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The digital era is upon us. We are undergoing a massive wave of technological change, and this transformation is unstoppable. Billions of intelligent devices and machines generate massive amounts of data on a daily basis. Millions of connections are made through smart devices every day, and every one of those connections count. Now is the time to act.

This was the defining theme at the opening of this year’s Gartner Symposium ITxpo, in a keynote speech delivered by Peter Sondergaard, Senior Vice President at Gartner Research.

He urged attendees – the highest turnout of CIOs and senior IT executives seen to date at the conference – to make theirs an “algorithm-designed business”.

What is an algorithm-designed business?

More and more processes are becoming automated: within retail, for instance, we already have warehouse picking robots in the retail sector; within public transport, we already have sophisticated systems that keep us moving on time and to schedule. In tandem, we are becoming an increasingly digitalized world: we are all connected through our smartphones and computers. Companies have access to far more information than ever before, from customer purchasing habits to inventory status.

The result is big data, a wealth of information that drives the way companies plan and create products and services. Data that keeps things working to optimum effect across the entire product’s life cycle. Big data is also key to companies understanding their connections with customers.

However, big data loses its value if it cannot be analysed properly. “Big data is not where the value is. Data is necessary, but is it transient, by itself it is not transformative. Anybody can store and gather data. Data is nothing – unless we act on it,” explained Sondergaard.

“Data is inherently dumb, it doesn’t do anything unless you know how to use it, how to act with it. Algorithms are where the real value lies. Algorithms define action.” he adds. “Companies need to be an algorithmic business.”

In other words, algorithms are what will plug this gap between big data and the analysis of it, the results of which will drive the future of a company.

Security risks and big data

Companies need to rise to the digital challenge and future CIOs need to be “the strategic voice on the use of information, to build the digital technology platform, to be the trusted ally.”

Their priorities must be “risk, security, safety and quality through resilience, detection and response and people-centric security,” says Sondergaard.

Risks to security will rise in line with increased use of big data.

Malware, phishing attacks, denial of service and other threats continue to escalate. The landscape and definition of risk will change and companies will need to think up new technologies and will need new ways of thinking in order to combat this. Algorithms will play a part in this, as current security systems are not designed to handle the new risk landscape.

Gartner predicts that by 2020 50% of large enterprises will have a digital risk officer. The digital risk officer will no longer be a cog in the wheel of an IT department, but rather assume an overall strategic role in the company as a whole.

The future is digital

Gartner’s vice president and distinguished analyst Daryl Plummer predicted that our world will become increasingly run by machines, that as humans we will be living in a smart machine-driven world. In particular, Plummer predicts that we will see a rise in the use of robots: “some companies will use machines over human workers, such as in a fully automated supermarket, robotic hotel, or security firm with drone-only surveillance services, or robots that will write content, such as annual reports, financial statements, white papers and so on. By 2018,” said Plummer, “20% of all business content will be operated by machines. By 2020, autonomous software agents outside human control will make 5% of all economic transactions.” All these things will only be possible with the use of algorithms.

Recruitment needs

In the future there will be a rise in the demand for data scientists, statisticians and IT professionals who can navigate this changing digital landscape. Computer Futures is already investing in certain geographical areas where we can find and attract the most niche futuristic players in the IT space. We are also transforming the way that we search for those candidates; we will turn our own big data into powerful insights that will help companies meet their recruitment challenges in this area.

If you're at the Gartner Symposium this week then visit the Computer Future's stand, ET1, in the Emerging Tech hub for a one-on-one consultation.