Back in 2019, no one predicting IT trends for the following year could have foreseen the Black Swan scenario of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest impact on IT has been the large-scale shift to remote working. It has impacted many businesses, households, and individuals, and placed a major strain on IT departments with the transition to remote working almost overnight.
Most of these organisations have now realised that remote working is here to stay, and that their reliance on IT technologies and services will continue to grow immensely.
This means the ‘network edge’ has taken on new and significant importance. The point of access to a corporate network is no longer a tightly controlled company device, with two-factor authentication and bit locked disks connected over a VPN. In many cases, it’s now an insecure personal computer with none of the safeguards typically implemented on corporate devices, and an unsteady internet connection using a Wi-Fi router designed for home use.
So, against this background of momentous change, DDLS experts offer their predictions for developments in information technology, cybersecurity, and project management.
1: Rise of the distributed organisation
The more staff work remotely, the less an organisation can be associated with a particular location. In the extreme, where all workers are remote, that location ceases to exist.
As employers and employees alike realise the benefits of home working, many organisations will become increasing ‘locationless’. A Gartner survey found 88 per cent of Australian organisations had adopted some degree of home working as a result of COVID-19.
2: The future is very cloudy
The move to remote working has seen rapid uptake of collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, all of which are cloud based – but the increase in remote working has also led organisations to digitise and centralise many aspects of their operations, adding further momentum to the growth of cloud services.
In 2021, we expect to see significant growth in ‘distributed cloud’, also called edge computing: where the cloud infrastructure, and the resources it supports, are distributed throughout the network rather than being concentrated in large data centres.
One of the big advantages of distributed cloud is lower latency. This has been a longstanding barrier preventing some organisations from moving high-bandwidth applications to the cloud, especially IoT applications for real-time monitoring and control of industrial processes.
Also, many of the aforementioned applications produce masses of redundant data. Using processing power at the edge to filter out this data and forward only relevant data for processing can reduce data communication traffic, and therefore costs, significantly.
3: The Internet made me do it!
A controversial development expected to become increasingly prevalent in 2021 and beyond is the “Internet of Behaviours” (IoB).
This refers to the process of gathering information about individuals’ behaviour using technology, analysing their behaviour, and then using technology to influence it, for the benefit of that individual or to control them.
For example, IoB could monitor workers’ behaviour and identify and discourage unsafe practices such as bad driving. The idea is likely to be hotly debated and many applications fiercely resisted.
Gartner predicts that at least half the world’s population will be subject to at least one commercial or government IoB program by the end of 2025.
4: Certification in demand
The increasing shift of organisational resources to the cloud will inevitably increase the demand for the IT skills needed to undertake cloud migration and provide ongoing support for cloud-based IT. To ensure organisations have these necessary skills, they will increasingly look to hire IT professionals certified in the leading cloud services - AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform — and/or get their existing IT staff certified.
At DDLS, we’ve seen many more IT professionals wanting certification, and we’re predicting at least a 500 per cent increase in cloud certification in 2021, compared to 2020.
5: The growing cybersecurity skills gap
With remote workers accessing sensitive corporate resources from devices they have neither the tools nor skills to manage, we will see a significant increase in successful cyberattacks.
There will be a growing realisation that, to protect an organisation from a cyberattack, every individual employee will need some level of awareness, for example the ability to spot things like phishing emails. As a result, many organisations will implement a bottom-up approach to cyber-awareness and cyber-resilience training, making it mandatory for all staff.
The increasing demand for cybersecurity skills will see more IT professionals upgrade their skills with cybersecurity training. Furthermore, more staff from non-IT backgrounds will transition into cybersecurity careers, via appropriate training courses.
At DDLS, demand for all levels of cybersecurity training has grown significantly: from general cyber awareness training for everyone from the forklift driver to the CEO, to advanced certifications like CISSP, and tactical skills certifications like Certified Ethical Hacker.
6: Spike in cloud security training specifically
The increased use of cloud services will in turn result in more cybersecurity breaches. The subsequent shortage of cloud skills will see some organisations’ data exposed through cloud misconfigurations, poor setups and inadequate security practices. Organisations that implemented cloud services in a rush at the start of the pandemic will be particularly at risk.
As a result, many businesses will be in catchup mode in 2021 and will invest heavily in cloud security training for specific employees. Cloud adoption will continue to grow in 2021 as organisations discover how on-demand services and scalability can support their digital transformation initiatives and reduce costs, further increasing demand for cloud security training specifically.
7: Governance and project management come to the fore
Managing projects requires close collaboration and cooperation between many individuals. The shift to remote working and the removal of face-to-face communication has made project management much more challenging. In 2021, organisations will adjust to this new way of working and implement remote work governance principles and guidelines to maintain and improve project management under a remote working environment.
Many organisations have brought forward and revised projects as a result of COVID-19, and made many changes to their workplace policies and practices. All these changes have increased the need for skilled and certified project managers. DDLS therefore expects to see increased demand for project management training and accreditations, such as ITIL 4, DevOps, Agile and SCRUM.
8. Agile to oust PRINCE2 as top project management methodology
PRINCE2 project management courses were once the most popular training option, but Agile courses are now as popular as, and in some case more popular than PRINCE2. We expect Agile will overtake PRINCE2 as the preferred approach to project management by the end of 2021.
2021 and beyond
Amid the tumult of 2020, Australian organisations were able to make a rapid shift to remote working, implement new team management techniques, and beef up their cybersecurity. They successfully used technology to achieve their goals and will continue to do so in 2021.