At the beginning of every year, CompTIA publishes a report projecting the direction for the IT industry and the forces we expect to shape the tech landscape. This year, our IT Industry Outlook 2018 comes at a very interesting time: Businesses everywhere have accepted that technology is a critical ingredient to their future success, but they are also seeing some pitfalls and hurdles standing in the way of future adoption.
This creates a unique situation for IT pros. On one hand, their talents are needed more than ever before. As productivity is dependent on connectivity and decisions are based on data, the ability to maintain systems and extract value from technology is critical. On the other hand, a lot of non-technical people now know enough to be dangerous. Expectations have changed drastically thanks to consumer devices, and IT pros need to bridge the gap between these expectations and reality.
Building on momentum from previous years, 2018 opened with a sense of optimism and a series of questions. Which new technologies will be broadly adopted? How will businesses adjust to a new view of IT? What skill mix will be needed for the future? And, perhaps most importantly, how will the technology industry evolve now that it has reached this point? CompTIA’s research doesn’t have the final answer to every question, but the Outlook study does offer insight into where things are headed.
The Major Trends of 2018 Highlight the Complexity of Modern Business.
In the study, CompTIA identifies 12 trends that will be in the headlines throughout the year. From a technology perspective, IT conversations will be dominated by cloud, IoT, AI and security. For those businesses that make their money off technology, there will be business model adjustments to account for subscription pricing and as-a-service offerings. And in the broader economy, changes will be felt from the boardroom all the way down to “new collar” jobs that leverage technology in new ways.
Clearly, IT is not just happening in the server room anymore. Rather than merely playing a support role, technology is now deeply intertwined with daily operations and long-term objectives. With so many new technologies promising even further disruption, it is critical to build a solid foundation of architecture and skills before launching on new endeavors.
The IT Industry Will Continue its Growing Ways.
CompTIA’s Business Confidence Index dropped a little from its all-time high but remains very positive. This tracks with other measures of sentiment, such as the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index and the NFIB Index of Small Business Optimism. Thanks in part to this wave of good feelings, CompTIA expects the global IT industry to grow at a rate of 5% in 2018.
Of course, there is always the possibility of a shift in momentum. Aside from major market events that may occur, the technology industry has a few of its own problems to grapple with. Serious security breaches and data privacy violations create growing skepticism. The lack of diversity across the industry draws attention to exclusionary behavior. And the societal impact of certain technologies is being called into question. As tech’s capabilities rise, we must find better ways to understand the ripple effects.
Demand for Technical Skills Across Many Job Types Remains High.
As companies build more and more plans that rely on technology, they find more and more areas where they need to supplement their existing skills or partnerships. The number of core IT job posts tracked by Burning Glass Labor Insights has dropped from a high point in 2015, but there is still healthy activity as firms search for talent. Emerging roles such as machine learning trainer, industrial IoT engineer and user experience designer are all highly specialized, and businesses will have to consider their internal training strategies when the ideal candidates are hard to find.
Core IT work is only part of the equation, though. Many jobs that have traditionally been non-technical now require some working knowledge of technology. This knowledge goes beyond the use of endpoint devices for daily tasks and gets into how systems are put together. Why is this level of skill needed? Employees within business units are driving procurement, analyzing data, and building plans that involve innovative use of technology. They need to become familiar with the basic building blocks of the IT framework, and IT workers need to help build solutions that meet the business needs.
Now that technology is directly in the spotlight, what are the best moves for IT pros? First, they must determine how to provide value in a digital organization. There are new metrics for success; in addition to system uptime and response to help desk tickets, IT pros will be measured on how well the technology advances business interests. Second, there must be a focus on skill development. Foundational knowledge in areas such as networks, security, and data management is the starting point—and these areas will certainly continue to evolve—and that foundation then leads to skills in emerging areas. Finally, IT pros must accept a greater degree of responsibility when pushing into new areas. The tech industry is experiencing some backlash as new models have unintended consequences, and it is important to start thinking broadly about possible implications.
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