Kathy Gibson reports from Gartner Symposium in Cape Town – CIOs are under pressure to contain costs while driving innovation, but what the big technology bets are going to be over the next months is still up in the air.

Peter Sondergaard, senior vice-president of Gartner, points out that one of the most important issues for CIOs right now is cost optimisation.

“Cost optimisation is important to the success of technology implementation and business as a whole,,” he says. “You will not be a successful CIO if you cannot continually optimise cost in IT.

“Even if the business is doing well you need to move cost from existing infrastructure to fund the innovation that needs to happen at the forefront of what the business is doing. CIOs need to understand how to do a better job of IT cost optimisation in order to fund the future.”

The second issue is how to efficiently optimise the infrastructure. “The volatility in the IT provider space is bringing pressure to end users in terms of how do they design a robust stable infrastructure strategy going forward.”

The third challenge is a result of the first two, with additional pressure to run a stable business operation while delivering innovation.

“So we are still pushing the bimodal approach,” says Sondergaard. “And 40% of organisations have some form of bimodal in IT, with some of them flowing that into the business.

“The necessity figuring out how to deliver both, and ensure they operate in a consistent and integrated manner is a very complex issue.

“Organisations need to decide if they should run dual structures; or a single structure with dual purposes,” Sondergaard says. “And they need to set metrics that determine success in both stable structures and in delivering change.”

To overcome these challenges, companies need to develop leaders that balance the change and attract the right people into the organisation.

“By now, this should be well worked through in organisations, but is not,” Sondergaard says. “There is still a level of complexity, and it’s preoccupying CIOs.”

Meanwhile, CIOs are still looking for the next big thing, or the innovation that will drive business change, and this reflects in what they are searching for on Gartner’s resources.

The top searched area is IoT, says Sondergaard. “What you are seeing is that while CIOs are dealing with tactical issues, they are wondering about IoT.

“Another big thing is blockchain,” he adds.

“This time last year, neither was on the top 20 list. This demonstrates the acceleration of the speed of change. To survive, companies need a structure that can absorb it.”

In South Africa, cost optimisation is the main concern, followed by infrastructure optimisation. Other issues worrying South African CIOs include how to design infrastructure platforms for a digital strategy; and how to determine what the customer experience expectation is for the organisation.

A big area of concern for CIOs going forward, particularly as the platform economy develops, is security.

“The area of security is going to be one that every organisation on the face of earth will be dealing with for a very long time,” says Sondergaard. “No organisation is immune to that challenge.

“I think we will increasingly see companies spend more and more on security.”

Critically, Sondergaard believes organisations and ecosystems need to spend time determining who has the responsibility for securing systems and data.

“When we move into the era of connecting things, it could be a far higher challenge, even life or death,” Sondergaard says.