December 12, 2022
CDW Exec-Connect Roundtable: Top Tech Trends for 2023 (Part 1)
From IT jobs to the cloud to security, five CDW leaders lay out the CIO's guide to long-term strategic growth and digital innovation.
Introduction: Tara Barbieri, VP & GM, Orchestration
In many ways, 2023 will be unpredictable. The “new normal” of 2022 has been a doozy. With consumers and companies both experiencing a 40-year high for inflation this Fall, cyberattacks costing incalculable damage at rates unseen, November tech layoffs and rumors of recession looming, CTOs, CIOs, and CISOs at Enterprise-level organizations, startups, and small businesses are strapping in for a rocky ride.
But as they finalize plans for tech investments many are recognizing that even with so much dreadful news, it is still an impressive time for the world of IT, and gains are being made toward true Digital Transformation like never before. The increased availability and adoption of 5G has substantially increased data computing power and the move to the cloud. Artificial Intelligence has made inroads in healthcare, retail and Google’s AI helped stop the largest DDoS attack in history. Not to mention that customers are beginning to expect and request a dynamic and frictionless digital experience from start to finish when they interact with brands. Needless to say, high interest rates have not stopped innovation.
“Transformation is never done,” explains Sanjay Sood, CDW’s Senior Vice President and CTO at the CDW Executive SummIT Series in Las Vegas last month. “The moment you’re done with one arc of transformation there’s a new set of things you have to do.”
With those words ringing in my ear, I consulted with four of my peers, other Vice Presidents at CDW, to get their opinions about how IT leaders should approach budgeting for technology enhancements in 2023. Their hands are about to be full this holiday season with visiting family out of state, the competitive world of marathon holiday movie streaming, baking the just right double chocolate chip or Gingerbread cookie, and in Cecelia’s case preparing to deliver her second child, but their minds are all on the same topics: applying automation, data and the cloud as force multipliers to enhance customer experience, reduce risk, and exceed business objectives. Here’s what they had to say.
Pick one word to describe what characteristic CIOs will need to have to be successful in 2023.
Mike Kennedy, VP, Tech Enablement Strategy
I'd say Support embedded in the team, because CIOs can't go it alone and the unforeseen will pop up. That’s the nature of the job. They're going to need backup.
Stephanie Hagopian, VP, Integrated Security
Agility. But for the same reason as Mike. Due to the unpredictability of 2023 CIOs need to have a very keen sense of agility to be able to pivot and respond, and they’ll need agile support to do that.
Lee Washington, VP, Enterprise Infrastructure
Definitely Passion. In this ever-changing technical landscape and with growing hybrid-work, CIOs are going to need to be passionate about solving problems head-on by taking work to people instead of bringing people to work.
Cecelia Myers, VP, Digital
I'll be a cliche as a product leader and say Experience. I always seek a partner whose focus is on the end-user, the customer, and the outcome. They will be a trusted partner in uncertain times.
Well, that certainly describes what we offer here at CDW. As a global systems integrator and managed services provider, we passionately support our customers with expertise across the full stack of IT solutions using an agile framework and backed by experience.
What areas of IT do you anticipate the most growth in? And why?
Finding ways in which we can automate processes and defer additional hires by automating and looking at better data extraction and analysis to defer labor costs in favor of software costs that are now coming due.
I agree. Additionally, we will continue to see growth in the traditional SaaS platform spaces Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Capital Management (HCM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and IT Service Management (ITSM) as more companies look to leverage best-of-breed applications in those areas. A couple to keep an eye on would be desktop as a service due to the increase in remote/hybrid work and backup as a service for increased protection from ransomware or other security-related attacks.
Are there any particular software as a service (SaaS) platforms that you think are going to float to the top above the others?
It will be all seat-based enterprise software. That’s because many companies have done aggressive hiring and their costs have gone up based on the number of licenses needed for each coworker. The goal now is to find efficient ways of working. The answer lies in robotic process automation (RPA) through chat bot usage and data exchange of common systems and platforms instead of manual processes. We're now looking to streamline that and lean those processes out through these new SaaS platforms.
They will all be important, but especially backup as a service I feel is going to be critical as we look to protect ourselves from ransomware, and other cyberattacks. It's important for us to have an air gap-type of solution in place so that we can restore and get data back when attacks happen.
I definitely support the assertion about automation. I think you could tie many of the drivers for that trend into the labor shortage, right? It’s a result of the fact that people just can't find the talent, and that labor shortage is driving more and more reliance on technology. But very specifically, a reliance on automation—anything that can consolidate views, create dashboards, orchestrate compliance and governance processes. All sorts of technologies are on the rise, but from a security perspective, we're going to see a reliance on tools that automate.
Okay, I'm glad you mentioned labor. Gartner's prediction is that by the end of 2023 the IT skills gap will have closed a little bit. Does anybody want to weigh in on upcoming workforce changes?
I think it depends on the functional area. In cyber security specifically, right now, the talent gap is really, large, and we're not going to see that gap closing in a year. We’re looking at a decade-plus to be able to bridge that gap.
I would say the same thing. I think the quantity of labor is still going to be an issue, but the cost may start to shrink. Those are the two factors that have been hurting the IT industry: 1) there isn't enough talent and 2) those that are available are super expensive.
So, with current economic trends heading toward recession, and with current layoffs from some big names in IT, you may start to see that gap start to diminish a little bit, but I'm back with Stephanie, I don't think we're anywhere close to closing it completely.
Yes, staffing shortages have started to trail off, but the resources we’re looking for to do cloud transformation and support are still very scarce. Experienced DevOps, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) and cloud architects are still in high demand. Most want to be independent contractors for green field opportunities. It’s still a coworker’s market when it comes to cloud resources. So, you need a great partner like CDW using Digital Velocity Solutions (DVS), that will be consistently available, and can augment your staff by providing strategy, road mapping, architecture, implementation, and secure it the proper way from the beginning.
But it is also critical that you reskill and retool existing IT staff as they have valuable experience based on tenure.
Improving coworker experience will be a trend in 2023. That involves thinking more deeply about how to empower your co-worker base to better serve our customers. That's an area of tech that historically has been extremely under-invested. People usually put the internal user last, but a lot of companies—CDW included—are beginning to turn the eye inward and justify investments toward improving coworker/seller-enablement. We've made some major investments in that arena because we know that by enabling the coworker, we will actually get more service out of them and they give more back to our customers.
Over the past decade data usage by consumers and companies has grown tremendously. Gartner says that it’s going to reach $600 Billion in 2023. Other than software where should organizations invest in order to stay competitive in the digital landscape?
Analytics and intelligence will be a big driver because there is a proliferation of data. It's more about how do we secure the tremendous amount of data that we’re accumulating, storing, transmitting. How do we determine which end users can access the data? Whether they're internal people or external people? How do I really understand the privacy and security concerns that reside within that data set? What additional barriers can be placed against specific data sets? You only have a finite amount of people on staff, so there's no way to manage all of it. You can’t rely on people to sort through it manually. So, you have to apply analytics and intelligence capabilities in a way that allows organizations to smartly place their bets and prioritize data so as to create the right security infrastructure.
That's why you're seeing a huge rise in Security Information & Events Management (SIEM) and Managed Detection Response (MDR). Those models are all driven by analytics and intelligence.
From the macro view, workflow processing isn’t as cool as Artificial intelligence, but we see base level workflow processing, like Service Now ™ as hot as it’s ever been. Yes, it's really nice to have automation and Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) software, but sometimes a well-oiled and secure IT department is just as simple as organizing your resources to be as efficient as possible through an analog workflow system. It may not be as trendy as AI, but it's pretty effective.
Yes! Orchestration and workflow. Automating your business logic...it's what drives your business.
Tara, you’re absolutely right! And to build on your point, there are two things you need 1) Digital Transformation. You need to get off your old homegrown systems to realize and take advantage of the data that Stephanie was talking about, right? You've got to get those legacy systems retired and off the plate. It gives you that opportunity to invest in the transformation internally.
Then also 2) Innovation. You've got to think creatively. Not just do what everyone else is doing. That's not an advantage. You have to start to invest in your people to try and find that leap ahead.
Companies need help in making those moves as well because the easy stuff is actually still pretty big when you're setting it up for the first time. Once they move into some of the harder stuff, it gets a lot more challenging if the first lift wasn’t done right. I think that's where people who have been there and trod the path before can help set up your cloud, for example, if you don't have a strong foundation.
Without the benefit of experienced IT experts, you really won't accomplish your digital transformation effectively, and certainly not efficiently.
Agreed, I see cloud migration as low-hanging fruit. Starting in 2023, your cloud migration strategy should include anything that’s not a core competency or a competitive differentiator for your business. Your cloud migration should include traditional SaaS platforms (ERP, CRM, ITSM, HCM) and expand to look for IaaS and PaaS opportunities. Take the time to refactor legacy applications to take advantage of the clouds dynamic capabilities.
Well, Gartner also predicted, devices and investment in devices is going to decrease. So, some CIOs may be asking themselves, “Is 2023 the right year to get the legacy systems offline?”
Every year is the right year to get off legacy systems and get off as fast as possible.
Organizations are always trying to do that. It's just that it takes more than a year.
Yea, it takes a while.
I think this is part of the macro-economic concerns. We see the economy softening a little bit. A lot of organizations are going through that exercise and looking at legacy infrastructure systems wondering what can I retire? What can I not retire? Again, it becomes a prioritization exercise because you only have so many people with this labor shortage and so much time, and obviously budget constraints.
Moving to DevOps will be an important cultural shift for organizations to make. It’s one that focuses on collaboration, automation, autonomy, empowerment and continued improvement. From an automation perspective it is important that organizations invest in DevOps. It plays a huge role in making the development deployment process efficient and repeatable, reducing errors and leading to faster time to market. You really want to “shift left” as much as possible to developers so they can deliver in code, iterate as necessary, and roll out feature functionality quicker.
“Shift left” For those who haven’t heard that term before can you explain what you mean?
Sure. When I say Shift Left, I mean It’s important to empower people to have autonomy. Organizations have to put the power in the right people’s hands to go as fast as they can within the parameters you’ve set.
With DevOps, we want to build pipelines so that it’s in the developer’s hands to execute efficiently to get new features out to the business and in turn improve the customer experience.
Something that gets overlooked in the cloud transformation is site reliability resources. That’s where you are truly going to get visibility and processes around availability, performance, efficiency, change management, monitoring and capacity planning. Cost overruns happen often during migrations of workloads to the cloud. Performance issues crop out, and you need capacity planning in place from the beginning.
That means we have to help them through transformation and guide them as they encounter new tools and software, help lines of business manage costs, evaluate options from a security perspective, and assist them to choose the right applications and staff.
A lot of this is about reducing overall technical debt. That's a theme I see again and again. Organizations have invested in quite a lot of technology, but to Michael’s point, that doesn't mean they're not going to spend anymore, but they’re analyzing their footprint and asking what can I deprecate and what can I consolidate and what are wise technology investments, because it promotes orchestration, automation, and as Tara mentioned, workflows.
Workflows are ways to automate something, so you don’t need as many people. A lot of our customers talk about driving efficiency and taking tools like Service Now, the IT Service Management (ITSM), combining it with other technology in order to automate and offload repetitive work to AI and Machine Learning so that leaders can level up employees to apply their mental aptitude elsewhere and work on higher value tasks.
That's right. Get rid of the tech debt. If you look at what CDW has been doing, that's the goal. Getting rid of the KTLO (Keep the Lights On) and to Stephanie's point by moving the low value/high volume items off—let the systems do those and move your people to the transformation. That's how you make the space because you're not going to get incremental. You're going to have to make do with what you have.
That's why consulting is really on the rise. At CDW, we are moving away from just providing a product to our customers. Our focus is on providing full-stack solutions, which means more advice and consultation, and a lot more managed services. The reason we're doing that holistically is because we know it's a way more valuable service to our customers than just selling them the hardware or software, and then wishing them luck with implementation.
100%. I was just talking to a customer the other day, Stephanie, and they were saying that they want out of managing their systems.
Right, because it's getting too complex. If you're not in tech, you're in pharmaceuticals, retail, healthcare or something else. That industry is their expertise, not cloud, not security. They are just over IT. Because the security risks continue to grow, and if you make a mistake, or you allow a vector to remain active without managing it you put your whole business at risk. I think, with those stakes and with the increased complexity more and more people are turning to companies like CDW. We have the knowledge and the partners, and we can assemble different capabilities and different vendors to bring the right solution together.
Great perspective everyone! Well, we’ve come to the end of 2022, but not the end of this discussion. Bookmark this article and return to read part 2 of our roundtable at the top of 2023, where we’ll continue to assess the levers that organizations will need to pull in order to succeed in their industries.