As an IT leader, how much of your budget do you typically spend to keep the lights on? 30 percent? 40 percent? Try 78 percent. So how much room does this leave for innovation? In my estimation, not nearly enough.

This number, however, doesn’t shock or surprise me. We’ve been moving so quickly over the past decade, leaving little time to truly think ahead. But if you’re anticipating a slowdown, don’t. We’re at a critical turning point where data is king—ruling our decisions, as well playing a role in our success or failure.

As an IT leader, I see this as an incredible opportunity—and, admittedly, an immense responsibility. The time is now to take a leading seat at the table, talking openly with your colleagues about the challenges ahead, including how to support critical decision making with reliable, real-time data.

And I’m not alone calling for these open conversations. Released today, Cisco’s new IT Operations Readiness Index surveys more than 1,500 global IT leaders to reveal how data is transforming the way businesses operate their IT. The global research project also introduces an operations maturity model to help IT leaders benchmark themselves against their peers—and then develop a plan for the future.

According to the report, investment in IT operations drive significant customer benefits and strategic value to the business. Because of this, organizations are investing a greater percentage of their budget toward transforming IT operations. On average, 28 percent of the IT budget today, with 68 percent expecting to grow that number over the next 12 months.

And here’s where it gets really interesting. 40 percent of those surveyed said they rely heavily on IT operations data for business decision making. This means that IT information is not only used for keeping the network running, systems operable, and avoiding downtime, but is now used to deliver key insights to the business and provide context on how a customer is interacting with a company’s solution or product.

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes into play. 42 percent in the survey said AI will be the biggest disruptor to their business operations. I tend to think the odds are even greater than that, because of the amazing power of AI. For example, AI fingerprinting could completely transform your IT operations—and free up much of your budget for innovation.

Here’s how it works. You run analytics on your data to forecast potential faults. A very smart strategy. But do you have enough data? With the millions of devices out in the universe, the answer is likely no.

Imagine now having the ability to run analytics on your data against those millions of devices worldwide—matching the fingerprint of all of your devices and then using machine learning to identify specific risks coming your way. This would provide you an automated and predictive way to look into your future. Not just spotting problems, but preventing them.

Preparing to lead in a data-driven world

To be ready to take advantage of this, which will significantly reduce the cost of keeping the lights on, you need to know if you’re ready. You need to know where you sit along the maturity model and then develop a strategy to reach a higher maturity level. The index’s self-assessment tool can help.

The report outlines four steps and where today’s IT leaders find themselves:

  1. Reactive (26 percent)
  2. Proactive (38 percent)
  3. Predictive (22 percent)
  4. Preemptive (14 percent)

Today, only 14 percent of organizations are at the highest level: preemptive. In just two years, though, 33 percent expect to be at the highest level of the model. That’s excellent news, and more evidence that things are going to continue to move in only one way—fast.

But if you get started today, you’ll get there. You’ll be in a position to reallocate your budget to make an amazing impact on your organization. More innovation. Improved customer experiences. And a part of history as we enter the dawn of the AI era.



Joseph M. Bradley

Global Vice President

Digital & IoT Advanced Services