Tech Trends 2024: How IT Leaders Are Navigating A Disruptive, Transformative World

Amid a disruptive social and tech world, IT leaders remain standoffish about some trends and bullish on others, according to revelations from MES Computing's latest survey of IT decision-makers.

John Leonard
clock • 18 min read
Tech Trends 2024: How IT Leaders Are Navigating A Disruptive, Transformative World

In our latest tranche of industry research, MES Computing surveyed 75 U.S. IT leaders about some of the top trends in IT and business leadership. 

These, of course, included generative AI, but we also asked about ESG, cyber resilience, application and platform consolidation as well as some more niche topics -- quantum computing, machine customers, and the augmented connected workforce. Those polled are part of the MES IT Leadership Network and comprise a representative sample of how IT leaders are thinking.

Their responses provided thought-provoking and sometimes surprising insight into how IT executives are planning their roadmaps amid emerging, disruptive technology and a turbulent geopolitical climate. 

Each survey topic area is broken down into sections below. 

MES Computing IT Leaders Tech Trends Survey 2024 Topics

Generative AI 

U.S. organizations are excited by the potential of generative AI but are cautious about using it for serious workloads.

Asked about their opinion of GenAI, the largest portion (43 percent) of IT professionals surveyed in February and March said it is promising but immature. Twenty-nine percent believe GenAI to be the most important innovation since the smartphone, more than twice the number who believe it to be the biggest bubble since the dot-com boom. Three percent described it as risky.

Thirty-three percent said they are currently using AI operationally, with a further 19 percent rolling out proofs of concept (PoCs). Meanwhile 29 percent were looking into it. Four percent ruled it out altogether.

Among those who said they are using GenAI in an organizational capacity, or implementing PoCs, ChatGPT (51 percent) was the comfortable frontrunner, followed by Microsoft/GitHub Copilots (23 percent) and Google Bard/Gemini (21 percent). Microsoft, a big investor in OpenAI, led in the cloud stakes too, with 36 percent saying they were using its Azure AI cloud services, compared to Google Cloud's 30 percent and AWS' 21 percent.

The wait-and-sees said they have no current use cases (15 percent), are waiting for some case studies relevant to their size and sector (18 percent) or lack expertise (18 percent).

Survey Results Reveal A Frothy AI Market

The GenAI market is changing fast. It's understandable that there is some uncertainty. 

"Hackers are using AI to create false info and we're not ready to deploy due to immature state," said one IT leader.

Others feared it might be a solution looking for a problem.

"We are not convinced of the need or effectiveness of AI in our business at this point."

Still others mentioned a lack of capacity: "We have a business to run and money to make."

Even those who view GenAI as the "most important innovation since the smartphone," voiced concerns over its use to spread disinformation. More than 80 percent said they were concerned or considerably concerned about this, more than the cohort as a whole.  

Early adopters were far more likely to be looking to restructure their CTO and/or CIO roles to make AI adoption easier, demonstrating they are serious about making the most of the opportunities on offer.

Some were raring to go but felt constrained by their operating environment: "Governance comes first!"

There were worries that AI will centralize even more power in the hands of the tech giants (30 percent thought this); that legislation and regulation will be unable to keep up (31 percent), and that GenAI services will be too expensive once they are no longer offered at below cost price (23 percent).

That said, the GenAI wave has a lot of momentum. Asked whether, given the massive AI hype, businesses might start to lose interest in 2024, 51 percent answered "yes," with 12 percent suspecting the bubble could burst before the end of 2024.

Their reasons? Privacy, bias and security concerns (55 percent); lack of transparency/mistrust (50 percent); the intensive computing requirements making AI cost prohibitive (44 percent); social and legal risks resulting from a rush to deploy (44 percent); and the prospect of more legal action (e.g. copyright) against AI companies (44 percent).

What Do IT Leaders Expect To See Coming From AI?

Asked what they expect to see more of this year, most pointed to areas that are already showing a lot of movement, such as AI assistants integrated into office suites and into data, analytics and development tools. AI that focuses on practical applications of users' own data came after.

Fewer thought we are entering the era of large action models, with LLMs able to use other tools in an agentic way, or small language models that can be run on a laptop, although both of these are starting to emerge.

"While large action models and autonomous consumer AI agents are intriguing possibilities, I believe advancements in personalization, user-centric applications, and accessibility will have a wider impact in 2024. As with any rapidly evolving field, surprises are always possible," said a senior leader in a technology company.

AI's Impact On Jobs

Generative AI will undoubtedly bring several changes to the workplace. Exactly what those will be and what impact they will have in the long term is the subject of a great deal of speculation.

In terms of use cases being considered by respondents' organizations, the top five were in employee/customer self-service; cyber security and incident management; business processes automation; AI/ML model development/deployment/experimentation; and back-office processes/customer support (RPA).

We also asked about the jobs that might be at risk from AI, and about positions that might be created in the next 12 months or so.

 

Far more IT leaders think AI will create jobs (48 percent) than believe it will replace them (7 percent) this year, although 46 percent were non-committal. For most, it's still too early to tell.

The 22 percent who said AI has already created jobs in their organization worked disproportionately in manufacturing, engineering, aerospace, automotive and construction. They mentioned new roles for security, data analysis, data science, software development and machine learning.

"I firmly believe AI will create jobs related to all things task automation," said an IT leader in technology. "Moreover, AI can automate routine and repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to focus on higher-level tasks that require creativity, critical thinking, and social skills. AI is driving innovation and creating new industries, such as autonomous vehicles and personalized medicine. These new industries will require diverse workforces with a range of skills, creating new job opportunities." 

For others, it was a case of current jobs being augmented rather than new ones created.

 AI will likely change the responsibilities of existing roles, as automation alters the services organizations can offer. And new AI-related jobs are appearing such as prompt engineers, customer experience managers, AI compliance officials and AI programmers.

Writing On The Wall For Customer-Facing Jobs?

Asked what roles might be under threat from AI in 2024, the majority answered "none" -- or at least "none at the moment." 

"None at this time. In the future, service desk could be handled by AI to a point, but we will still need hands-on in several situations," said a CTO in distribution and transport.

However, almost half of our respondents mentioned roles or areas of work that are already diminishing in importance and could ultimately face the chop, the most frequent being help desk, service desk and customer support.

After customer-facing support roles, admin jobs were likely to be the next in line to be squeezed out by automation, followed by junior-level coding and engineering positions, respondents said. 

A similar number felt that marketing people and those involved in clerical tasks and creative writing could see reductions this year or soon afterward. Writing boilerplate text and messaging is certainly something that LLM-based applications can already do proficiently with little hand holding, and sifting through columns of data is another obvious candidate for mechanization.

"Any and all repetitive tasks will be under the gun, in my opinion. More specifically, AI excels at automating repetitive and rule-based tasks," said an IT manager in technology.

While AI is moving extremely quickly in terms of capabilities and product releases, this has yet to translate to real impact in terms of the way people do their jobs, an exception perhaps being software development. In a year's time, that picture could look rather different, though. 

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