Technology leaders from Robert Half and Protiviti explore three tech trends that leaders need to prepare for: making digital transformation stick; why cybersecurity is everyone’s business; and the importance of understanding data before getting excited about artificial intelligence. Technology trends are emerging all the time. But artificial intelligence (AI) looks set to change the course of business. According to a global survey Robert Half has conducted among c-suite leaders on digital transformation, AI and machine learning will be the biggest disruptors, followed by immersive technology, the Internet of Things, Blockchain, and Robotic Process Automation. Digital transformation is dominating boardroom discussions. As these technologies emerge, c-suite leaders have a chance to update legacy systems and prepare the ground for new ones. So, in this article, we explain how they can put ‘innovation’ in digital transformation, why cybersecurity is everyone’s business, and why data should be the priority before AI. We pose key questions and scenarios to help them prepare for key tech trends in the upcoming period.
Consider this story: a government says it wants to streamline tax using digital systems. Businesses scramble to understand what it means for their legacy operations, and the new technology they need to implement. Specialists consult on scope and delivery. But there are few professionals who understand both technology and tax. Employees are learning on the job. At the same time, everyone appreciates the need to make the project stick. They know digital transformation is easy to say, but less easy to do. There are some key considerations for c-suite leaders in this situation. If a business is trying to do something differently – to innovate – it is trying to change what it is currently doing. And the best way to do that is to raise awareness. At the outset, an innovation strategy helps to provide structure and a safe environment for creativity and the evaluation of ideas. It also creates a culture in which people are willing to, and able to, innovate. In this case, leaders could run design thinking sessions on tax and technology. This will challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and identify potential solutions. Everyone could be involved, to help share knowledge and identify employees with key skills. It is often those at the edge of a business, who work with technology every day, who bring fresh ideas and perspectives. It’s not just about the highest-paid opinions. Once those design thinking sessions have taken place, then project teams can be set up. Each one should have employees from different areas of the business. They will need strong leadership and a vision of success. The project should also be explained in simple terms: why it matters, the benefits, and how it can be delivered. Developing an innovative approach to major projects – and keeping people at the forefront – will be a powerful path for c-suite leaders to take.
Digital transformation introduces new systems. These help to streamline processes, but they also introduce risks. Operational improvements are balanced with security challenges: the more technology in a business, the more it needs protecting in a market where hackers are sophisticated and quick. Yes, it is important to have controls in place, but it is also important to understand how systems work together. What does the architecture look like? How are systems connected? How do they fit into the digital transformation strategy? And, importantly, where are the weaknesses? Good cybersecurity can help businesses gain competitive advantage and improve their operations. Which means it now reaches every corner of a business and impacts every decision: the security of new systems, the security of data, the security of AI, for example. And because security matters everywhere, it is now everyone’s business: from the c-suite leaders with budgets to spend, to employees exposed to a potential attack. The good news: leaders are prepared to invest. They want professionals to steer the ship, and they are happy to train employees. Finding people with cybersecurity experience and certifications is important. But raising awareness, and providing training, is pivotal. If most hackers are gaining entry through phishing or spam emails, for example, then education will help to prevent attacks. Businesses will need to combine the skills of cybersecurity professionals with increased awareness across their teams. If cybersecurity is everyone’s business, then it is everyone’s job to understand it.   Five cybersecurity jobs your teams need
The headlines about AI are coming thick and fast.But it is important for c-suite leaders to remember this: AI models are only as good as the data on which they are trained. So here are key questions for businesses to ask themselves before they roll out their plans: What are these models going to do? How will the data be used? Does it need to be transparent and explainable? Does it discriminate in an unintended way? If a business is building AI models that will alter people’s jobs, for example, then the inputs and outputs of those models need to be considered. Especially if they are making decisions on behalf of the business. The forthcoming EU AI Act, and GDPR regulations as an example, also provide guidance for businesses to use data safely and ethically within regulatory guardrails.
  Many businesses have focused on training in cybersecurity in recent years and similarly businesses will need to develop robust training around data. Those adopting AI will most assuredly need a Data Literacy Programme that is rolled out across all levels of the business, so individuals are developing better skills.   These tech trends aren’t surprising, but they are important. As technology evolves, and the digital backbone of businesses strengthens, the ability to innovate will be the difference between success and failure. The ability to mitigate against cyberattacks will be the difference between success and failure. And the ability to understand data before AI will be the difference between success and failure. In five years’ time, c-suite leaders who grasp these opportunities will be stronger. For those who don’t, the outlook is less certain.   Five roles created by AI
  This article has been developed in conversation with Hiren Joshi, Maria Sartori, Richard Sinden, and Christian Schmitz at Robert Half; alongside Belton Flournoy, Michelle Moody, Erwin de Man and Kentaro Ellert at Protiviti. Hiren Joshi is currently working as a Branch Director with Robert Half based out of Toronto, Canada. He has been with Robert Half for more than 7 years and has more than 15+ years of IT recruitment experience.  Maria Sartori is a chemical engineer, a graduate of UNICAMP with a postgraduate degree in finance from the same institution. She began her career in the recruitment field in 2011, contributing to the startup of the Campinas office of Robert Half in Brazil. Currently, she serves as an Associate Director, overseeing Technology, Engineering, Sales, and Marketing at the São Paulo office.  Richard Sinden is a Director of the Western Australian operation of Robert Half. He oversees the strategic practice areas of Executive Search, Finance, Technology, and Business Support. With 25 years of international recruitment experience, he has developed an unparalleled understanding of WA's unique market and helped many clients attract and retain skilled talent and build productive and engaged teams. Christian Schmitz is Head of Technology Germany at Robert Half. The tech expert has been advising companies across all industries on all aspects of IT and their digitalization programs with a focus on consulting and recruitment, including global market leaders and DAX40 companies. He has extensive expertise in enterprise technologies such as SAP, Microsoft, Salesforce and ServiceNow and covers business and IT alignment, new ways of working and digital enablement. Belton Flournoy is a Managing Director within Protiviti’s Technology Consulting practice. He has over twelve years of professional experience working with a variety of local, national, and global organisations to enhance their business performance through risk management, operational effectiveness and enhanced governance. Belton has significant experience in identity and access management, IT governance, IT risk management, cybersecurity, disaster recovery, end user computing, and IT controls testing. Michelle Moody is a Managing Director for the Protiviti Data & Analytics Practice in the UK. She has a focus on all things data from advisory, regulation and governance through to end-to-end cloud data platforms delivering insights through visualisations, analytics, and ML/AI models. Erwin de Man is a Managing Director at Protiviti and is based in Frankfurt, Germany. With over 20+ years of experience in digital enablement, Erwin has consulted to a broad range of clients on technologies such as robotic process automation, machine learning, and process mining. Kentaro Ellert is Senior Manager for AI governance and AI regulation expert at Protiviti in Germany. He specialises in compliance for artificial intelligence and supports companies with building holistic management systems to enable success with AI while mitigating its risks.