Frankenstein is a monster. IT can harm the people who created it. Ergo, IT is a monster.

Taking a software tool from this vendor, hardware from another vendor, using a cloud-based storage and network system, can often lead to problems not foreseen by those who approved that approach. “There’s a new philosophy of how IT aligns with business, and being able to justify best-of-breed,” Gartner analyst Mike Cisek told attendees at his session at the recent Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations Management and Data Center Conference 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Cisek’s talk looked at five technology trends impacting mid-sized enterprises. For purposes of definition, Gartner identifies mid-sized enterprises as – among other metrics — having IT budgets reflecting 2-4 percent of revenue, cloud as 19 percent of the company’s IT portfolio, and where adoption is strategic, not gone into head-long.

Companies of this size report that staffing and resources are the biggest barrier to executing their IT vision, followed by a skills gap, and budget constraints.

The five trends he identified are:

  1. Adoption of agile, cloud-inspired hybrid infrastructure
  2. Anything as a service
  3. Use of enhanced security detection and response capabilities
  4. Embracing platforms that optimize operations and customer experience
  5. Exploitation of data and analytics

Cisek said a perfect example of the first trend is hyperconvergence: a combination of storage, network, management, cloud data backup and more. “Integrated infrastructure solutions consume the fewest technical and financial resources possible,” he said, recommending that “you never put everything in the cloud.”

As for services, Cisek said “the right XaaS can reduce capital expenses, address skills gap and enhance capabilities” for companies that are resource-constrained. But these services “must be viewed in terms of impact on business processes, customer experience and tech architecture,” he added.

Mid-sized enterprises also need immediate protection from advanced attacks as much as larger organizations with staffs of people working on the problem. Things such as firewall as a service, application security as a service, and security brokers with cloud access “address the changing threat landscape,” Cisek said. “Visibility and control of sensitive data in the public cloud is now a requirement.”

Embracing platforms that make it easier for people to share and exchange information and ideas are also critical for MSE’s, Cisek noted. Available tools to help solve those problems include third-part support for ERP, content services such as Office in the cloud, and customer self-service capabilities help these organizations work more efficiently and effectively. “Social and collaboration capabilities will grow and play a greater role in productivity,” Cisek said.

The final area might be the most challenging for mid-sized enteprises, due to the very technical nature of data and analytics. “Most MSEs simply don’t have the skills” to perform high-level analytics. Things that can begin to level the playing filed for MSEs include using analytics for customer intelligence, visual data discovery, and self-service data preparation. “These can make your small team more efficient,” he said. “High calue insights and decision-making enables teams with scarce resources to be significantly more productive.”

What struck me is that these issues are both department-level – how can IT make systems more secure, and how can developers find services that will add value to their applications and bring value to their business – as well as business-level. How can the company become more agile to meet market changes and gain competitive advantage?

What we’ve seen and heard in talks with developers and I&O engineers, marketers and executives, at conferences and in site visits, is that IT is no longer that black box that business doesn’t understand but assumes is providing some kind of value. Silos are coming down, walls are being broken, and whether companies are accepting it or not, they are all becoming software companies. They need applications to move product, track inventory and delivery, and perform all manner of back-end services. They need infrastructure, whether their own or in a cloud, to run their businesses. Decisions are no longer made based solely on new technology being available, but by how that technology may or may not advance their business.

That is the digital transformation we address in this issue. To all our readers, we hope you have a happy, successful and prosperous 2018. We’ll be watching and reporting on how the journey’s going.