This week in the United States, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a time to reflect on the good things in life, and for anyone who’s had a rough year, that reflection can be a very positive experience. The IT industry has experienced quite a bit of turmoil throughout the past few years, and 2016 was no exception. However, there are some signs that IT is finding its identity in the cloud/mobile era. Some of the recent disruptive trends are actually cause for gratitude as they will help IT pros define their roles in the future. That should help create happy thoughts, especially for anyone who gets called away from the dinner table for a critsit.
1. IT complexity. The consumerization of IT has masked an important fact—behind the scenes, technology is getting more and more complex. Consider a few examples: cloud computing can simplify individual applications, but managing a multi-cloud architecture is poised to be a major challenge. Mobile apps are redefining software usage, but the work of designing and optimizing for a mobile space goes beyond traditional development efforts. Natural language processing and artificial intelligence are opening new interfaces for end users, but those tools introduce new layers to the technology delivery stack.
A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that only 5% of the population across 33 developed countries had high computer-related abilities. Only one third of the sample could complete medium-complexity tasks. Digital literacy has gone up, but only at a surface level since so much abstraction has been inserted. As companies have higher expectations based on consumer experience and peer comparison, there will have to be a matching level of technical skill that can build the systems that deliver the best experiences.
2. Security breaches. It’s hard to believe, but we’re coming up on the third anniversary of the infamous Target breach. At the time, it felt like the incident would lead to a new wave of security awareness responding to new forms of attack and new motivations by attackers. That hasn’t quite been the case—while security has remained a hot topic, public awareness of massive breaches has dropped and most companies still haven’t revolutionized their approach to security.
The recent DDoS attack on Dyn got security back on the radar screen, but it’s still not the tipping point. Many experts pointed out that the use of unsecured IoT devices was predictable, and a look back at the past three years shows that none of the companies that have made headlines have suffered catastrophic loss of business. The breaches will keep coming, and there will be a gradual increase in security investments until the tipping point is reached—at which point security skills will be more in demand than ever.
3. Rogue IT. CompTIA’s latest cloud study found continued momentum for a trend that we have seen over the past few years: business units are increasingly driving procurement of technology. Especially for SaaS applications that serve a very specific function—such as HR management or financial management—business units are using their own budgets to explore options, work with third parties, and choose solutions.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The study also found momentum for another trend: business units have a strong desire to partner with IT throughout the decision process. Even if business departments are driving procurement by setting requirements and driving timelines, 40% allow the IT team to have final approval, 36% ask the IT team to consult on the decision, and 10% inform the IT team about the initiative. IT can leverage this partnership to ensure smooth integration and maintain a cohesive direction for the technology strategy of the organization.
4. Internet of Things. IoT has been this year’s buzzword, and it looks like it will still be making headlines for the foreseeable future. Like any buzzword, there has been backlash. People might not understand the business applications or they might just think the name is a silly marketing ploy.
The reality is that the Internet of Things is digitizing the physical world, and this digitization will accelerate issues around complexity, security, and business unit independence. There will be new skills to learn for IoT systems, but strong technical backgrounds will go a long way in early adoption stages. CompTIA’s IoT research found that 60% of companies are already experimenting with IoT and another 23% expect to start experimenting in the next year, so there will be plenty of opportunities for IT pros to play critical roles in building new systems.
5. Turkey. Always turkey.