In a previous post, my colleague Carolyn April described how the technology industry has grown up over the past decade. Not only are the largest companies in the world now technology firms, but the technology industry is also having the greatest impact on society. That level of impact demands a corresponding level of awareness, and everyone involved in technology is tasked with better understanding the ripple effects of cutting-edge trends.
No group understands this better than the companies that are driving the business of technology. What we used to simply call “the channel” has morphed into a diverse mix of companies. Vendors still drive a ton of activity, but the internet of things has created a crop of new vendors introducing products that expand technology footprints. Distributors still play a critical role in making technology accessible, but they are also taking on new responsibilities as they develop catalogs of both products and services. The solution provider layer has seen the most change, with new types of companies offering technology solutions and businesses focusing more on marketing their own IP.
Heading into a new decade, there’s a lot to absorb. CompTIA’s IT Industry Outlook 2020 zooms out to take a high-level view of the industry, and there are four big takeaways for companies that make their living in technology.
The trends for the future show a balance of excitement and caution.
The 10 trends that CompTIA’s research team is projecting for the next year cover a wide range of topics, from election issues to cybersecurity. For technology firms, two areas in particular stand out. On the positive side, emerging technology continues to draw interest. Adoption is not necessarily taking off in the way some might have expected, but the disruptive nature of these technologies means that more time is needed to reconfigure business processes. That reconfiguration will open wider opportunities for solution providers. On the other end of the spectrum, government regulation has become one of the primary concerns for tech firms. There are a lot of good reasons for the industry to be self-regulating, but issues of consumer privacy or national security may open the door to government intervention, which could also prove to be a disruption.
Revenue growth is not a simple equation.
CompTIA predicts that the global IT industry will grow by 3.7% this year, and IDC is projecting $5.2 trillion in global revenue. However, this growth is not consistent across all areas of IT. IDC expects that technology services and traditional hardware will each grow by 23%, software will grow by 50%, and emerging technologies will grow by a whopping 104%. This growth in emerging technology is the driver for all the hype, but there are two things to remember. First, solutions using emerging technology require significant investment in skills and product support. Second, emerging technology solutions don’t exist in a silo—they are part of overall architectures that include traditional components such as networking or storage. Those components often need to be upgraded to take advantage of new trends, so there are revenue opportunities across the board, but simply targeting emerging technology will not automatically lead to astronomical growth.
The biggest customer needs are around software development and cybersecurity.
For several years, CompTIA has been using a framework that consists of four areas to define IT operations: infrastructure, software development, cybersecurity and data. In many companies, these areas blend together when there are smaller IT teams covering all angles. But as technology grows more complex, there is a greater need for specialization. When considering priorities for the upcoming year, IT pros surveyed by CompTIA said that the top two focus areas are software development and cybersecurity. Solution providers targeting these areas should recognize that their clients are likely beyond the basics and looking for more advanced help in complex environments.
Hiring is not as easy as it used to be (and it wasn’t easy to start with).
For several years, technology firms have been reporting that hiring is becoming more challenging. The biggest reason for this is supply and demand—there are simply not enough qualified candidates to feed the growing appetite for enterprise technology. The more recent wrinkle is that technology candidates have career options far beyond tech firms. Companies in every industry are trying to improve their talent pool, which not only increases the demand but also creates bidding wars around salary and benefits. Especially as solution providers push into new areas, they will have to be more rigorous about attracting IT job candidates with the necessary skills.
Those of us who work in the tech industry are here because we see the potential. We understand that technology drives a wide range of benefits, both for business and for society. CompTIA’s IT Industry Outlook 2020 looks ahead to a year where the benefits are still transforming business and culture, but there are new challenges to overcome. By understanding the big picture, technology firms can build solutions to these challenges and help the whole industry take the next step into the future.
Seth Robinson is CompTIA's senior director of technology analysis.