Enterprise IT: 2012 Trends and Predictions for 2013

As IT became more business-critical, it had to deal with skills shortages. What's ahead in 2013?

By Jason McGee

The past several years have brought enormous change to the world of enterprise IT. Trends such as big data, enterprise mobility, and cloud computing are transforming how organizations conduct business, including how they capitalize on innovation and deliver better targeted services and products to customers. As a result, IT strategies are being forced to evolve at a rapid and sometimes uncomfortable pace. As 2012 comes to a close, let's recap several key IT trends that emerged over the past year and explore some of the developments enterprises must be prepared for in 2013.

Trends That Shaped 2012

2012 Trend #1: IT skills shortage grows

Due to a rise in the number of retiring IT professionals, a slowdown in the number of young IT professionals entering the market, and changing skills requirements, an IT skills shortage presented new challenges in 2012. In fact, according to a recent survey by ManpowerGroup, roughly three-quarters of employers globally currently struggle to fill critical IT positions. As a result, organizations are searching for new computing models that don't require the additional commitment of significant resources or employee training to set up and maintain.

One area of particular concern is the emergence of big data and the related skill sets -- including analytics. A recent report from Deloitte predicted that as more verticals within both public and private sectors -- from education and government to financial services, retail, and entertainment -- seek to take advantage of big data, there will be a shortage of people with the right skills to turn the concept into a valuable business tool.

These IT skill shortages can have a large and adverse impact on businesses, so it's important for employers to invest in training programs that prepare their staffs to keep up with rapidly evolving technologies. Additionally, many organizations this year started turning to integrated hardware and software systems to reduce IT cost and complexity, including the ability to streamline the set-up and management of hardware and software resources, thereby lessening the burden on the IT department.

2012 Trend #2: IT's role evolved as a business-critical function

Today, IT is more closely integrated into C-level business decision-making processes than ever before. In today's technology-infused world, where data is growing at a rate of 60 percent per year according to IDC, there is an enormous opportunity for organizations to mine data for actionable insights in order to make smarter business decisions.

However, to extract key insights from the exponentially growing amounts of data available, IT departments are faced with the challenge of identifying and delivering innovative ways to monitor, analyze, and store that data while simultaneously containing operating costs.

The stress of this challenge has caused many organizations to fall behind schedule on the delivery of key projects, giving way to a cycle of delayed or stalled actions and added stress on valuable resources.

With organizations spending an average of 70 percent of their IT budgets on simple operation and maintenance (according to IDC analyst Matt Eastwood in a 2011 presentation), it becomes difficult for IT departments to focus on innovation and proactively address IT needs that are critical to supporting business objectives.

To build and maintain a competitive organization, IT must evolve its role to move beyond maintenance tasks and renew its focus on innovation and growth to drive revenue growth, which will ultimately gain the attention of the CMO, CEO, and other line-of-business executives.

2012 Trend #3: Integrated systems helped IT drive business value and reduce complexity

The challenges of implementing solutions to better monitor and manage the growing complexity of IT -- from the rapidly growing influx of data to securing mobile devices in the enterprise, and implementing cloud computing solutions -- can seem overwhelming for many organizations. As a result, many IT departments seek to "bolt on" applications and solutions to augment existing infrastructure as a quick and cost-effective fix to fill functionality needs within allotted budgets.

However, in the long run, this approach will lead to a more complex IT environment in which critical business processes are running on disparate systems and vital data will be captured within each silo and will not be correlated with other areas of the business. This leads to a one-dimensional view of key business functions that lacks context within the broader environment and impedes organizations from drawing the deep insights required to make the most informed, strategic business decisions.

To avoid these issues and help their organizations evolve to meet fast-changing business needs, many enterprise IT leaders have started to adopt a more centralized approach using integrated hardware and software systems that are designed for fast, easy-to-change, and cost-effective application delivery and operations.

The evolving role of IT and the resulting move towards integrated systems will continue to impact the enterprise in 2013 as they spur the development of new organizational changes and work processes.

2013 Trends to Watch

Here are the three most important trends I expect to see next year.

2013 Trend #1: IT roles will be redefined

As more enterprise IT leaders adopt integrated systems, we will begin to see a shift in how teams within organizations are structured. We will also see related roles and work processes redefined. The use of integrated approaches will encourage today's specialists to break out of their silos and take on more holistic responsibilities across all IT functions.

For instance, server, storage, and network engineering teams will start to collaborate more closely to seamlessly address and achieve high-level business goals. Through this convergence, specialists will move towards creating reusable expertise that can be built into the centralized system. Ultimately, integrated systems promote the merging of many skills and the emergence of new talents as employees work across silos. Systems and storage administration disciplines will start to converge while architects become the key connection between business needs and systems capabilities.

This convergence of teams and evolution of skills will enable organizations to focus on innovation, not silos.

2013 Trend #2: Organizations will drill down and put more focus on industry workloads

As organizations turn to integrated systems and away from managing a myriad of hardware and software components, IT will integrate specific applications that are tuned to vertical business processes and workflows.

For example, for today's organizations to be competitive, they need to quickly and easily analyze and explore big data by simplifying and optimizing the performance of data warehouse services and analytics applications. An effective analytics workload system is designed to accelerate value by enabling organizations to predict and help avoid customer churn, create targeted advertising and promotions using predictive and spatial analysis, and prevent fraud. Other workloads may be specific to retail and credit card processing environments that depend on rapid handling of transactions and interactions, while others may be used to deliver customer insights to call center operations, and track and predict real-time changes in supply and demand for energy and utilities.

2013 Trend #3: Patterns will emerge to accelerate time to value

One of the goals in the coming year will be to open up organizations to independent software vendors (ISVs) and third-party software providers that can help create greater efficiencies and improve time to value based on repeatable technology usage and integration patterns. Essentially, these "patterns of expertise" will enable organizations across industries to convert technology expertise into reusable best practices that can be automated and built into systems. One of the goals is to enable an organization, with the push of a button, to easily pull up a workload-specific pattern, dramatically reducing the time and effort associated with installing, configuring, tuning, and managing software on an ongoing basis.

For example, a transactional database and data mart pattern can be used to quickly and easily create databases optimized to support transactional (OLTP) and operational analytics workloads, respectfully. These patterns provide a set of capabilities that are essential to the provisioning and management of data management platform services.

Education will be an important factor in realizing the full value of intelligent integrated systems. As a wider range of IT leaders become aware of and implement the approach, the core capability to build expert patterns will become more broadly available and organizations can expand the number of areas within the business where patterns are applied.

A Final Thought

As IT leaders face growing complexity and reduced budgets, these trends toward integrated systems, converging IT roles, and creating reusable expertise will help release time and money to allow a stronger focus on innovation. The coming year will be an exciting time to see how IT departments will now be able to really drive growth and innovation.

Jason McGee is a distinguished engineer and chief architect at IBM PureSystems. You can contact the author at jrmcgee@us.ibm.com.
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