2022 has been a tumultuous year impacting all aspects of business as we emerged from the pandemic and dealt with issues such as supply chain, employee recruitment/retention, and a return to at least some in-person work and meetings. Beyond the pandemic, these issues have been exacerbated by natural disasters, war, and highly partisan politics.
As a business executive, what IT trends should you be looking at to prepare for and succeed in 2023? In this blog, we’ll introduce the trends we see as impacting businesses in 2023, and in the coming months, we’ll expand on these trends and talk about how you can turn them into advantages.
Supply Chain Will Improve, but not Anytime Soon
First and foremost, no one sees the supply chain improving dramatically – at least in the short term. The situations with Russia and China are continuing, and the resulting shocks to the global supply chain will not abate quickly. Intel, for example, has committed to repatriating significant IC fabrication capabilities, but these will not come online for some time. Our supply chain will improve but will not be solved in 2023.
As a result, what can CIOs do in 2023?
Trend #1: Look at Vendor Diversity
To compensate for long lead times from major vendors, we see some enterprises substitute products that are more readily available. Sometimes this impacts the design, such as separating IPS, IDS, and FW capabilities from an integrated NGFW design into components that are more available. Sometimes these are new vendors for the enterprise, but in some cases can be different products from established vendors.
The goal is bringing delayed projects forward, which solves for both productivity and in many cases improved security. Significant issues come from End of Life/End of Support (EOL/EOS) devices and having solutions that can be supported is infinitely better than running on unsupported devices even when the new solutions may not be an organization’s desired end state. Understanding and managing the accumulation of technical debt will be important.
Trend #2: Consider Projects that do not Require Equipment
Moving a service into the cloud or SaaS can replace on-premises-based solutions, but for some companies in specific industries dedicated hardware is often required. On the compute side, vendors such as AWS and Equinix provide Bare Metal as a Service, where dedicated compute exists to be leased. This can replace back-ordered compute systems and can be deployed quickly.
Care needs to be taken, but solutions exist for moving discrete functions in this direction, and we believe more CIOs will look at these alternatives in 2023.
Employee Recruitment and Retention
On the HR front, employers are encountering headwinds, IT projects are understaffed and often behind schedule. Some of this is wrapped up in the equipment supply chain situation but we are also encountering historic levels of employee shortages. Just where did all the employees go from the pre-Covid era? This is a complicated question and for those people looking for work in an era of historically low unemployment, employers will have to be flexible.
How can CIOs handle this situation?
Trend #3: Be Flexible on a Return to the Office
It’s an employee market today and many are exercising their newfound power to say no to employers looking to undo remote work. Most employers went remote in 2020, but many did not manage it well. This has led to boards and senior management wanting to improve productivity by returning to the office. This is reactive and may not be a solution for productivity. .
The so called ‘quiet quitting’ issue is a major problem, but we feel this can be better managed in a hybrid environment using appropriate collaboration tools. Immersive environments using Cisco’s Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack and other tools can be created to promote teamwork and track individual involvement and effort.
However, some key changes in people management will also be required – tools cannot replace normal management responsibilities. Managers who cannot physically monitor their employees must adapt to using online systems to replace the informal coffee and water cooler discussions of the past. Being flexible in policies and leveraging technology to adapt the work to the conditions will continue to be an important trend in 2023.
Trend #4: Make your Company a Better Place to Work
Attracting new employees is difficult – especially for IT Infrastructure skills. Some ways to solve this is engaging employees with professional development, tying their personal brands to corporate goals, and helping them get recognized. At NetCraftsmen, we encourage professional development, bonus employees on achieving industry certifications and encourage blogging. The bottom line is making your prospective employees see that your firm as providing both a peer-group they can learn from and a place where they will prosper.
In 2023, successful IT organizations will adapt and make their employees part of the success of the organization, not just a number.
Trend #5: Develop Experts, Don’t Just Hire Them
As stated, it’s an employee market today and attracting highly trained, experienced new employees is difficult, but what about developing your own?
As an example, experienced cybersecurity employees are in short supply, but few companies will hire new graduates let alone train people from adjacent fields. Yes, you need an analyst with 5+ years of Splunk experience, but so do 1,500 other companies in your geography. This is a zero-sum game, and you will be fighting those other employers for talent – while they are trying to recruit your people.
Executives should consider co-op programs, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training programs to develop new staff. Think about assigning mentors to your junior employees. In 2023, the successful organizations will be creative about the seeds they plant and how they nurture the growth of their employees.
Existing, over worked, employees should embrace a hybrid approach. They will return to the office at times to mentor and develop new employees. Why would they? Because these newly trained employees are needed to assist with the backlog of work and projects. The result will be a more engaged workforce with higher retention.
The final trends are in the technology specific space:
Trend #6: Drive Productivity with Automation, Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
It’s difficult to find qualified employees, so how do we drive efficiencies for the people we have? This is where automation and new technologies such as AI and ML can help. Automating the operation of networks and security systems is a good first step. This improves both the quality and quantity of work associated with operational change. Software from Ansible (RedHat) and Terraform (HashiCorp) can form the basis of automation efforts that span the IT infrastructure.
We can also use AI & ML technologies to reduce and enhance other work. For example, security analysts have a lot of logs to review, so much that sometimes it’s impossible to review all incidents. Too often in root cause analysis (RCA) reports we find the data was there, but the signal was lost in the noise.
Software from Moogsoft, BigPanda and others can reduce the noise in the telemetry stream, permitting additional attention on the remaining data. As you become more used to such systems, they can be adjusted to start proactively responding to well-known issues. In 2023, more tools will be implemented and integrated to leverage automation, AI, and ML to drive productivity with the same (or smaller) workforce.
Trend #7: Invest in Digital Experience Monitoring (DXM)
It’s not just work that has gone hybrid, it’s also our applications. In many enterprise environments, even when the application is still in the corporate data center, the user is qualified through a cloud-based identity management system such as Azure AD or Okta. Cloud, Multi-Cloud and SaaS based applications interact with on-premises systems at an unprecedented scale and troubleshooting access and performance issues has become very complicated.
Systems from CatchPoint, Cisco ThousandEyes, and others replace on-premises based solutions with instrumentation in the cloud, SaaS, and ISP locations in a highly distributed manner. The results will often illustrate issues outside of the enterprise’s direct control. This data can then be used to improve service delivery.
For example, one NetCraftsmen client saw issues with Internet connectivity beyond their first hop ISPs. Adding new ISP peering improved performance dramatically. In another case we identified an issue within O365 that was being perceived as a ‘Network Issue’, identifying the problem as being a Microsoft issue permitted the team to escalate appropriately.
NetCraftsmen itself, along with other MSPs, can provide DXM as a Service, permitting rapid adoption with no Capex. Tools as a Service will be a fast-growing trend to watch in 2023.
Trend #8: Consolidate Your OT/IoT into the Overall IT Strategy
Previously outside of IT, the Internet of Things (IoT) and related Operational Technology (OT) systems are being looked at as data sources that can provide insight to executives on improving business value. A typical business use of OT is with SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems used in factories or other process intensive environments such as chemical plants, refineries, water treatment facilities and power plants. Recently, artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled real-time analysis of data from physical devices to facilitate process improvements, preventive maintenance, and improved reliability.
However, as they become increasingly connected, these OT/IoT systems are significantly more vulnerable to attack. As a result, IT executives are being tasked with segmentation and security strategies for protecting these systems (and providing protection to traditional IT assets from these systems). In 2023, we’ll see successful IT organizations bringing OT/IoT into the core IT solution set.
NetCraftsmen is ready to help your teams understand the investments needed to look at emerging technology holistically. Contact us to see how NetCraftsmen experts can help ensure your IT infrastructure gets healthy, stays healthy and remains responsive to your business.