In the digital era, customers’ expectations are high. This calls for an IT strategy that considers processes and data flows in the context of a customer’s journey and creates digital services for those journeys based on a modernized digital business platform. Here’s a look at the challenges and opportunities confronting chief information officers (CIOs). For more on the topic, see our position paper on improving digital application experiences.

1. The CIO’s top challenges

CIOs no longer hold all the cards. They often share responsibilities with chief digital officers and chief marketing officers. And the increasing breadth of customer journeys means more elements of the customer experience stem from an ecosystem of providers — systems not owned by the CIO at all. CIOs also are struggling with the fragmentation of their own IT environments, with assets scattered across monolithic transactional systems, cloud-based software-as-a-service resources, and emerging, loosely coupled applications that are built for cloud and driven by continuous delivery and other modern methods.

CIOs are saying: I have all of these problems and a certain amount of money to fix them. I have an existing base of assets under management that are costing me money. There are emerging technologies that the business wants me to investigate and incorporate into the strategy, and they all cost money. We have a changing landscape in how we think about the business and the necessity to go digital. I need a way to manage all of these apps.

2. The future of digital and how we get there

The enterprise core will become machine driven and will be about making data available and publishing it, rather than processing it. Consumption will be driven by serverless architecture and multimedia interfaces, including web, mobile and augmented reality, and virtual reality. The enterprise needs to understand the flow of information between systems, between individuals, and between systems and individuals. The roadmap to digital requires the constant evolution of core systems from human-derived rules to machine-derived rules. The technologies that will be prominent in this evolution include artificial intelligence, machine learning, serverless, blockchain, NoSQL, HTTP and containers.

3. Get off the hamster wheel

Until you understand what’s driving the needs for new applications and understand the flow of information, you’re answering everybody’s information needs on a one-for-one basis. You’ve got to get off of the hamster wheel or you never get ahead of demand. You’re just delivering the next app and the following app. The only way to get ahead is to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to do the work for you — that is, help you discern sense-and-respond patterns that lead to the right outcomes. Ultimately, you want to compose applications from a portfolio of digital services, reusing services and connecting data to yield the desired information flows and outcomes.