Backwards into the Future: Eight Trends for 2020 That Are Already Here

Written by Tim Haight

I'm VP of Technology Services for CGNET. I love to travel and do IT strategic planning.

December 19, 2019

My crystal ball seems to have a mirror stuck in it. The more I try to envision the technology trends that will affect our clients in 2020, the more I come up with what I’m seeing today.

For years, my approach to predictions was to look at the exciting technologies on the horizon and to extrapolate how they would enter our clients’ IT. If you want this kind of analysis, get Gartner’s “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020.” It gives you a lot to think about, but it doesn’t really address next year all that well.

Much of my conservatism is based on who most of our clients are. Except for three or four large organizations, they have staffs of less than 100. Many have less than 50. They lack the IT resources to do application development, in all but a few cases, and they can’t justify spending lots on creating sophisticated content (such as augmented reality) because their client bases also are relatively small. So the stuff they get trickles down and arrives later.

Nevertheless, I was able to come up with eight “trends.” In no particular order, here we go.

The Short End of the Cloud

We’ve been migrating to the cloud for some time now, and most of us have followed the 80-20 rule. We’ve done the parts of the migration requiring the least effort and providing the most benefit. Now were left with the harder stuff that still must be done.

A couple of examples. One of our larger clients has an on-prem Oracle database that is hooked up to perhaps a dozen applications. Moving it is not simple, so it’s been left until now, while other migration projects have gone ahead.  Another example is a couple of clients who want to migrate their file servers, but also want to reorganize their content. The move is easy. The content reorganization requires a lot of staff participation, so it’s hard.

Suing for Non-Support

Many of our smaller clients don’t have in-house IT staff, so they depend on local IT support providers. A few of them have not been happy with the help they’re getting. They haven’t really sued, but they have switched vendors. Why this is a trend is because it stems from other trends, which I expect to continue.

Many local IT support vendors provide two kinds of service: help desk support and maintenance of the client’s infrastructure. With the move to the cloud, much of that infrastructure is going away, and what is left doesn’t require much maintenance. Meanwhile, the move to the cloud, and issues of cloud security, mean that the focus of maintenance changes to things like directory services, to which some vendors have not paid enough attention. Also, remote help desk services are rarely popular.

Second, clients’ interests have turned to more strategic IT issues, such as what new apps to adopt, policies, and a bunch of things about their users (more about this below). Some local support providers haven’t kept up on the switch.

For local providers, it’s change or die.

The Enemy Is Us

In most cases, the big block to improving organizational effectiveness is people. It can be a question of poor adoption, or simply taking the time to get trained, or not falling for social engineering. It can be not wanting to help design a new content management system. More and more, the successful IT manager has to be able to manage, or somehow incentivize, people. Perhaps this is a major trend now because some of the infrastructure and software problems are less severe.

Hackers Never Sleep

We’ve known for a few years now that organizations need more than firewalls and anti-virus. Most clients have taken first steps to address this, but there’s always more to do. The move to the cloud, in particular, means new security concerns. While infrastructure security may become the cloud vendor’s responsibility, issues in applications, authentication and access become more important.

Goodbye, VPN

Using VPNs for remote access has often been a pain for all but the most skilled and patient users. In addition, brute force attacks on remote desktop solutions have succeeded all too often. Rather than address the issues, most of our clients are just moving their files to the cloud.

This Old Server

It’s getting harder to find files, as the sheer volume of documents increases. The ideal solution would be a shiny new content management system in the cloud with a new folder system and metadata to speed searches. For many, however, the effort to get the necessary staff participation in the system’s design is too much, so half-measures get adopted. The files get moved to the cloud with no change in their structure. In some cases, a retention policy is followed, and, at least, useless files get purged. Right or wrong, this will continue to be an issue.

Knowing Your Data
Both security and privacy concerns are causing organizations to take the time to find out exactly what data they’re storing. This can be labor-intensive, so it can happen slowly. It’s only going to get more important, however, since privacy laws are beginning to give users rights to their data on your systems, and, on the other side, good security requires knowing what to protect.

Joining Systems That Can Scale

Artificial intelligence and big data seem more appropriate for large organizations and developers. The smaller organization may find, however, that by examining datasets outside the organization, possibly in partnerships, you can do useful analysis.

Written by Tim Haight

I'm VP of Technology Services for CGNET. I love to travel and do IT strategic planning.

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