Sunday, May 10, 2015

2015’s most critical information technology trends

Technology was dominated by several prevalent trends in 2014 – from the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data to the cloud and cyber security, it seems like there was barely a day without one of these trends creeping up in the news.
Now we have entered 2015, these trends are still at the forefront of discussion, with many exciting opportunities, innovations and iterations being predicted for this year.
1. Internet of Things investment will continue to increase
In 2014 there was a rapid increase in IoT solutions being deployed to advance business intelligence. ABI Research reported a 20% increase in IoT connected devices in 2014 from 2013. This year, Cisco predicts there will be 25 billion connected devices, which will double to 50 billion by 2020. Information Age suggests IoT will revolutionise business by allowing companies to improve value propositions, engage with customers on levels previously unavailable and build entirely new revenue streams.
So far, investment in IoT has mainly come from the IT and telecoms industry, which will naturally benefit from the increase in data generated and application capabilities for mobile devices. In 2015, spectators predict investment in IoT will increase outside this industry. The retail industry is one sector in particular that is looking to tap into sensor data generated via wearable technology to provide highly targeted products and services to their customers.
As businesses look to IoT technologies to provide more insight, there is an ever-increasing demand for analysts capable of transforming IoT data into actionable business intelligence. There is a shortage in data scientists, for example, with positions increasing in the UK by a staggering 1005% over the last two years. This makes data science one of the fastest growing and in-demand professions in the UK to date, and is predicted to increase further going forward into 2015.
2. Big data requires big investment in infrastructure and skills

Big data as a concept is ever evolving as the capacity to mine structured, semi structured and unstructured data increases. In 2014, organisations were making more informed business decisions and becoming more intelligent as they interact with their customers. For example, more sophisticated ‘recommendation engines’ anticipating users’ interests more accurately for services such as Netflix, Amazon and Google. Further, credit reference agencies have been using big data to inform on lending decisions by developing the algorithms used to generate credit ratings. Retail, logistics and budget planning have all seen significant advancement last year due to greater business intelligence.
In 2015, spending on big data related software is expected to increase to around £80 billion globally as reported by the IDC. IoT will become the next critical focus for data and analytics services with IDC predicting 30% CAGR over the next five years. The increasing influx of data available to organisations will require the infrastructure being used to house, process, analyse and visualise intelligence to expand. The IDC predicts that rich media analytics will be the driver behind many big data projects, expecting this area to at least triple in size.
The increased demand for greater sophistication in analysis and data consumption will require organisations to refine talent acquisition strategies to compete in the skills gap. A recent survey of 300 UK businesses, conducted by SAP, showed that while 92% of organisations have seen their data grow over the last 12 months, most were experiencing barriers when trying to use the information. Further, 42% of organisations saw lack of time and resource as the biggest challenge and 75% believed new data science skills are needed within their organisation.
3. More business operations will gravitate to the cloud

2014 was another big year for cloud computing. The IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Study found that 69% of firms participating had at least something in the cloud, up 8% from 2013. The reason behind the movement to cloud-based operations are numerous, from IT agility to IT innovation and employee collaboration, cloud computing is becoming the hub for operational infrastructure. Big data, generated through IoT, is an important driver for organisations to move to the cloud.
This year, there will be greater adoption of cloud and in-house/cloud hybrid hosted operations among businesses. The IDG study also found that 61% of organisations will invest in emerging technologies to improve their existing cloud solutions. Technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV) are being looked into to give greater agility to cloud investments.
4. Cyber security industry must invest in skilled talent

2014 is now being dubbed ‘the year of the breach’ and it is not difficult to see why. Last year sensitive data was being leaked at Google, Apple and most recently at Sony, to name but a few leading tech giants. Security weaknesses have been marked down to a number of key areas such as misconfiguration issues, third party providers, lack of network diversity and most worrying of all, lack of qualified security talent.
The cyber security skills gap is perhaps the underlying issues behind the ‘the year of the breach’ having a knock-on effect on industry and the economy. Cyber security skills are a global priority but, with a lack of consistency in accepted career definitions, organisations are experiencing difficulties in attracting new talent and progressing existing professionals. To offset the skills deficit, talent from the ‘gaming’ industry are being brought into the security sphere and their skills adapted for this arena.
Now in 2015, the information security industry has an opportunity to re-define itself and build on the negative global coverage it observed last year to attract new talent. Investment, employment branding and clearly defined career paths are essential if organisations are to reduce the deficit in the skills gap and avoid seeing their own brand in the papers due to the latest leak.
The Internet Systems Security Association (ISSA) identified the need for an internationally accepted framework that would define the cyber security career for individuals in the profession. To attract new entrants and so that pros can advance in their career, ISSA have developed the Cybersecurity Career Lifecycle (CSCL). This pro-active approach to industry development could go a long way to help fill the estimated 300,000 to 1,000,000, and rising, currently vacant global cyber security positions.
As we look forward to the year ahead there are many fantastic opportunities in IT to look forward to – from the existing trends of 2014 to the emerging technologies yet to be discussed. The IT industry is growing at an exponential rate, with demand, investment and technological capability the three pillars of support driving the sustainability in growth.
However, the barriers to the industry are clear and present dangers. The shortage in skills and talent capable or realising the expectations for these pressing technologies must be addressed on an educational, cultural and organisational level.
Nurturing computing skills must be as core to the UK syllabus as English, Math and Science to provide the next generation with the tools that they will need in their future careers, no matter the profession.
Culturally, there appears to be a strong requirement to make a career in IT more attractive to young women. A study by the Joint Council for Qualifications found less than 8% of last year’s ‘A' Level computing students were female and declining still. From a total of 4,171 students studying Computing, only 314 were female. That's a 75% decrease over the last 10 years. These figures are concerning to say the least with the skills gap in this sector increasing.