In his opening keynote presentation, Peter Sondergaard, Gartner’s senior vice-president, encouraged the CIOs attending to “build again” and to think of IT as an asset, not a cost. He said that in modern digital businesses, measuring IT costs per employee was the wrong metric.

Sondergaard reminded the numerous attendees that in an ever more connected, fast-moving business world, a digitally-enabled business needs to build a partner strategy through electronic touchpoints, using application programming interfaces (APIs) on which other organisations could create value. “APIs implement digital policies in the digital world,” he said. With the help of APIs, companies could become part of wider commercial ecosystems, benefitting both the participating companies and the consumer. He referenced companies such as Airbnb and Uber as prominent examples.

Over the four conference days, over 135 Gartner analysts presented the latest in technology thought leadership. The key findings from the various talks are summarised here:

Technology Change
Whereas in the past, upgrades to enterprise technology would take place at regular intervals and could be budgeted for both in terms of human and financial resource, new technology now enters the working environment much faster which potentially has a disruptive effect on the whole business. In terms of updating and changing technology in-house, cloud solutions are becoming ever more popular with 58% of businesses making use of cloud services to support some aspect of their business. However, while the general trend is towards the cloud, organisations need to employ a balanced approach that uses the cloud when appropriate and internal capabilities when necessary. This will mean that, for example, financial management systems will remain in-house for the time being.

Becoming a truly Digital Business
Over the next few years, the world will experience another stage of digitisation. Today, 90% of large enterprises have initiatives at various stages along the path to becoming a digital business. Today, supporting digital business initiatives is more important than optimising costs for 88% of top performers, compared to only 43% of trailing performers. In order to accelerate digital business initiatives, businesses must be flexible and consider options such as acquisitions to secure new talent and skills.

Digital Platforms
CIOs have built IT systems and the Nexus of Forces, and now need to build a digital platform to provide essential capabilities to reach customers, things and ecosystems intelligently. Unlike a traditional fixed system, with a clear inside and outside (suppliers providing inputs, and internal people/assets/capabilities creating products/services and delivering them to customers), a platform provides the business with a foundation where resources can come together to create value through increased productivity. Some resources may be inside, permanently owned by the company; some will be shared; and some can come from outside. Intelligence sits at the core of this platform, connecting the different elements and improving their interaction over time. 

Bimodal IT
85% of organisations have started or planned to start a tactical bimodal project and more than 40% of organisations have implemented bimodal IT. Bimodal is the practice of managing two separate, but coherent styles of work—one focused on predictability, the other on exploration. At the symposium, CIO’s were reminded that this practice should not only be applied to IT management, but also to the organisation as a whole and it was recommended that CIO’s should aim to balance their expertise with a beginner’s mindset.

Furthermore, Gartner revealed its prediction that by 2021, 20% of all activities an individual engages in will involve at least one of the top-seven digital giants (currently Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) and that B2C businesses should prepare themselves to work ever more closely with these technology providers. It remains to be seen how a digitally controlled landscape will look for B2B businesses and what leaders will emerge and control the environment.