2017 IT predictions: When yesterday’s ‘big things’ go mainstream

IT work won’t change that drastically in the next year, says SysAid Technologies’ Sarah Lahav.

When IT commentators make predictions, they set the scene in a “rapidly changing world” where “the pace of innovation is accelerating,” “data is exploding,” and the “pressure to keep up” is unbearable. You’ve probably read those frenetic platitudes somewhere. They can distort the fact that IT work won’t change that drastically in the next year. And the next “big thing” won’t matter nearly as much as big things from five to ten years ago.   

That’s why I’d like to take a different angle on predictions for 2017. Rather than speculate on the next hype cycle, I’ll make predictions about ongoing trends. What will be unsexy yet vitally important in 2017? What technologies and practices are reaching their heyday?    Let’s examine four ongoing trends were once boiling hot. No matter how much our world changes in the next year, these trends will matter.

1. Cybersecurity finally confronts the IoT panic 

Ever since the Internet of Things (IoT) went mainstream, cybersecurity experts have sounded warning sirens. And justifiably so. Connecting automated cars, infrastructure, and health devices to the internet should give technologists pause. If we have such a hard time securing corporate networks, why would we do better with 6.4 billion IoT devices and counting?  IoT fears finally materialised on a massive scale. On October 21, 2016, Dyn, a major DNS host, suffered a massive DDoS attack. 

Major U.S. cities couldn’t access PayPal, Netflix, Twitter, Reddit, and dozens of other popular services. Security expert Brian Krebs reported that attackers used hacked IoT digital video recorders and IP cameras to fling traffic at Dyn’s servers. The episode brought worldwide attention to IoT threats. As a result, IoT companies will be under immense pressure to upgrade and prove their security approaches. Google, Uber, Tesla, and other pioneers in the self-driving car market will perhaps see the most scrutiny. If hackers took control of a self-driving taxi fleet, for instance, the results could be devastating. 

The several-year-old trend of crying danger at IoT will spur action in 2017. 

2. Companies save on cloud computing

Perhaps you’ve heard: everything in technology has gone, is going, or will be going to the cloud. On-premises infrastructure is heading the way of landlines and flash drives. The debate over security is over, and the cost-efficiency, convenience, agility, and other values of cloud computing haven’t been disputed in years. But companies haven’t necessarily saved money by switching to cloud services. That will change in 2017.   

For IT, the early years of cloud computing were like starting a fancy new hobby. Let’s say you get your scuba diving license and decide to purchase equipment. It’s easy to overbuy scuba gear because you don’t know from personal experience what you actually need. You buy a wetsuit that’s too thin, fins that are inefficient, and a scuba mask that hurts your face under pressure. A year later, you’ve bought more wetsuits, new fins, and a new mask.  

That is what companies experienced with the cloud. They signed up for the wrong services and then signed up for more to compensate. In 2017, they will replace, downgrade, or cancel cloud services that don’t make sense. Cloud will finally save money.

3. DevOps becomes a new normal

If you have ever searched or asked for a definition of “DevOps,” you know that no one has a straightforward answer. Some consider it a culture. Some boil it down to a set of processes and technologies for producing software. Others deem it a philosophy. It’s probably some combination of all three. A candid IT leader might say, “I don’t quite know how to define DevOps, but I know how my organisation does it.”   

That’s a sign that DevOps is maturing from a hip trend to something IT organisations just do – in their own way. Gartner estimated that by the end of 2016, 25 per cent of Global 2000 organisations would employ DevOps. Perhaps the number is much higher if we include organisations that have dabbled in DevOps or cherry-picked its principles.

Regardless of what DevOps is or isn’t, companies want to release software weekly, daily, or even multiple times per day without errors and downtime. They’ll adopt DevOps methodology insofar as it serves that goal. So, DevOps at a multichannel retailer won’t necessarily look like DevOps at a major social network. But DevOps will become so ubiquitous in 2017 that we’ll ignore the other ways to roll out software.   

4. Self-service help desks will stick

For years, IT departments thought that if people had knowledge bases, end-user portals, and Google, they’d troubleshoot their own problems. That didn’t pan out. Most people have continued to email, IM, or call help desks directly. In 2017, the self-service trend might finally have its heyday – thanks largely to Millennials. At SysAid, where we provide help desk and IT service management (ITSM) solutions, we find that Millennials dread phone calls. 

They’d rather troubleshoot independently and then submit digital tickets if necessary. PwC reports that Millennials will account for 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020, so their preferences matter. They’ve gained enough spending power and presence in businesses to make self-service viable.   For help desks, the challenge will be to bring Gen Xers and Baby Boomers along. 

IT teams will have to invest heavily in knowledge base content and make self-service more social so that users can learn from each other’s troubleshooting experiences. The service portal user interfaces will nudge people to search old or ongoing cases versus contact an IT person. While that might annoy Gen X and Baby Boomer users, it will save time and money for help desks.

Yesterday's big thing

In 2017, be mindful of the IT trends that were glorified and then forgotten. They didn’t disappear. When a steaming hot trend settles down, it becomes part of our day-to-day IT work. That’s when it deserves the most attention. The next big thing is just speculation – or wishful thinking.

Image Credit: GaudiLab / Shutterstock
Sarah Lahav,  current CEO and former VP of Customer Relations,
SysAid