As technology evolves, the complexity it creates is challenging even the savviest IT professionals to keep pace — and the challenge is only getting steeper.
“When you think about it, the pace of change is really accelerating,” said Don Tapscott, CEO of the Tapscott Group. “The pace of change is so fast that it’s hard to even comprehend it, let alone figure out how to implement it.”
Speaking at the CDW Executive Summit in Chicago, Tapscott said the current IT landscape is the most challenging it has ever been. Leaders from some of the largest, most important technology companies in the world also spoke at the Summit. While they all offered different perspectives, many of them came back to common themes: the pace of change in IT, the need for simplification and the constant presence of security threats.
The Push for New Capabilities Drives Tech Evolution
IT professionals across the industry face a massive challenge in simply keeping up with new breakthroughs in areas such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, networking and storage.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’ve never seen the pace of change this great,” said Abbie Lundberg, president of Lundberg Media, who moderated the event.
In many ways, this pace is intentional. IT manufacturers are striving to create products and solutions that enable new capabilities. Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco Systems, said that when he took over the company, he wanted to “increase the pace of innovation” and embrace the transition to software-defined infrastructure components and open IT architecture.
Simple Is Key in Modern IT Environments
One result of the pace of IT evolution is increasingly complex systems. Digital transformation has improved the services that users receive from IT, but it also greatly increases the challenges that IT staff face. “The user experience is better, but there’s much more complexity,” said Brian Javonillo, director of architecture, security and access and chief architect for information services with Booz Allen Hamilton.
“We all know that IT has gotten too complex, and we need to simplify,” added Lundberg. “But we also know that simplicity isn’t easy.”
IT leaders recognize the challenge and are moving to meet it. Antonio Neri, president of Hewlett Packard Enterprise said the company is making “a radical change in the way we work” and striving to simplify everything the company does.
At Cisco, Robbins highlighted the company’s efforts to use software to achieve this objective. The company’s software business has grown dramatically in recent years, and Cisco is using this growth to drive changes in its hardware as well.
“We believe we have to completely reinvent the network for the future,” Robbins said. “Frankly, it’s too freaking complicated to run these things.”
IT professionals will be called on to simplify technology as well. To do this, they must be prepared to learn new skills. “I look for people who have a thirst for learning,” said Eduardo Cabrera, vice president of cybersecurity strategy with Trend Micro. The traits of a successful IT professional, he said, include being an agile thinker, a good listener and being comfortable with change.
Cybersecurity Threats Constantly Evolve
Practically every discussion of technology includes the growing importance of defending against security threats. This attention is well placed. “The level of exposure of companies that are experiencing breaches — knowingly or unknowingly — is exploding,” said Thomas Hansen, executive vice president and chief revenue officer for Carbon Black.
Most organizations are unable to keep up. Sadik Al-Abdulla, director of security solutions at CDW, said that of the roughly 5,000 security assessments his team has conducted, CDW has been able to gain full control of the customer’s IT environment in every case.
IT vendors must continue to develop solutions that address evolving cyberthreats. These include next-generation anti-virus solutions, threat protection tools and artificial intelligence.
The imperative for success is critical.
“No matter how great the technology is, if people can’t trust it, they won’t use it,” said Microsoft CTO Scott Emigh.