New Research – 10 Key Insights for 2017

Bruce Guptill Research Alerts

What is Happening?

Based on our analysis of current and emerging business technology, industry, and market trends and causes, ISG Insights expects 2017 to be the year when “digital business” begins being absorbed into “business as usual,” pushing enterprise leaders and IT providers, into either accelerated business and IT transformation – or competitive decline.

A recent Strategic Perspective published for our premium subscription research clients outlines ten key changes and developments behind this transformation. Those changes and developments are summarized in this Research Alert.

Why is it Happening?

While we see a broad range of business IT changes and developments emerging through 2017, we find ten that are most likely to force fundamental change in how enterprises do business, and how they procure and manage business IT – and in how IT providers do business as well. The ten are as follows:

  1. “Digital Business” becomes just “business.” Digital transformation is rapidly becoming a normal state of business. By YE 2017, it will be important for all aspects of business to shift their thinking away from Digital Business being something separate or compartmentalized, and toward a larger, more integrative vision. This will require increased synchronization between the changing IT organization and all aspects of business operations – not just Finance and strategic planning.
  2. Digital Labor settles in. While the applications and effects will differ by firm and by market, 2017 will bring an acceleration of mostly-software-based “robots” in more areas of business than ever before. This will include a changing variety of mixed digital and human functionality. Today, we see most such automation is taking place in enterprise IT and Finance organizations, with some increasing activity in HR.
  3. Workforce management and Talent 3.0. While enterprises look to more automation and outsourcing to reduce reliance on human-focused functionalities, they will also create more complex and non-standardized mixes of software- and services-provided labor. The resulting complexity of labor management will increase costs, and trigger business for outside providers who can improve the management of said complexity.
  4. IoT swallows Enterprise IT. In essence, the IoT (including the Industrial Internet of Things) will become the connectivity hub for the majority of enterprise information technologies that collect and feed data stores for analysis. The core data connectivity, distribution, storage, and analysis function of the traditional IT department, in effect, gets “swallowed” by IoT; IoT thus becomes the de facto enterprise IT architecture.
  5. IoT / IIoT as an economical way to extend legacy infrastructure value. As a result of “swallowing” enterprise IT, we will see IoT capabilities help to prolong and even enhance the lifetime and value of many legacy systems. In most IoT / IIoT environments, greater current business value (including operational and process efficiency improvement) will be derivable from existing infrastructure – and help to extend legacy equipment and system lifespans. This will cause enterprise IT and business leaders to re-think workload migration as well as investments in traditional and Cloud-based infrastructure.
  6. Agile operating models go mainstream. Given all of the above, we will see traditional business and IT operating models clearly demonstrated as obstacles to necessary innovation and business growth. In 2017, agile and iterative models will start to shift from experimental stages to be competitive table stakes for businesses seeking expansion. Like “digital business” becoming “business,” “agile” will become the IT and enterprise operating norm.
  7. Shadow IT grows closer to being “real” IT. While “shadow IT” has always been present, Cloud IT adoption and adaption has driven massive shifts in technology and services buying growth outside of traditional channels. As this behavior becomes mainstream through 2017, we see enterprise IT procurement approaching a tipping point, where Shadow IT shifts into being considered “real” IT throughout the enterprise. This forces traditional enterprise IT organizations to quickly adapt – or risk being restructured into primarily support roles.
  8. As-a-Service buying surges. Systems of engagement are critical enablers of a digital business transformation. These types of platforms are increasingly being delivered via As-a-Service delivery models that prioritize speed, productivity and innovation over cost reduction -the traditional outcome sought by outsourcing buyers. Therefore, As-a-Service buying will continue to increase, while traditional sourcing will stay relatively flat. This will add disruption for traditional service and technology providers, while steering enterprise buyers to more IT buying/usage options.
  9. The de facto decline of business software upgrading. We are seeing a substantial, sharp increase in the number of longtime enterprise software users (and buyers) considering Cloud sourcing instead of upgrading core, legacy applications and supporting databases. This is a huge reversal of long-standing IT industry trends. The economic case for rip-and-replace is becoming better – and the more legacy software vendors try to force upgrades, the more likely user enterprises are to weigh replacing them. In 2017, we will see this “get real” as enterprise business and IT leaders begin to flex their preferences for Cloud-first solutions over legacy upgrades.
  10. Cost management initiatives demand and drive CFO-CIO unification. The business benefits of digital transformation will be limited or even unattainable without improved alignment, synchronization, and operations at all levels between enterprise Finance and IT organizations. We have been encouraged by recent initiatives toward more converged CFO and CIO approaches as regards IT cost management. But in those firms where these groups – and leaders – are not in synch, expenses will spiral out of control while competitive capabilities improve only in fits and starts.

Market Impact

Everything is not suddenly changing in 2017. But our analysis of patterns, trends, and causes make it clear that 2017 will be the year when provider-side IT-as-a-Service, and enterprise/user-side IT adaptation and business innovation, really begin synchronizing. This will put transformation (and disruption) in enterprise IT procurement, usage, and management into overdrive. It’s been a bumpy ride to this point on the digital journey; from here through 2018 at least, we expect it to be more of a roller coaster.

ISG Insights will be examining each of these ten developments and changes thoroughly throughout the year (and beyond), and providing insights, guidance, and best practices regarding each. Look for upcoming series of research note and reports covering disruptive technologies and providers, models and guidance for aligning changing software and services needs with vendor/provider capabilities and offerings, and summary insights and guidance from our advisors and consultants based on real-world experience among hundreds of enterprise clients and provider clients.

2017 – An Inflection Year for Digital Labor in Enterprise IT?

Bruce Guptill, Ron Exler Research Alerts

What is Happening?

A review of both enterprise client hiring plans and third-party insights indicate a significant and accelerating information technology skills shortage that will continue, and likely grow, through 2017. And unfortunately, that shortage looks to be worst among skills critical to the development and growth of digital business – i.e., IT security, Cloud, and data analytics and management.

Our net take: These shortages will hasten enterprise moves toward more, and more advanced, methods of staff augmentation, including more aggressive outsourcing, more and better skills training, and greater deployment of digital labor in IT through 2017. In some places, governments are stepping in to fund technology training.

Why is it Happening?

Our ongoing research among C-level business and IT leaders clearly indicates the significance of Digital Business development and improvement, as well as the challenges in finding necessary skills such as advanced IT security, data science, and associated analytics and data management. It’s becoming clear that business and IT leaders alike face a skills shortage that threatens their enterprises’ ability to develop and grow Digital Business initiatives.

Figure 1: Digital Business Signposts

Digital Business Signposts

Source: ISG Insights Digital Business Survey among C-level Business/IT Leaders, Nov. 2015 (n=129), & Sept. 2016 (n=141)

Meanwhile, our assessment of hiring plans among enterprise clients, supported by analysis of published third-party research, indicates stagnant IT hiring through 2017. The majority of market data highlight limited (and limiting) technology hiring expectations amongst IT leaders. For example, TEKsystems’ annual IT Forecast reports that 63% of IT leaders expect 2017 IT salaries to stay the same overall compared to 2016. The Robert Half Technology’s IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trends Report says that only 16% of CIOs plan to add more IT staff in the first half of 2017, and 69% plan to hire only for open IT roles. Economic factors exacerbate the flat IT hiring projections, with some economists saying that 2017 will see flat or low growth accompanied by global political and economic uncertainties.

Net Impact

We believe that this stagnation (or at best, very limited growth) in IT hiring will help make 2017 an inflection point in the growth of digital labor adoption, especially within enterprise IT organizations. We already see a clear influence of automation on the cost of IT outsourcing (ITO) and business process outsourcing (BPO) services. Providers’ automation of several traditional aspects of IT operations and management is increasing sharply, leading to upwards of a 50 percent reduction in the number of resources required to support core IT operations services. This, in turn, is leading to significant cost reductions for data center, application management, service desk, and network services customers. We see these approaches both (1) increasing some enterprises’ ability and desire to outsource, and (2) providing examples to enterprises as to how they can address hiring needs when budgets fall short.

2017 will not be the year that software and robots replace highly-skilled IT staff, however. The state-of-the-art in IT automation replaces people in some of the more simplistic IT areas, such as operations monitoring and help desk. Extending automation to more intricate tasks requiring greater skill levels is complex, and outside of today’s capabilities. That being said, we see rapidly increasing use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in both provider and enterprise IT; RPA supports additional complexity, and will be key to extending automation beyond the simple tasks.

Digital labor will not only be deployed in IT operations. Our work with clients in areas such as Finance, Human Resources, and Contact Center suggests that more than two-thirds of these business areas will see significant RPA adoption by 2020.

While automation can reduce staffing and associated costs, it doesn’t directly solve the problem of lack of people with expertise in required technology domains. Enterprises can resolve the lack of expertise through training or by hiring beyond current sources.  For that, we see 2017 also being an inflection year in the growth of advanced IT skills training in security and data science.

Some governments are stepping in to help with technology training. The U.S. White House TechHire initiative is a campaign to expand local tech sectors by working with companies in building technology-talent pipelines in communities across the country. There are now more than 50 TechHire communities in the U.S. and the government recently released $150 million in new Department of Labor TechHire grants for training.

Programs such as TechHire should close some of the skills gap and address concerns many companies have in light of some of the populist attitudes in many regions against corporations that outsource work to offshore locations.