For customer-focused companies, the role of the IT department has never been more important. 

Last year, 2017, Econsultancy's Digital Trends in IT report highlighted how cybersecurity and achieving a single customer view were two pressing priorities for leaders in the field.

Has anything changed in a year?

Econsultancy’s latest report, produced in partnership with Adobe, has once again explored the digitally-driven opportunities and challenges facing organisations from the perspective of IT professionals.

Subscribers can download it in full, but in the meantime, here are a few key takeaways from the research, which is based on a survey of almost 400 senior IT leaders.

Continuing concern over security

Much like in 2017, security remains the most pressing concern for IT professionals. 

However, due to a number of security breaches being disclosed by high-profile companies since then - including Equifax, Uber and Yahoo - the situation appears even more front-of-mind.

This year, 42% of respondents cite the threat of security breaches and cyber-risk threats as something that concerns them than any other challenge.

This, coupled with the fact that businesses are required to be more open and collaborative then ever before, puts IT professionals in a precarious position. 

Collaboration between departments improves

One of the key requirements of IT leaders is to keep up-to-date with industry developments, as well as maintain a good understanding of both technology and business issues. 

The 2017 Trends report highlighted how organisations needed to place greater focus on an internal information exchange, as just 25% of respondents citing that they sourced knowledge of tech and industry changes from members of the leadership team. 

This year, that figure has risen to 31%.

Meanwhile, there’s also been a slight increase in the proportion of IT respondents citing the digital marketing team as a way of staying connected. While there’s still a way to go before organisations excel at sharing with others, the small increase is an encouraging sign.

Challenges with legacy systems

When it comes to other big internal obstacles, the solutions are not quite so straightforward. 

The most significant issue is difficulties with integrating legacy systems with new tools or technologies. This was cited as a top-three challenge by 45% of respondents, up from 41% last year.

Interestingly, integrating legacy systems appears to be more of a challenge for larger companies (or those with annual revenues of more than £150 million). 

For smaller organisations, challenges are spread more evenly. 35% cite internal siloes, 40% cite lack of shared understanding about what digital transformation means, and 36% cite adequate budget.

As a result, the all-round solution perhaps lies in greater leadership, with the C-Suite taking better responsibility for ensuring digital transformation initiatives are met.

Excitement about AI and IoT 

Finally, it appears that there is also a difference between what IT professionals in different-sized organisations view as the most exciting prospect ahead.

For higher revenue companies, AI comes out on top, with 27% of respondents citing this compared to just 14% in smaller revenue companies. The Internet of Things is ranked higher among the latter group, with 22% of respondents citing this compared to 20% in bigger organisations.

Research suggests that AI could prove to be the more valuable out of the two, with top-performing companies being more than twice as likely to use AI for marketing (28% versus 12%).

Don't forget to download the Digital Trends in IT 2018 report for more.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 23 March, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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