The role of the chief information officer will change significantly in the next few years, driven by the growing adoption of artificial intelligence and by demands from cybersecurity. IT leaders are rapidly scaling their digital businesses, making the remainder of this year and 2018 a defining moment for CIOs who don’t want to be left behind, say Gartner researchers.

Those were among the messages to emerge from the Gartner ITxpo conference in Orlando this past week, which looked at the top technology and data trends shaping IT. The CIO role is transitioning from that of serving as a delivery executive to becoming a business executive, and from controlling cost and engineering processes, to driving revenue and exploiting data.

CIOs who survive and thrive in the future must recognize and embrace these trends, Gartner research contends. Digital transformation is expected to create new forms of revenue, business value, and engagement of customers and citizens, Gartner predicts. In light of all these changes, increasingly, the CIO is also reporting directly to the CEO.

“The CIO’s role must grow and develop as digital business spreads, and as disruptive technologies, including intelligence machines and advanced analytics, reach the masses,” said Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president and an analyst at Gartner.

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Rowsell-Jones reported on the results of the “2018 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey,” which asked 3,160 CIOs to identify the technology practices and trends that are having the greatest impact on their job roles, and how they expect those trends to change.

According to CIOs surveyed by the research firm, most IT leaders expect to become change agents for their organizations, much more focused on business processes and strategy.

Artificial intelligence, followed by digital security and the Internet of Things, were ranked as the top three most problematic technologies that CIOs must manage. The No. 1 reason for these technologies being cited was the difficulty in hiring for those skills, especially in the area of artificial intelligence.

Organizational culture can be another problem for organizations that are trying to succeed with digital transformation, and this puts more strain on the CIO, Rowsell-Jones said.

“CIOs are on the road from digital experimentation to digital scaling,” Rowsell-Jones said. “However, a wall exists between those early digital experiments with pilots, and those that have achieved digital scale. Perhaps the biggest brick in that wall is organizational culture. CIOs need to identify the cultural behaviors that currently exist and what the future state vision is. In doing so, they must recognize existing cultural strengths and position culture change as the “next chapter,” rather than a massive overhaul, to respect employees’ contributions and invite them to come along for the journey.”

The survey also found that CIOs are spending more time on the business executive element of their jobs compared with three years ago. The more mature an organization’s digital business is, the more likely the CIO reports directly to the CEO.

This story originally appeared in Information Management.

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