CIO Priorities For 2019: IT Thought Leaders Share Their Predictions

Jean Loh

Technology prognostications are always popular as we barrel into a new year. Our experts share their thoughts not only on technology trends, but more important, their priorities and how adoption will change roles, organizational structures, and business models as we move deeper into 2019.

Management trends and changing roles

Chief data officers will take center stage in managing the ethical implications of data: Ronald Van Loon, Digital Transformation & AI Analyst/Expert, Advisory Board Member, Simplilearn

Until very recently, chief data officers were considered the new kids on the block, and many other C-level executives didn’t rank them at the same level as themselves. However, these rising stars of the digital business have now taken the center stage in deciding ethical standards. One of their most important roles is to make fine judgment calls that don’t trespass the line between trust and innovation. In 2019, chief data officers will increasingly take the reins and adopt new and better approaches to effectively manage the ethical implications of data.

IT will become a true partner in defining the future beyond the digital frontier: Scott Buchholz, Emerging Technologies Research Director and Government and Public Services CTO, Deloitte Consulting LLP

As the pace of innovation accelerates, leading organizations are approaching disruptive technologies holistically. They are shifting to cloud and serverless architecture as the foundation for implementing artificial intelligence (AI) in increasingly expansive ways – moving from edge experiments into enterprise operations – and combining it with digital reality to break down geographic and operational barriers. But technologies alone are not enough. Those same organizations are applying techniques like agile, DevSecOps, and human-centered design to accelerate the delivery of end-to-end solutions. In these organizations, IT is a true partner helping define their organization’s digital transformation road map toward a future beyond the digital frontier.

Chief digital officers will embrace customer-centricity: Bertram Schulte, Chief Digital Officer, SAP

Companies of all sizes are embracing the need for digital transformation and creating chief digital officer (CDO) positions. The role of customer experience is incredibly important for the CDO. The sales organization oversees the customer, finance runs the books, the product organization owns the product, and marketing might run the overall experience. But in 2019, it is even more important for the CDO to step into the role of orchestrator, bringing these units together into one digital motion to make sense for the customer and the business. @bertramschulte

Leaders will address important humanistic questions about emerging technologies: Irfan Khan, Global Head of Sales , Database and Data Management, SAP

As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Today’s dynamic technological environment drives the need for a greater appreciation and reverence for what we develop, as well as what we are capable of creating. Artificial intelligence is destined to be a core driver of productive and economic growth through human-machine collaboration. In 2019, dialogue will continue among corporate leaders and governmental entities about how to explore the economic and societal benefits of AI, ensure a human-centric approach, and promote broad acceptance of the new technology among citizens. @i_kHANA

Evolution toward the intelligent enterprise

A digital ERP platform is a key enabler of the intelligent enterprise, changing how information is consumed: Mark Dudgeon, Global SAP CTO, IBM

A growing number of companies recognize the need to undertake an ERP platform transformation to pursue the benefits of advanced technological capabilities like blockchain, IoT, and robotic process automation. These organizations are now less concerned with why they should be making this move and increasingly concerned with how. Hybrid IT based around a digital ERP platform brings together diverse capabilities into a single core that can drive a digital transformation initiative forward. However, the organization must be able to create a back-end architecture capable of properly integrating those hybrid elements while ensuring security and effective data management. @MarkPDudgeon

Managing information and maximizing its value will be a competitive differentiator: Patricia E. Nagle, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, OpenText

Few things have the power to transform our world as rapidly and radically as digital technology. Today, organizations are digitizing business processes, often including entire core capabilities. In 2019, managing the resulting information and being able to maximize its value will be the key differentiator for the intelligent and connected enterprise. Technology adoption is like evolution: it never stops. At the enterprise level, organizations are evolving with big steps into the cloud, experimenting with AI and machine learning use cases and investing in infrastructure to enable information management at an unprecedented scale. @pattynagleOT

A unified system will give customers control over their own information: Bil Khan, Director, Global Ecosystem and Partner Marketing, SAP

In the digital race to win new customers, businesses have ignored customers’ individual privacy rights. Today, companies are investing in new platforms that manage customer information in a unified system across the enterprise. Post-GDPR, the new wave of innovations is taking a much broader view of personal information that incorporates not only policy and governance elements, but also gives control back to the customer as the rightful owner of their own information. In essence, companies will come up with ways to enable customers to manage their own information within their enterprise systems. @Bil_Khan

Technology trends


Predictive analytics and machine learning will transform business processes: Timo Elliott, Innovation Evangelist, SAP

The biggest barrier to analytics in 2019 will be an old problem with a new twist: people. Information on its own is useless. You have to do something with it: make a decision or change a business process – and that takes people. They aren’t just passive “users” of analytics; they are the most sophisticated and intelligent “technology” in your information infrastructure. Organizations should invest at least as much time and effort in people as they do in technology. Make sure they have the knowledge, skills, and incentives to take information and turn it into real business change. @timoelliott

Data analytics will be business-enabled and democratized: John Schitka, Senior Director, Solution Marketing, Analytics and Cognition, SAP

Companies are having trouble keeping up with the internal demand for predictive analytics and machine learning (PAML). Today, PAML technology is advanced enough for standardization and automation. Common business problems can now be modeled at high enough levels of abstraction so that they can be used as starting points for a wide variety of common challenges. In 2019, I expect to see far more companies automating tasks for data scientists and putting the power of PAML in the hands of everyday businesspeople. @johnschitka

Artificial intelligence

AI adoption will require sharp focus on objectives, data, infrastructure: Ajay Dholakia, Principal Engineer, Master Inventor, and Chief Architect for Big Data, Analytics, AI, and Healthcare, Lenovo Data Center Group

Adoption of AI will need to follow the lessons from past waves, such as cloud computing and Big Data. Key lessons have been to avoid a science experiment-style, one-off project. Without driving significant process and culture changes within the enterprise, even the best new technologies end up as mere curiosities. Pick a business function as a target for AI adoption and select the application software that enables it. Bring in and prepare data. Explore models. Select best-trained models to incorporate in the target application. Successful teams will understand that the technology building blocks begin with raw data: collection, ingestion, transformation, and storage. Handling the volume, variety, and velocity of data with a suitable infrastructure will be crucial. @ajaydholakia

The second wave of AI will be a powerful resource of learned insight: Paul Kurchina, Community Builder and Evangelist, ASUG

A steady stream of headlines is giving industrial executives plenty of reasons for losing sleep. Economic uncertainty, dwindling natural resources, stricter regulations – these woes and more must be addressed by experienced human workers assisted by the best AI tools. In recent years, deep learning is proving capable of automatically learning the most important features that best describe the data and achieving better accuracy and robustness than traditional methods. Industrial businesses are racing each other to inject increasing levels of automation and intelligence into their business processes. @PaulKurchina

AI can yield benefits today but is held back by a lack of talent, trust, and ambition: Nigel Duffy, Global AI Leader, EY

The potential of AI is still, if anything, under-hyped – especially in the near term. This may be because it is being held back by three factors. One is talent. While the pool of technical talent is growing, the real deficit is in business-driven individuals with a burning problem to solve and sufficient understanding of AI to appreciate what’s possible. This is a direct cause of the other two factors: lack of trust and lack of ambition. Business leaders need to take some bold risks with AI and stake out some significant ambitions. To succeed, they will need to identify and invest in people who know what they don’t know, admit it, get the right help, and move forward with no guarantees.

Transforming customer service through chatbots: Omer Biran, Managing Director, SAP Conversational AI, SAP

An Economist Intelligence Unit executive survey found that 75% of companies plan to implement AI within three years. Consumers today are broadly using conversational interfaces in their personal lives, and are now expecting businesses to provide the same service. Brands are therefore recording a drastic increase in customer demand and need to scale up their support services. In 2019, chatbots will be confirmed as the most powerful solution to improve customer-support productivity and satisfaction! @omerbiran

Big Data

Big Data analytics will move from descriptive to predictive: Bill Schmarzo, CTO, IoT and Analytics, Hitachi Vantara

Becoming more effective at leveraging data and analytics is forcing organizations to move beyond the world of business intelligence (BI) to embrace predictive and prescriptive analytics. An “analytics chasm” is hindering the transition from descriptive questions to prescriptive actions, preventing organizations from fully exploiting the potential of data and analytics to power the organization’s business and operational models. The key to crossing the analytics chasm is understanding and mastering the economic value of Big Data: being able to exploit the potential of Big Data and data science to create new sources of value. @schmarzo

Management teams will focus on smarter data management: Peter Aynsley-Hartwell, CTO, Utopia Global

The explosion of data is nothing new, but we’re seeing the conversation shift to a need for smarter data management. How can organizations use data for actionable intelligence to remove uncertainty and thrive in this digital era? Business leaders are finding competitive advantages in being able to make dynamic, real-time decisions to optimize their operations and processes and improve output. From utility companies uncovering hidden margins with smart grids, to manufacturing organizations spotting sales trends and variances that affect their supply chains, we’re going to see both front-line management and executive leadership focus on accurate data to remain nimble and proactive. 

Data governance will enable organizations to use data for competitive advantage: Tony Chacko, VP Data & Analytics, GE

Some senior leaders still hesitate to acknowledge data as a priority. Chief data officers can gain buy-in by exposing the number of hidden data “factories” and the outsized effort required to cleanse the data to produce the requested information. Cost, effort, and productivity are powerful levers to drive change. The next step will be to make data a source of true competitive advantage. Increased computational power and new technologies will help with managing large amounts of data, and better visualization capabilities will allow users to access and report on their data more efficiently.

Data management will continue to be a top priority for IT leaders in 2019: Alison Biggan, Chief Product & Field Marketing Officer, SAP

Companies have embraced the mentality that “data is the new oil.” But the quality of that oil (data) is critical. Running on questionable data from internal or external sources, or not taking advantage of all the data available, can cause businesses to run less efficiently or break down over time. CIOs have to ensure that the data that powers intelligent solutions, like artificial intelligence, comes from healthy sources. Intelligent enterprises operate on the foundation of the most up-to-date view of their business to inform decision-making and drive business outcomes. In 2019, IT leaders will invest heavily in their data pipeline, management, and governance regardless of what system or application their data sits in and if it’s the cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid model. @alison_biggan


Hard work begins in earnest: Paul Brody, Global Innovation Leader, EY

For blockchain, 2019 will be a year of unglamorous hard work to lay the foundation for the next big growth cycle. It’s when value-added activities get center stage instead of speculative fundraising and when companies start showing real (if early) ROI. In 2019, we will see the earliest adopters become users of secure, confidential transactions on public blockchains and start laying the foundation for the competitive advantage in the future. But we’re still a few years away from mainstream adoption and “universal business infrastructure.” @pbrody

Blockchain visions will ground in reality: Raimund Gross, Chief Blockchain Strategist, SAP

After increased hype and attention, blockchain cases are becoming reality. While not a silver bullet or a miracle cure, the realized blockchain scenarios will show added value through trust, efficiency, and new ways of sharing information. Sketchy blockchain cases will be discontinued, causing copycats to abandon the topic. Businesses adopting blockchain will increasingly realize the value of an integrated environment connecting existing landscapes and infrastructures with new technology. Openness and collaboration on all levels of the platform stack will increasingly prove to be the leading component for success. @GrossRai


Total cloud deployment will become more prevalent: Filip Decostere, Partner, and Steven Fleurent, CIO, Delaware International

Preparing for the future means heading to the cloud. Mapping our 2020 strategic plan served as a tremendous wake-up call to the power of the cloud. Total cloud adoption can optimize IT costs and allow everyone connected to the business to work with a standardized platform and one source of the truth. And as for the naysayers who believe that the cloud will put the IT organization out of business, a more practical view is that transitioning entirely can create an even more efficient and effective IT organization that is ready for the future. @DecostereFilip & @fleurent

Cloud-based databases will play a role in digital transformation: Ken Tsai, Global VP, Head of Cloud Platform & Data Management, SAP

A database system can run more efficiently if you redesign it for an elastic and fully managed cloud operation – Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) – versus on-premises. When digital transformation becomes the goal of the C-suite, adoption of DBaaS naturally follows, as more workloads will be tried out in the cloud first. Digital transformation in its simplest terms is about the digitalization of assets, relationships, and engagements in the context of bringing together customers, partners, and employees, and many times the digitized data is in the cloud already. To this end, cloud-native databases will become a more critical component facilitating digital transformation and enabling new applications we haven’t seen before. @kentsaiRUN

To see what else is ahead for 2019, look back at the Top Five CIO Blogs Of December 2018.

Jean Loh

About Jean Loh

Jean Loh is the director, Global Audience Marketing at SAP. She is an experienced marketing and communication professional, currently responsible for developing thought leadership content that is unbiased and audience-led while addressing market challenges to illuminate and solve the unmet needs of CFOs, CIOs, and the wider global finance and IT audience.