By Adrian Overall, CEO CloudStratex
For the IT and tech industry, the various triumphs and tribulations that comprised 2021 can be summarised and encapsulated by a single word: disruption. In one sense, this might be seen as an observation so self-evident as to be barely worth mentioning at all.
After all, what person, business, or country hasn’t felt the disruptive influence of the pandemic, often to quite substantial degrees?
However, when it comes to IT and tech, there’s more than one way to assess the impact disruption, a word which can mean both an inconvenient interruption of normal processes and – especially in tech – radical change and innovation.
To fully understand the key trends of 2021 – and to offer a more meaningful reflection on what 2022 has in store for the industry – it’s therefore important to reflect on both meanings of ‘disruption.’ On the one hand, we’re seeing innovative new avenues towards efficiency and exciting advancements towards next-generation IT.
On the other hand, these innovations are set against a backdrop of a global pandemic, which – as Omicron demonstrates – is far from over. This is a potent reminder that disruptions (in the sense of interruptions) need to be guarded against, even as innovation needs to be sought after.
In essence, this means that any reflections on the coming year must account for an ever-increasing need for resilience in the face of future disturbances, as we work to embrace ‘disruption’ as a truly double-edged sword.
New year, new norm
In those early days of the Pandemic in March 2020, many IT organisations had to mobilise a massive shift of their staff to working from home. Some benefited from the past investments they had made in virtual desktop technology, while other scrabbled to lay their hands on whatever laptops they could order – often at great cost. What is clear two years later is that shift to hybrid working is not temporary:- it has become the new norm and needs to be embraced and optimised. In fact a study in the US by Stanford of 16,000 workers over 9 months found that working from home increases productivity by 13%.
This a great example of disruption potentially enabling a significant change in the workforce, but Enterprise IT functions need to step up to provide a long term technology solution that ensures their workers capitalise on that new work environment. They also need to provide fundamentally different IT user support models, while ensuring that they protect against the new threats from a highly distributed workforce. After all, the bad actors also see disruption as an opportunity (although in their case to wreak cyber havoc).
The pandemic has also meant that many businesses have had to refocus their business (the shift to on-line retail; food delivery and the increased importance of real-time logistics are all great examples). The winners over the past two years have been those organisations that have been able to adapt the fastest to launch new products and offerings, or to deliver new research & innovation.
For Enterprise IT functions, enabling this means being able to rapidly mobilise to deliver new, scalable cloud platforms that can support business growth; new mobile devices consuming IoT; new networks to enable rapid communication from supplier to partners and to consumers; and new service operation models to ensure operational efficiency.
Though this kind of catalyst for innovation represents the best of IT and tech disruption, it would be remiss to ignore the potential for the more negative kind of disruption that 2022 will undoubtedly bring.
The unceremonious arrival of Omicron is a stark reminder that the pandemic simply isn’t over yet – and, given that CDC figures suggest Omicron is the dominant strain of COVID in the US, it’s clear that the tides can change in a matter of weeks.
In light of this more troubling kind of disruption, Enterprise IT functions need to focus, not just on innovation, but on resilience. The issues caused by the pandemic aren’t occasion for pessimism in the industry, but a valuable prompt towards a healthy reflection on how resilient organisations are against more negative forms of disruption.
This is an especially pertinent topic to discuss now, since 2022 will also bring in FCA and Bank of England-backed requirements for various organisations to bolster their operational resilience – which the FCA describes as the ability to “prevent, adapt, respond to, recover and learn from operational disruptions.”
In 2022, it seems likely that the stars of the show won’t necessarily be the flashier trends like industrial IoT technology, but – for example – advances in data sharing which incorporate privacy features like fully homomorphic encryption (FHE), ensuring that data is simultaneously secure and easily sharable, minimising the possibility for security-related disruptions.
Innovating and guarding
As we look towards 2022, then, we’re going to see a convergence of two types of disruption, as innovative advances allow for greater efficiency and guard against the operational disturbances which, as the pandemic demonstrates in a visceral manner, are never too far away.