December 8th, 2020 Read Time: 7 minutes
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After the chaos that was 2020, the primary trend in any industry is how to now operate in the next normal. How businesses operate has changed forever. People have learned to work remotely. They now communicate using Teams, Zoom, and Slack. For IT departments, the office landscape is a lot bigger than it was in 2019. So what IT trends will we see in 2021? Electric decided to find out. We hosted a panel titled, "What Are IT Leaders Doing to Prep for 2021?" as part of our ongoing IT Pro Tour series. We asked some of our panelists to share their insights on emerging IT trends, and there is plenty to look out for.
Gartner coined the phrase Internet of Behavior (IoB) to refer to the changes in behavior that can come from how data is used. These changes in behavior don't come from data posted on social media. These changes come through feedback loops. For example, drivers who are constantly braking are probably speeding. Insurance companies use the data to improve driver performance by rewarding them for watching their speed, The same technology can be applied to truckers. Monitoring a driver's behavior can highlight driving patterns that result in more wear and tear on a vehicle or add time to a long-haul route.
The IoB technology involves Big Data, matching learning, and predictive analytics. The tools are already being used to track online buying behavior so that targeted promotions or recommendations can appear on a consumer's social media or shopping sites. The sophistication of the solutions will raise ethical and societal concerns, and experts will need to follow this IT trend so they can answer any questions that arise.
What will the data be used for? Health insurance companies track physical activity and grocery purchases to encourage a healthy lifestyle. If consumers make poor choices, would premiums be increased? It's becoming harder and harder to separate fact from fiction or a fake video. Privacy laws will impact how data can be collected and used.
Artificial intelligence will raise the same ethical concerns as the IoB. It's being deployed in hospitals, smartphones, and home appliances. Even now, questions are being raised regarding geo-tracking using cell phones or deploying face recognition software to identify potential bad actors. Although the possibilities seem limitless, more employees and consumers are concerned with the ethical behavior of their employers and the companies they do business with.
Before deploying AI, organizations must consider the data they have or plan to collect. They need to know how the information will be stored and used. Machine learning cannot operate in a vacuum. Companies still need AI to scale and work seamlessly with other solutions. It must be reliable. As the technology is more widely used, reliable and accurate results become critical.
Technology is not going to stand still. AI will expand into all aspects of a business. It could even power customer service. As this IT trends grows, professionals will need to research and adapt. Before a company gets too far down the AI road, they should develop an AI strategy that defines how data will be used and how it will be protected.
Cyber threats did not disappear in 2020. In fact, the FBI reported that the number of cyber attacks has tripled in the first half of 2020. The panel made up of Matanda Doss of SparrowOne, Allen Houchins of Jamf, and Paul Welp of Allsynx saw the following cybersecurity IT trends for 2021:
When everyone worked in the office, IT could send out instructions on how to use a new feature. If employees needed help, they would have IT come to their office. With a remote workforce, that's not possible. Instead, IT personnel should spend one-on-one time with employees, showing them how to fix a problem. IT also needs to work with employees to secure their home networks or at least raise awareness of the vulnerabilities they may have. As Matanda Doss suggested, home deployments are like the Wild West. Who knows what is actually happening?
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In conjunction with remote access, organizations have to revisit their security model. Company networks no longer have clear boundaries. IT departments should be looking at cybersecurity mesh that provides more flexible cybersecurity control. A mesh defines a security perimeter around the person or thing trying to access the network. It centralizes the policy but distributes enforcement.
All panelists were concerned that small businesses are not taking cybersecurity seriously. Too many small companies think they are too small to be a target. However, cyber attacks continue to increase. The cost to a small business averages about $120,000.
The IoT supports commercial and consumer devices. Before 2020, most organizations were concerned with commercial devices deployed on factory floors or trucking fleets. Because of this IT trend, departments have to consider the consumer IoT such as cameras, appliances, or thermostats. Because of the increase in remote workers, those consumer endpoints are a cyber attack waiting to happen. Companies will have to explore what options are available to protect their networks cost-effectively.
As more industrial devices are deployed, IT has to consider the security of those devices and whether edge computing may be required to ensure security and performance. IoT Statistics show that at the end of 2019, there were about 26 million devices operating in the world. While the deployment may have slowed, it hasn't disappeared, nor has the technology that surrounds it. As Paul Welp pointed out, the focus needs to be on securing the endpoints, whether they are private or corporate.
One of the primary concerns, as expressed by the panel, was how companies plan to transition employees to a hybrid working environment. Not all employees may want to continue to work from home; others won't want to come into the office. Companies have to be prepared to address a hybrid work environment, which means deploying technology to maintain a connected workforce. Allen Houchins felt that IT should also focus on the tools that will make the transition to the next normal, more comfortable for employees and employers.
Communication platforms that allowed for remote meetings should continue to be used whether the employees are in the office or working remote. Matanda Doss indicated that his teams scheduled "Water-Cooler Meetings." These 15-minute meetings were designed to simulate the in-the-hall conversations that happen in the office.
Heading into 2021, the IT focus needs to be on people and how technology can make transitioning to the next normal easier. At the same time, a company's assets must be protected and the edges of the network secured. 2021 is also an excellent time to update business continuity plans in light of 2020. Now that companies have experience with disruption, they should spend time making sure that their plans are solid.
Alex Foley, CISO of Electric, discussed the IT trends he thinks every professional should be aware of heading into 2021 in our recent webinar on the topic. Watch the clip below to hear some advice on how to prevent security attacks.
Figuring out all your bases to cover pertaining to your organization’s IT going into 2021 is not an easy process to navigate, especially in times like these— and that’s why Electric is here to support your organization.