IT leaders from health-care, retail and tech sectors share their strategic priorities for 2020. Hint: Analytics, automation and cloud play big roles in CIOs’ roadmaps.
As the light dims on 2019, CIOs are turning their talents to the next legs of their digital journeys. Many IT leaders will augment their employee experience (EX) to improve the overall customer experience (CX).
To wit, CIOs will focus on talent, culture and organizational challenges in 2020.
“CIOs will get a chance to step forward as business leaders, further developing their tech-driven innovation, people management, and ecosystem-building skills,” according to Forrester Research’s CIO predictions report.
Here IT leaders provide a sneak peek into what’s on their IT roadmaps for 2020.
Data science and analytics
Enterprise data strategy continues to be a top initiative for CIOs, who see it as a necessary part of their firm’s transformation plans.
McKesson is ramping up its use of data beyond business intelligence to predictive and prescriptive analytics, which will improve the way the company ships pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, says Brian Dummann, the company’s chief data and analytics officer.
To prepare McKesson for this journey, Dummann has been consolidating several data warehouses into a single Snowflake system running on Google Cloud Platform, which he says will help the company’s employees move faster in meeting business needs. The end goal? Boosting patient outcomes.
Also critical: Hiring more “analytics translators” who can contextualize analytics for the business. “Business domain knowledge is critical,” Dummann says. “We want to advance the ball on our enterprise data capabilities.”
Industry domain experts who can break down data sets, understand how data flows and extract value from data are in hot demand, says Franzuha Byrd, CIO of consultancy MorganFranklin, which advises Fortune 500 companies on mergers and acquisitions, spin-offs and other corporate initiatives.
Byrd pairs data scientists with industry experts to hash out data management problems for clients, including how to automate transactions and mine data lakes for business insights.
“2020 will be a wake-up year, as the total cost of getting data right will become apparent,” Forrester noted in its 2020 CIO report.
AI and machine learning
Organizations are adopting artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) for more targeted means.
New York City’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) is leveraging natural language processing (NLP) and ML capabilities to dynamically generate questions and better evaluate answers for takers of its exams, which the organization administers to the nearly 100,000 candidates for roles in the police, fire and sanitation departments each year, according to CIO Nitin Patel.
Currently, the questions follow rule-based, logic paths. By using NLP and ML, Patel will train algorithms to ask questions that are tailored to candidates applying for various positions such as programmers, computer specialists and staff analysts. Ideally, such efforts would quicken an evaluation and scoring process that took as long as two years.
Patel also hopes to leverage Amazon.com’s Alexa or Google’s virtual assistant to create apps that help provide voice-based customer support, including the ability to ask questions via voice or text, saving humans from hours of tedious work.
2020 will be the year of the omnichannel “superagent,” an assistant that caters to people for whom “instant gratification has become a reality,” says Alorica Chief Transformation Officer Bhaskar Menon.
Alorica, which supports business processes in call centers, is focused on improving Ava, a virtual assistant that answers both the company’s employees and customers’ questions through text or voice-to-chat. Ava’s accuracy rate is 86 percent, up from 70 percent from its launch.
“We have to be omnipresent in whatever channel customers want,” Menon says.
Iron Mountain is banking on the cloud to help it manage digital content for media, entertainment and other data-rich sectors, part of a broad transformation away from its roots as caretaker for data stored via physical devices.
The company, which uses machine learning to analyze and manage digital content on Google Cloud Platform, is also rolling out Google’s G Suite collaboration software for 25,000 employees, says CTO Fidelma Russo, who is leveraging new technologies to help change the culture. Her strategy blends cross-functional teams leveraging modern processes and technologies.
“We’re only at the beginning of our digital transformation,” Russo says. “This is not something that we will get done in a year and move on to the next thing.”
Apparel retailer Talbots meanwhile is moving as much of its ecommerce and application infrastructure into the cloud to reduce its reliance on on-premises equipment. The company is leveraging cloud software from Dynatrace to monitor its website and cloud systems for bugs, slow-downs and outages, says Don Hall, the company’s manager of ecommerce operations.
Hall says that Talbots’s business and IT staff can analyze conversion rates, average order volume and the number of shopping carts consumers create. “It makes my job much easier to have a tool to conglomerate data from business and IT into a single bucket,” Hall says.
Low-code programming is a strategic priority for Nutanix, as the technology company will train storage engineers, network engineers and other infrastructure experts to script and automate code as citizen developers, says CIO Wendy Pfeiffer, adding that low-code tools will help people reclaim their expertise as Nutanix moves further into the public cloud.
The company has already trained some staff to use Workato, a popular low-code tool, which they use to express code through optimal workflows and interactive design. But Pfeiffer anticipates ML will make it easier for citizen developers to improve suboptimal low-code scripts, further boosting the efficiency of business processes.
“I imagine a day where more than half of our tasks performed by our ServiceNow service desk will handled by custom code developed through machine learning,” Pfeiffer says.
Business process efficiency is also a priority at company Zuora, where CIO Alvina Antar expects to use robotic process automation (RPA) to automate mundane tasks for employees. This includes on-boarding and off-boarding end users of the company’s billing and revenue management software. With RPA serving as a proxy for humans, Zuora could create self-service capabilities that enable end users to help themselves.
Antar says that data and tools that make employees successful will trickle down to the CX. “Years ago, we would just outsource support,” Antar says. “Today we can automate our way out of the need for end user support.”
CIOs will tweak their own departments by automating 10 percent of tasks, such as tier-one tech support and provisioning, with RPA and AI, according to Forrester. And they will upskill displaced personnel, helping support staff transition to more complex tasks within agile and DevOps teams, the researcher adds.