Managing CEO expectations is this year’s Priority No. 1

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Once upon a time, CEOs’ IT expectations legendarily came from in-flight magazines — a source that’s morphed from CIO irritant to quaint memory as the magazines faded into nostalgia-land.

Today’s CEOs are more likely to get their IT visions from stories written by credulous writers authoring for online business media. That’s if we’re lucky. If we aren’t, they’ll want Tony Stark’s ability to conjure up high-tech solutions by gesticulating into a 3D touch interface while arguing with the AI that ran the Iron Man’s lab.

That leaves it up to you, your company’s hard-working CIO, to temper the CEO’s expectations from what they infer from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Earth 2024.

Because CEOs’ real reality (“real” by definition) is likely to be disappointing compared to the MCU and other semi-fictional realities they see, hear of, or imagine, CIOs can worry a little less about how IT might disappoint them on this score. But still, it’s vital to make sure you’re the CEO’s primary IT confidant, so they’re happy with what your IT organization can salvage from their hopes, dreams, and in-flight-movie-inspired visions.

As their confidant, here are five potential disappointments you can help the CEO bend their heads around.

1. Generative AI vs. MCU AI

In the MCU, not to mention Star Trek and Alexa ads, computer users tell the AI to do something, and the AI gets it done.

In the current state of technology, the CEO also can ask their generative AI of choice to do something. If their expectations came from the MCU, or even from the most recent business-press write-up, the AI would unfailingly take the right action or give the right response to even the vaguest request (“Computer! Tell me how to increase our share price by 20% by this time next week!”).

But in your reality, when at times even the most talented business analyst can’t make heads or tails of what the CEO is asking for, nothing good will come of it.

Generative AI, or at least the 2024 version of it, will, that is, stand an old saying on its head: “There are no dumb questions,” will become, “Some questions are too dumb for even the best AI to salvage.”

2. Augmented (or mixed, or just virtual) reality vs. actual reality

We’re getting close to the point where industry pundits, in search of the Next Big Thing, just might start to generate excitement about this, a truly exciting, technology.

As a simplistic example of what mixed reality (MR) has to offer, imagine you attend an industry event that includes a cocktail party on its agenda.

You’ll have met most of these characters at previous events, but you aren’t all that good at remembering names and attaching them to faces. But there’s no need to fear, mixed reality is here! Your MR glasses come to the rescue, floating names under faces. And, if you look at a face for a few seconds, your glasses will suggest a conversation starter based on something you discussed at a previous get-together.

Mixed reality’s potential is awesome. CEOs might want to take advantage of that potential.

In 2024, however, the only place they’ll see it will be in a few canned demos and the MCU.

3. Wearable computers

“Delay in Transit” is a 70-year-old short story written by science fiction writer F.L. Wallace. It described a wearable computer controlled by “subvocalized” commands, to which it responded with bone-conducted audio output.

I’ve wanted one ever since I read the story. Now that I’ve described it, you probably want one, too. And, sure, you can buy what are called “wearable computers.” But as they don’t offer much more than Dick Tracy’s wrist radio did, don’t describe Wallace’s 70-year-old vision to your CEO. They might want one too, probably with mixed reality capabilities, and 2024 will be disappointing enough.

4. Real reality is under siege

By now you, your parents, your cousin Felix the would-be social media influencer, not to mention your CEO, will all know all about deepfakes. What they won’t expect, because the credulous business writers they rely on haven’t figured it out, is that in 2024 deepfake content will begin filtering into the training datasets that make AI I. Yes, in the coming year we’re likely to find ourselves dealing with fake deepfakes.

So while your CEO might be hoping that generative AI and its ability to search vast volumes of information will help them understand their corner of the world better, they’ll be disappointed. Maybe they will get better data-driven insights. What they’ll need but probably won’t get are AI-based deepfake detectors, so they aren’t fooled by generative-AI-driven deceptions.

5. The cloud will save money

Okay, fair’s fair and fun’s fun. But few CEOs will be completely consumed by these semi-whimsical depictions of information technology’s future. They’ll continue to have practical concerns, too, like where all the money is that cloud computing was supposed to save them. Some disappointments, that is, are both evergreen and rooted in real reality. To the extent the cloud exists in some sort of reality, its promise to save money is one of them.

Why will it disappoint, once again in 2024? Because the cloud never did, and still won’t make sense as a general-purpose cost-saving measure.

It won’t because you can buy servers as cheaply as the cloud providers, and they need to add a profit margin when they charge you for using them.

What you should promise instead: Unlike on-premises infrastructure, the cloud lets IT easily add capacity in small increments when demand requires it. And — and this is the biggie — it also lets IT shed capacity when it isn’t needed. The result? When demand is seasonal or unpredictable the cloud truly does save money. But when demand is steady, or increases in demand are predictable, on-premises infrastructure costs less.

With the cloud, that is, fixed costs are small but incremental costs are big. The costs of on-premises systems are the opposite.

As if your CEO will have the patience to care. They’ll probably lack the patience to listen to your defensive explanations and will duck out of the room instead to re-watch Iron Man one more time.

Business IT Alignment, IT Leadership, IT Strategy

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