Most "looking back" pieces in IT publications focus on changes to tech trends that have taken place over the past year, or which new technology tools or methodologies debuted.
I'd like to take a different tact in this article. Instead of examining key trends in 2022 that relate to technologies themselves, this piece studies the ways in which non-technical developments — meaning events or trends that are not directly related to the IT industry — impacted technology over the past year, and vice versa.
Allow me to do that by examining four of the overarching non-technical trends of 2022, and how they converged with the technology industry.
2022 was certainly not the first year to see a war. But it was the first one during which a war broke out that captured the attention of global IT companies in a major way.
That war, of course, was the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022. From the first days of the conflict (which was arguably really just an expansion of an armed struggle that started in 2014), some tech companies demonstrated an eagerness to enter the fray.
They did that, in part, by ending operations in Russia — although that trend was not unique to IT companies; businesses of all types made similar moves toward the start of the war. What was more interesting were efforts by companies like Microsoft to support, participate in, or — at a minimum — report about cyberwar activities related to the conflict.
To me, this development is pretty fascinating because it suggests that, going forward, large IT companies will enjoy the ability to exert influence over geopolitical affairs in ways that would have been pretty unimaginable in the past. And they may be able to do it independently, without cooperating with governments. In that sense, 2022 set a totally new precedent — one that has perhaps been in the works for years, but that could be realized only with the outbreak of a war that IT companies actually care about.
You can debate whether a recession actually occurred — or is still occurring — in 2022. But what you can't really argue about is whether fears of a recession loomed. They did, and they have a profound impact on tech in multiple ways.
One was a sudden drying up of venture capital funding for startups. Startup funding is still out there, but it has become much scarcer than it once was. Arguably, this is a good thing because it means that companies with less-than-stellar ideas will no longer be led on by venture capitalists who are dying to toss cash at anyone with a pitch deck. But it could also slow the pace of innovation within the tech industry by making it harder for innovative startups to grow and bring their products to market.
Another way in which recession and rumors of recession impacted the IT industry in 2022 was by encouraging more investment in tools designed to cost-optimize IT infrastructure. To be sure, solutions like cloud cost-optimization tools are nothing new, but 2022 saw more interest in this domain. It also saw efforts to build cost-optimization tools that focus on new types of platforms, like Kubernetes, that don't benefit from traditional IT cost management and spending prediction solutions.
Supply Chain Crises
"Supply chain" remained a leading buzzword over the course of 2022, partly but not only because of the tech industry.
Much of the discussion of supply chains over the past year involved material supply chains, meaning those that move physical products from producers to consumers. Although material supply chain operations improved a bit in 2022 compared with 2021, they remained rocky, contributing to pervasive shipping delays and probably to inflation.
The tech industry, meanwhile, spent 2022 focused on another type of supply chain — the software supply chain, which is the set of software resources on which a business relies. Due to incidents like the SolarWinds attack, which highlighted the risks posed by insecure software supply chains, IT companies spent 2022 figuring out how to keep track of which software they use and to find vulnerabilities in that software.
In general, the crises involving the material supply chain and the software supply chain are distinct. The material supply chain has been beset by transportation problems that originated during the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas the software supply chain's main issue is security vulnerabilities.
Still, I suspect that software supply chain security wouldn't be the talk of the IT industry today if there weren't also so much discussion of protecting physical supply chains. The challenges surrounding both types of supply chains have converged to make stakeholders across a variety of industries acutely aware of the risks inherent in relying on products created by third parties, whether those products are physical materials or software source code.
Hiring and Recruitment Challenges
Companies continued to struggle to hire and retain workers in 2022, extending a trend that originated a year or two earlier.
The hiring challenge is not unique to the IT or tech industry. It affects companies across a variety of industries.
However, the impact of the hiring crisis is playing out in special ways within tech. For example, the tech industry in particular is now hampered by reports that some workers are "overemployed," meaning they are leveraging work-from-home policies to hold down multiple jobs at once. Overemployment is not totally unique to tech, but tech jobs lend themselves to the strategy in ways that most other roles don't. And given the challenges tech companies face in hiring workers, many are not particularly concerned about employees who hold multiple jobs as long as the employees are doing all of their jobs.
2022 also saw a significant increase in pay for jobs in fields like software development, a trend that probably reflects, in part, struggles by tech companies to recruit talented engineers. That's good news if you work in tech, where salaries were already pretty good before the 2022 pay hikes.
The IT industry wasn't responsible for trends like supply chain and hiring crises over the past year, but it has reacted to them in unique ways. And in certain cases — notably the Ukraine-Russia war — it has even been an active participant in key developments of 2022, setting major new precedents that will affect IT companies for years to come.
About the authorChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.