Introduction

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) has just published its Industry Trends Analysis 2020. This publication takes a generalized look at the landscape in which IT professionals, including security professionals, find themselves involved in the coming year.

This year’s analysis begins with these words:

“There are tremendous benefits available through technology for both business and society, but there are major questions around safety, privacy, sustainability, and trust” … 

The global tech industry is worth $5.2 trillion already and continues to grow. Is CompTIA onto something in this year’s report, or have they missed the goal?


The IT industry landscape in 2020

Before we take a closer look at the trends identified by CompTIA, let’s look at how they see the IT industry in 2019 and 2020.

The U.S. remains the biggest market for technology — 32% of the $5.2 trillion is attributed to the USA. This is hardly surprising, as the U.S. is both a major consumer and producer of technology. China is coming up fast behind the U.S., and the EU is also a significant contributor to the global value of the IT sector.

CompTIA trends to watch in 2020

CompTIA set out the landscape for 2020 applying the trends across four “pillars of IT”:

  1. Software development (57%)
  2. Cybersecurity (51%)
  3. Data (47%) 
  4. Infrastructure (45%) 

The CompTIA top ten trends, in order of impact, are:

  1. Tech-washing fades in favor of real strategy
  2. Workforce diversity grows in many ways
  3. Tech topics are front and center in U.S. elections
  4. Hype meets reality with emerging technology
  5. Internet of things continues to redefine IT architecture
  6. Artificial intelligence eats the world
  7. Demand for integration leads to demand for automation
  8. Cybersecurity becomes more operational
  9. Deep fakes and 5G exacerbate the data management challenge
  10. Tech industry regulation stirs fears

Let’s look at the details of these trends and how they may present themselves in an organization.

Tech-washing fades in favor of real strategy

“Rather than attempting to use technology as a crutch, businesses will become much more intentional about strategically integrating technology into their culture and roadmap” …

Placing this as number one in the list sets the tone. This is an important statement from CompTIA about where technology has been and where it needs to go. CompTIA is not saying “hold up with new technical ventures”; it’s more saying “think strategically about taking on new technologies or digitizing products. How does it fit with your company’s business and operational models?” Makes sense. Let’s see how this pans out in practice.

Workforce diversity grows in many ways

“In 2020, the call for improved diversity will continue to pay dividends, even if fully diverse and inclusive environments still lie further in the future.”

The subject of diversity across divides of social, race, sex, gender and financial level is one close to my heart — one I have written about on a number of occasions at the request of Infosec. 

CompTIA states that companies are looking for skills across all four IT pillars and diversity programs can help find those staff. As IT and business become intrinsically linked, skills such as communication and teamwork are now required for even highly technical jobs. CompTIA recognizes that having a truly diverse team is not an easy step but one that should be attempted in earnest.

Tech topics are front and center in U.S. elections

“CompTIA data shows that 7 in 10 firms in the business of selling technology, most SMB-sized, fear that a negative perception of the tech industry is gaining momentum across the country and becoming more of an issue in general.”

This trend may seem U.S.-centric; however, the implications are world-wide, and I believe the concerns are mirrored across the globe. Technology has become highly linked with society and the economy. Privacy worries are now mainstream. Ethical concerns over the way that big tech, especially, handles our data is creating a number of industry pressure groups. One such group is the Me2B Alliance, looking to hold tech to account in their processing of personal data and beyond. 

CompTIA sees technology playing an influential part in the upcoming U.S elections, both from a standpoint of key issues like safety, security and privacy, and as part of the election itself with the use of voting technology.

Hype meets reality with emerging technology

On emerging technology, CompTIA states:

“At an operational level, this has been a positive trend… At a tactical level, though, it has created some chaos.”

Gartner, Inc. coined the phrase “hype cycle” to describe how technology moves through a life cycle from innovation through production. CompTIA recognizes that a lot of emerging tech falls into a certain part of the hype cycle, mainly on the “hype” side. 

CompTIA also recognizes that companies may be more mindful of bringing emerging tech in-house. However, two technologies will buck this trend towards slower uptake: the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), which they believe have reached critical mass.

Internet of Things continues to redefine IT architecture

“… internet of things seems poised to join cloud computing and mobile devices as a permanent part of the modern technology landscape.”

Following on from the critical mass that CompTIA predicts for IoT is the embedding of IoT into our corporate infrastructures. This makes sense in light of the massive surge in both consumer and industrial IoT devices. 

CompTIA expects IoT to help in advancing digital transformation. However, I would add to this, the placement of security in the CompTIA trends for 2020 (see trend 8) should be closely linked to this trend. A report from Gemalto shows that 90% of companies still see security challenges in using IoT devices.

Artificial intelligence eats the world

“AI can push software to the next level. However, there’s a fine line between ‘eating the world’ and ‘global domination’ …”

The second emerging technology to cross the chasm in 2020 is artificial intelligence (AI). CompTIA warns that AI still has challenges in terms of programming bias that can impact responsible implementation.

Demand for integration leads to demand for automation

“… top technology area where SMBs need the most work is integrating various platforms, applications, and data.”

Automation has been the promised land for business for several years now. Automation can give a company “breathing room to innovate,” as CompTIA puts it. They warn that sound ROI is necessary before a business can fully invest in automation.

Cybersecurity becomes more operational

“Moving forward, the shift will be from cybersecurity as a component of IT to cybersecurity as a critical business function.”

This trend is of particular interest. It shows the maturing of an operation, in this case, cybersecurity. No longer relegated to IT to take care of, cybersecurity is now being increasingly seen as a critical business operation in its own right. Larger companies are creating CISO roles, while SMBs use Security Operation Centers made up of internal and external resources.

This trend is no surprise; security vendors like Infosec have warned about the increasingly sophisticated methods used by cybercriminals. Methods that include social engineering and a “cybercrime-as-a-service” models of cyberattack. The only response is to attack like with like, industry building stronger fortifications, using more sophisticated cybersecurity tools and using security awareness training.

Deepfakes and 5G exacerbate the data management challenge

On deepfakes:

“This has the potential to wreak havoc on society, personal lives, politics, careers, and beyond …” 

CompTIA expect deepfake technology to proliferate in the coming years, and with this, more complicated data management needs. The inclusion of 5G into our IT infrastructure will only compound this. The challenges these technologies bring is the identification of the trueness of data and then securing massive amounts of this data.

Tech industry regulation stirs fears

“Success and advancement come with a price: balancing demands for more accountability while continuing to innovate …“

CompTIA points out that data protection laws are high on the government agenda after a number of privacy violations in the past year or so. In the U.S., there is talk of a federal law. In November 2019, the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act was codified as a federal privacy bill.

CompTIA rightly highlights the issue of the impact of privacy laws on small organizations in particular. Finding a way to make sure that data protection is achievable and fair for all is going to be a challenge for the IT industry.

My take on the CompTIA 2020 IT trends

One thing noticeable going through these top ten CompTIA 2020 IT trends is that they are all interconnected and inform how each progress (or not as the case may be). The movement towards hyper-connected and more sophisticated technology is, of course, behind this.

So the CompTIA trends choices are in many ways expected. Society begat technology which begat IoT which begat AI which begat diversity, and so on. We can no longer leave technology design and development as a sideshow in our industries and in our nations. The intrinsic linkage of society and technology is here, and we must respond to it by stepping up in terms of how we build the technology and where we apply it. 

However, first and foremost, data is behind most of our technological structures. Because of this, security (and privacy) must take center stage.

 

Sources

  1. IT Industry Outlook 2020, CompTIA
  2. Voting technology, MIT Election Lab
  3. Gartner Hype Cycle, Gartner
  4. The State of IoT Security, Gemalto