It's that time of year again when tech pros start to make decisions about where their priorities will need to be for the year ahead.

Given how quickly the tech world moves, it's vital that businesses stay up to date with the latest developments and understand how it will affect them, their industry, their customers and their employees.

Here are five of the top trends and technologies we think should be on CIOs' minds over the next 12 months.

1. Increasing speed

One key feature will be the demand to get processes completed more quickly than ever. This will actually encompass a number of different solutions, from agile development that can reduce time-to-market for new applications, to the need to have fast connections throughout the network in order to streamline day-to-day operations and ensure employees can work as efficiently as possible.

2. Getting on board with AI 

This may not be immediately obvious, but artificial intelligence (AI) has a wide range of applications for businesses. It's about much more than just creating tools that can hold a conversation and pass the Turing test (meaning a robot is indistinguishable from a human).

Potential uses for the technology include advanced chatbots that can serve as the first port of call in a customer service department, as well as advanced analytics processes that review huge amounts of data and make decisions accordingly without the need for human input. In fact, IDC estimates that by 2019, 40 per cent of all digital initiatives will be supported by AI capabilities.

3. A maturing cloud

Cloud isn't exactly a new technology any more, and it has now been around long enough that even the most sceptical businesses have had a chance to experience what it can offer. This is why it'll be in such high demand next year.

Figures from 451 Research suggest businesses will devote more than a third of their tech budgets (34 per cent) to the technology next year - up six percentage points from 2016.

4. Embracing the IoT

Hyped for a number of years by many as the next big thing for the technology sector, it is likely that 2017 will be the year that will see an explosion of interest in the Internet of Things (IoT), as more people become familiar with its capabilities - both in the workplace and in people's personal lives, as the solutions underpin many elements of the connected home. 

In the business world, connected sensors will make their way into companies across a wide range of sectors, which will in turn require investment in strong connectivity solutions in order to ensure they work effectively.

5. The need for more storage

One consequence of trends such as IoT is that 2017 will see businesses generate even more data than in previous years. While much of this will only be needed short-term, there will still be a large amount of information that needs to be stored and accessed at a later date, so it will be vital for businesses to have strong solutions, either on-premises or in the cloud.

IoT will be far from the only source of additional data, however, and it's a trend that's set to affect all sectors. In the public sector, for instance, research by Dell EMC suggests data storage will be a key spending priority for IT departments, with 64 per cent making this a priority for the year ahead.

To conclude 2017 looks to be another exciting and fast paced year for the tech world!

Duncan Gooding, Chief Operating Officer, TalkTalk Business