The role of the chief information officer will change significantly in the next few years, driven by the growing adoption of artificial intelligence and by demands from cybersecurity. IT leaders are rapidly scaling their digital businesses, making the remainder of this year and 2018 a defining moment for CIOs that don’t want to be left behind, according to research firm Gartner Inc.

Those were among the messages to emerge from the Gartner ITxpo conference in Orlando this week, which looked at the top technology and data trends that are shaping IT as we approach 2018. The firm said that the CIO role is transitioning from that of delivery executive to one of business executive, and from controlling cost and engineering processes, to driving revenue and exploiting data.

CIOs that will survive and thrive going forward must recognize and embrace these trends, according to Gartner. Digital transformation is expected to create new forms of revenue, business value, and engagement of customers and citizens, Gartner predicts. In light of all these changes, increasingly, the CIO is also reporting directly to the CEO.

“The CIO’s role must grow and develop as digital business spreads, and disruptive technologies, including intelligence machines and advanced analytics, reach the masses,” said Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

Rowsell-Jones reported on the results of the “2018 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey,” which asked 3,160 CIOs to identify the technology practices and trend most impacting their job roles now, and how they expect those trends to change.

According to CIOs surveyed by the research firm, a majority of IT leaders expect their role to become that of change agent for their organization, much more focused on business processes and strategy.

Artificial intelligence, followed by digital security and the Internet of Things, were ranked as the top three most problematic technologies that CIOs must manage. The number one reason for these technologies being cited was the difficulty in hiring for those skills, especially artificial intelligence.

Organizational culture can be another problem for organizations that are trying to succeed with digital transformation, and this puts more strain on the CIO, Rowsell-Jones said.

“CIOs are on the road from digital experimentation to digital scaling,” Rowsell-Jones said. “However, a wall exists between those early digital experiments with pilots, and those that have achieved digital scale. Perhaps the biggest brick in that wall is organizational culture. CIOs need to identify the cultural behaviors that currently exist and what the future state vision is. In doing so, they must recognize existing cultural strengths and position culture change as the ‘next chapter,’ rather than a massive overhaul, to respect employees’ contributions and invite them to come along for the journey.”

The survey also found that CIOs are spending more time on the business executive element of their jobs compared to three years ago. CIOs from top-performing organizations are likely to spend up to four days more on executive leadership. The more mature an organization’s digital business is, the more likely the CIO reports directly to the CEO.

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