The new technologies IT departments need to embrace

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In the past IT departments have always been about crunching numbers and processing data. But emerging technologies are beginning to take IT into unfamiliar areas that in turn have an impact on the wider operation of the business.

Research specialist Gartner has identified six areas that it sees as potentially being adopted by business and which CIOs need to consider.

Speaking at Gartner's CIO Forum in China this week vice president and Gartner Fellow Hung LeHong says, "The IT organization is used to owning and supporting 'back office' and infrastructure technologies. Digital business technologies support the 'front office' and operations and may be emerging technologies that are not commonly part of the IT agenda".

The six areas Gartner says CIOs need to consider are; the internet of things, 3D printing, human augmentation and wearables, robotics and autonomous machines, cognitive machines, and cybersecurity.

"Regardless of the eventual stance, we believe CIOs should have an opinion, and should participate in innovating and in testing the business cases for these technologies in the early stages," says LeHong.

The internet of things is likely to create tensions between different business areas according to Gartner, but as there are few legacy deployments IT departments and CIOs have the chance to influence outcomes and contribute to technology selections at the outset. 3D printing has a potential to transform business that Gartner says shouldn’t be underestimated. It can for example disrupt the supply chain by eliminating the need to import components.

Wearable technology can improve employee effectiveness, safety and health. However, bring-your-own-wearable issues will need clear policies. CIOs therefore need to consider human, legal, social and ethical issues, particularly for future technologies that may involve things like implants or brain interfaces.

Robotics have been used in manufacturing industry for a long time. However, new lower cost machines with better sensors are taking robots into new areas. This may lead to reduced downtime, labor savings and more. This goes a stage further with cognitive machines that may be capable of taking over simple decision making tasks that once needed human input. They may have a role in initial problem diagnosis for example which means their use has an impact on the front line operation of the business.

Finally Gartner identifies cybersecurity. Although not a technology in itself this will have a greater impact as innovation moves into more areas of operation. Security responsibility for these areas will need to be addressed in the same way as IT security. Gartner sees a deeper integration developing between IT and physical security, infrastructure and services.

"The extent to which CIOs will 'own', operate and support digital business technologies is undefined, so the time is right to evaluate and pioneer new approaches," says LeHong.

More analysis can be found in the report How CIOs Need to Think About Digital Business Technologies on Gartner's website.

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