IT leaders have witnessed dramatic changes to enterprise networking in the past decade. This is, in large part, a consequence of evolving business requirements. As digital strategy has become the gatekeeper to success for arguably any organization, the business’s growing appetite for building its own applications and services has sparked a number of disruptive trends — think cloud adoption, servitization of IT and more.
While we can spend an eternity speculating on the innovations of the coming decade, the principles that will shape them are already in front of us.
For leaders making dizzyingly future-looking decisions, keeping the following things in mind can help serve as a grounding force when strategizing for the future.
Here To Stay: The Accelerating Pace Of Change
IT leaders are being challenged to absorb increasingly unpredictable demands of the business at a predictable cost; the pace of change that drives this challenge is unlikely to slow. One person I spoke with, who works at a large financial institution, put it aptly when he said his organization has a five-year vision and strategy to get there — but expects that strategy to evolve in ways he is unable to predict. This will require continuous adaptation.
Architecting IT to adapt to accelerating change — be it increased cloud consumption, edge-based computing or different business models, such as the servitization of IT — will require a number of resolutions in the coming years.
Resigning to continuous rip-and-replace cycles will become untenable as new technology becomes legacy at a faster rate. Leaders will need to leverage their current infrastructure as much as possible and ensure that they are purposefully integrating — or choosing to isolate — new tech. Many of us have made the mistake (more than once) of choosing the best technology to meet greenfield requirements, only to realize it won’t integrate with the reality of our “brown” field. Last, leaders will need to select vendors based not only on present capabilities, but for their vision and propensity for ongoing partnership.
Here To Stay: The Blurring of Perimeters, Boundaries And Roles
Today, businesses demand that IT teams support increasingly mobile users and applications — and flexible resource consumption — in the face of more sophisticated threats. As applications, services and data are pulled away from the data center, security, compliance, governance and services will need to follow. Rising to this challenge will require that IT leaders stop assuming traditional delineations between teams, services, functions, technology stacks, collective skill sets and roles still exist.
This reality has already given rise to teams like DevOps, and even DevSecOps, but their state today is likely primitive compared to what the next decade of converging expectations of IT will bring. The prefix “Dev” will — and should — become redundant as every team becomes focused on rapidly driving scalable and secure services. On the solutions side, the predicted growth of the secure access service edge (SASE) model is also a natural evolution of the notion that IT’s historically distinct functions — in this case, network and network security — need to converge into common platforms. IT leaders will again need to think about reducing unnecessary disparities to improve IT’s ability to adapt.
Here To Stay: The Mounting Pressure Of Requirements
Governments and other regulatory bodies will only continue to push requirements around governance, privacy, security and more. In more traditional, static systems, solving these requirements was often an afterthought, or, at best, a parallel effort. This can no longer be the case.
IT leaders will need to more closely align their change management, compliance and security strategies to the pace of evolving requirements. In other words, they must use common systems to bake compliance into the foundational elements of infrastructure and applications. Leaders will also need to ensure their systems are providing the data and telemetry that can be used to continuously check for deviations or drift from those requirements, and continuously assess readiness for additional changes. Otherwise, important things will fall through the cracks.
Here To Stay: The Critical Role of Stakeholders
As IT’s list of influential stakeholders grows, leaders will continue to be challenged to manage them all. Failure to successfully sell initiatives up and down an organization will remain a strategic risk. Equally important will be an IT leader’s ability to rally traditionally separate groups, reskill experts and keep everyone’s confidence, from customers to employees to board members.
As we enter into the next decade, IT leaders should prepare their strategies with the idea that while technology evolves at a rapid pace, the principles that will ensure a successful IT strategy will stay largely the same. The key to an enduring strategy will continue to require that IT leaders don’t assume “new” will stay new, that they unify what and who can be unified, and that they remember people remain a critical factor in technology success. Keeping these principles in mind should help navigate our increasingly tumultuous world of IT.