marketing team, she has a background in integrated marketing, the stubborn focus (and eye for detail) of an ex-journalist and the goal of helping the world realize how OnBase can truly transform the way we work.

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