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Investments in IT have clearly been a major driver of the modern economy. But as solution providers gear up for 2017, the biggest opportunity is not going to be centered around any one technology as much as it will focus on turning visions of digital business transformations into reality.

Most organizations have historically employed IT to lower costs by turning paper-based processes into digital ones that are less expensive to complete. But instead of merely replicating those processes in a digital format, businesses are now keenly interested in driving new sources of revenue by using new digital processes made possible by advances in technologies such as natural language interfaces and machine learning algorithms.

“Business and IT are working together to create an innovation agenda,” said Matt Joe, ‎global innovation lead and chief technology innovation officer in North America for Avanade, a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft that focuses on solutions based on Microsoft technologies. “We’ve gotten past the technology conversation.”

As part of that agenda, Joe said, businesses are open to creating all kinds of digital experiences using everything from new ways to visualize data to augmented reality applications.

In fact, Forrester Research said that in 2017, budgets specifically allocated for digital transformation will top the billion-dollar mark. To an industry that generates multiple trillions of dollars in revenue, that might not seem like much. But those digital business transformation projects are driving net new investments in everything from mobile applications and advanced analytics to infrastructure-as-a-service and IT security.

Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, senior vice president for partner programs and enablement at Salesforce, said the provider of cloud application services is having a challenging time keeping up with the pace of demand. “We need to increase the number of people certified on our solution by 50 percent in 2017,” she said.

Salesforce, notes Taychakhoonavudh, is looking to increase the number of partners it has by 18 to 20 percent. To increase its market reach even further, Salesforce hopes its existing partners will hire more talent. To accelerate that process, the company has set up the Salesforce Ignite program to train IT solution provider personnel on how to employ Salesforce technologies. It also created a venture capital arm that invests in solution providers that want to expand their Salesforce practices.

Digital Transformation Impacts Tech Budgets

Jason Hayman, market research manager for TEKsystems, an IT solutions provider, said that all this interest in digital transformation is helping to increase the total amount of spending, while starting to narrow the historic divide between IT and the business. In all, a recent IT spending survey of more than 700 IT leaders conducted by TEKsystems finds that 49 percent expect their IT budgets to grow in 2017. That’s a three-year high for this study.

“Digital transformation is well under way,” said Hayman. ‘There’s a lot more confidence in IT.”