Digital. Analytics. The cloud. The renaissance of core systems. The changing role of IT within the enterprise.

What do they have in common? They're the five macro forces that continue to drive enormous transformation, according to Deloitte’s recently released sixth Technology Trends report.This year's annual report digs into eight current technology trends, ranging from the impact connectivity and analytics are having on digital marketing to the evolving role of the CIO.

Within the next two years, "each of these trends could potentially disrupt the way businesses engage their customers, how work gets done, and how markets and industries evolve," according to Deloitte's CTO Bill Briggs and Craig Hodgetts, US National Managing Director, Technology.

Just Do It

Briggs and Hodgett think "the time to act is now ... don’t be caught unaware or unprepared."

"In the coming fiscal year or next, how will you apply what you learn to develop a response plan, and how will you act on your plan? More importantly, how can you leverage these trends and disruptive technologies to help chart your company’s future?" they ask.

With questions like that to answer, let's get right to the point. Here are the trends they say are too important to ignore.

1. Recognize the changing role of the CIO

The role of the CIO is evolving rapidly, with integration at the core of its mission. The study notes:

CIOs need to harness emerging disruptive technologies for the business while balancing future needs with today's operational realities. They should view their responsibilities through an enterprise-wise lens to help ensure critical domains such as digital, analytics, and cloud aren't spurring redundant, conflicting, or compromised investments within departmental or functional silos."

To remain relevant , CIOs should put their internal technology houses in order, leverage advances in science and emerging technologies to drive innovation, and reimagine their own roles to focus less on technology management and more on business strategy.

CIOs can play a vital role in any business transformation, but doing so typically requires that they first build a solid foundation of IT knowledge and establish a reputation for dependably keeping the operation running, Stephen Gillett, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Symantec, noted in the report. Gillett also warned CIOs about moving too quickly in their evolving day-to-day operations, noting that small, incremental change is better than a drastic overhaul.

2. Embrace the API economy

Application programming interfaces or APIs are a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. They play key roles in some of the most successful companies today across multiple industries — Salesforce, Google, Paypal, Expedia, Zillow and Netflix, among them.

In the past, however, API's largely fell in the realm of research and development (R&D) and/or IT. Today, however, APIs can also be used by those with even limited tech knowledge. “APIs started as enablers for things companies wanted to do but their thinking is now evolving to the next level. APIs themselves are becoming the product or the service companies deliver,” Jyoti Bansal, founder and CEO of AppDynamics, noted in the report.

"APIs have been elevated from a development technique to a business model driver and boardroom consideration. An organization’s core assets can be reused, shared, and monetized through APIs that can extend the reach of existing services or provide new revenue streams," it explains.

APIs should be treated like a product or a service — everyone should get a seat at the table to understand their use and potential revenues streams.

3. Capitalize on the Internet of Things

Here's the objective: Bring smarter “things” together with analytics, security, data, and integration platforms to make the disparate parts work seamlessly with each other. Ambient computing is the backdrop of sensors, devices, intelligence, and agents that can put the Internet of Things (IoT) to work.

"The IoT makes it possible to reduce — and potentially eliminate — unexpected maintenance costs by sensing and monitoring everything happening within a working device, whether it be a jet engine, medical device, or distribution system. Rather than reacting to mechanical or system breakdowns, engineers could work proactively to address problems before they become full-blown malfunctions,” noted Richard Soley, Chairman and CEO of Object Management Group.

Since maintenance costs are often one of the biggest business costs and malfunctioning equipment can disrupt business processes, reducing or eliminating them will have a direct effect on bottom lines. Businesses may even be able to offer products and services at lower prices while still turning a profit.

4. Reinvent Marketing

Forget that old idea of marketing as a one-way street. Today marketing is largely digital — and heavily invested in engagement, connectivity, data and technology.

"Today’s marketing is a multifaceted entity with hooks into all steps of the business and product cycle. With the customer as the main actor, the business aims to integrate engagement, connectivity, information, and technology in order to create a personalized, contextualized experience," the report notes.

In this new customer-focused, data-driven environment, marketing is mission-critical: It's all about delivering personalized, engaging experiences across all channels. (But we're guessing you know this by now.)

5. Acknowledge software-defined everything

Interestingly enough, just as we began discussing software-defined systems, Deloitte researchers noted that enterprises should pay close attention to software-defined everything.

The entire operating environment — server, storage, and network — can now be virtualized and automated. The data center of the future represents the potential for not only lowering costs, but also dramatically improving speeds and reducing the complexity of provisioning, deploying, and maintaining technology footprints. Software-defined everything can elevate infrastructure investments, from costly plumbing to competitive differentiators," the report explains.

Beyond cost savings and improved productivity, software-defined everything can create a foundation for building agility into the way companies deliver IT services, it continues.

6. Rethink your core IT systems

Core systems drive process and data automation, standardization, and intelligence — and represent important legacy investments. To maintain the relevancy of everything from policy administration, claims management and billing in insurance; order management, resource planning and manufacturing for consumer and industrial products; inventory management, pricing and distribution for retail; and universal needs such as finance and human resources, embrace the four Rs: replatform, remediate, revitalize and replace.

Modernize your core technologies with the best hardware available and the latest releases of applications. Remediating problems and repair technical issues such as security leaks or poor data quality. Revitalize by adding new functionality such as the ability to accept mobile payments. And replace aging or redundant technology to suit the current business climate.

7. Investigate advanced analytics

Companies are applying machine learning and predictive modeling to increasingly massive and complex data sets. Artificial intelligence is now a reality.

"When built to enhance an individual’s knowledge and deployed seamlessly at the point of business impact, advanced analytics can help amplify our intelligence for more effective decision making," the report states. "Analytics engines derive the structure of a query, as well as its intent, through parsing, semantic search, synonyms, and most importantly, context—building upon insight gained through previous queries and cues from behavior, surroundings, and knowledge of business processes."

8. Cultivate a new breed of IT workers

Retiring baby boomers will open up 31 million new positions by 2020, adding to a labor shortage that could leave more than a million science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs unfilled. To attract and retain talent, employers should strive to create rewarding work environments. They should also recognize that the IT worker of the future may have different skill sets, from diverse backgrounds in fields such as graphic design, writing, psychology and anthropology.