With so much on their plates every day, IT leaders may not have the opportunity to take a step back and examine the broader trends that are impacting — even transforming — their organisations, either now or in the future.

We’ve surveyed enterprise IT executives worldwide about their prioritisation, preparedness and skill levels for 10 key IT initiatives, as well as their forward-looking views on the topics.
 

Customer experience is a priority

 

Many IT leaders will recall being part of a solidly back-office function, with clear and persistent partitions between customer-facing matters and technical capabilities that made the business run. Those days are decidedly over. Today, IT leaders rank the customer experience as their top priority, and 77% are increasing customer experience investments.

When it comes to which initiatives are most important, IT leaders are particularly focused on system and data integration. Integration’s prioritisation reflects a conundrum: customers expect connected experiences in which their information is known and quickly accessed across touchpoints, but the average enterprise uses 900 disparate applications, only 29% of which are integrated. Just as important is security and identity technology, which ties for IT’s most important customer experience initiative. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that 95% of IT leaders have increased security investments due to public concerns over data privacy.
 



A related topic — the employee experience — is also getting significant attention from IT; 54% of IT leaders are prioritising it, given that just 21% believe their current technology maximises employee engagement.
 

IT is battling to meet customers’ mobile-first demands 

 

The mobile-first mindset is firmly entrenched in customers and employees alike – 63% of the workforce uses their mobile devices for work as much as they do for personal tasks. But, as Gartner recently noted, the mobile app development has been plagued by a lack of resources — notably worker hours and skill sets.

A whopping 99% of IT leaders believe businesses must be mobile-enabled to thrive in the future. At the same time, 74% believe a lack of mobile access to apps, data and content will slow business productivity — perhaps because only 29% of them have advanced mobile development skills on staff.

One method of reducing the complexity of mobile app development and bridging demand with supply — standardisation – may be the savior. Sixty-nine per cent of IT leaders expect nearly all mobile apps to be built on a common set of frameworks and standards by 2025.
 



Bridging the skills gap is essential

 

For years, IT organisations have contended with waning gaps between the skills they need for innovation and what their staff can bring to the table. As technology has evolved at breakneck speed and in-demand skills have shifted, the situation has become even more dire.

“Just 24% of organisations have a fully defined IT staff learning and development strategy” ”

SALESFORCE RESEARCH | ENTERPRISE TECHNOLOGY TRENDS REPORT

Developer skill gaps are particularly relevant, given that project backlogs are now business as usual for all too many teams. But as the role moves past its back-office origins, ‘soft’ skills are also top-of-mind in IT. In fact, 93% of IT leaders view business acumen as an important skill for technical staff.

Our Chief Digital Evangelist Vala Afshar notes in ZDNet that on average, only 24% of IT leaders describe their staffs' skills on a given topic as advanced, with the biggest gaps in AI, voice and blockchain. And yet, IT staff aren’t to blame for their skill gaps. 

Technology, customer expectations and business priorities are moving so fast, and IT staff workloads are so great, that the majority of hiring managers now view their companies as responsible for empowering workers with the skills they need. New learning platforms provide one resource, as do low-code or no-code development tools that can offload simple projects to business partners and free up developers to work on more strategic projects.

 

IT is caught between the competing demands of ‘keeping the lights on’ and advancing the innovation their companies need to compete. As a crop of new technologies transform customer expectations, the pressure is on for It to IT leaders to lean into the latter, but the challenges are formidable.

“50% of IT leaders plan to increase blockchain investment over the next two years””

SALESFORCE RESEARCH | ENTERPRISE TECHNOLOGY TRENDS REPORT
Take artificial intelligence (AI), for instance. Forty-two per cent of enterprise IT organisations are already using AI, and the rate of adoption is expected to grow 95% within just two years. Sixty-nine per cent say — regardless of whether they’re using AI or not — that it’s transforming their business. Yet despite general recognition of AI’s impact on everything from customer engagement to security, a mere 7% of IT leaders have a completely defined AI strategy. Unsurprisingly, insufficient technical skills tops the list of roadblocks for AI implementation, with competing priorities coming in second.

Another emerging technology held in high esteem by IT leaders, but which they feel ill-equipped to embrace, is blockchain. Just 4% of IT leaders have a completely defined blockchain strategy, and 6% have advanced skills on staff. But 22% of IT leaders have already identified a blockchain use case in their own businesses - for example, Afshar points out in ZDNet its potential to revolutionise IT security and therefore CX - and half of them expect to invest more in the technology within the near future, signaling a turning point on the horizon.

For a deep-dive into the top trends transforming IT, download the Enterprise Technology Trends Report.