Turbulent, unpredictable times make horizon scanning and trend spotting hard. But all organisations supported by tech (which, let’s face it, is all organisations), need to be looking ahead to make the right investments to support their business needs, given a constantly shifting tech landscape. So we’ve donned our binoculars to identify what we think will be the key issues for tech in 2023, what the industry needs to do to address these, and what organisations investing in tech can do to help smooth out the bumps in what looks to be a rocky road ahead.
The legacy of 2022
It’s hard to remember a less predictable time in the last thirty years, both in world affairs and in technology.
After two years of the pandemic, what the global business community needed was a period of stability that allowed it to plan and invest. Instead it got war in Ukraine, inflation, higher interest rates and a host of other worries.
The tech sector has not only been buffeted by these same global woes, it’s also cooked up a few of its own as it’s continued its search for the next big thing. Mark Zuckerberg needed to reinvent Facebook and bet the farm on the metaverse, not least because he could; shareholders have just looked on helpless. Elon Musk bought Twitter, also because he could, but doesn’t appear to know what to do with it. And then SBF – which, depending on whether you lost money or not, is either short for Sam Bankman-Fried or something far ruder – apparently tanked the FTX crypto exchange either by being too clever by half or very stupid, it’s anyone’s guess which. Shares are sliding, jobs are being cut, investment is stalling.
Is this the end of an era or the pause before the beginning of a new one? No idea, but it is a particularly challenging time to make predictions. However there are a few themes I think will be very pertinent in 2023.
Cloud and trust – going hand in hand into 2023
Firstly there’s the ongoing move to cloud. Yes, this has been happening for a while, but I still think it has some way to run yet. It’ll be a trend for the next few years.
Even so, for a lot of companies looking to shift to the cloud, there are trust issues to be resolved and trust is my second key theme. Many businesses are still somewhat nervous about putting the security of their data into the hands of a third party. There is a perception, not universally subscribed to, that the public cloud is somehow less secure than on-prem systems. To mitigate this, cloud providers are stressing on what Microsoft call, ‘enterprise scale’ cloud architecture. This has a greater emphasis on private end points and VNets, or virtual networks, that allow the public cloud to operate a bit more like a traditional locked down environment, even though they are running modern hyper-scale cloud-native services – something that could not be done on-prem. The cloud need not be inherently any more risky than an on-prem option and I think 2023 will see more cloud-hesitant enterprises arrive at this more realistic appraisal.
But there are other trust issues. True, most of the companies enterprises rely on are not run by a slightly obsessive Zuckerberg, a capricious Musk or an untethered SBF, yet businesses still worry about becoming overly dependent on tech giants they fear might increase charges, changes policies or fall behind in the quality of some of their services leaving them, as its customers, stuck.
How trust impacts cloud decisions
One result of these concerns is that many larger organisations (the Pentagon for instance), are hedging their bets between cloud providers, opting for multi-cloud solutions. They might, for instance, put one of their applications on AWS and another on Azure, partly so as not to be at the mercy of one company and partly for other considerations such as being able to select best of breed options for cloud storage, data analytics, AI or other services.
This can make a kind of sense, but for many smaller organisations it often doesn’t. Firstly, if you spread your assets across different clouds you’ll need different teams each with the relevant skills; an AWS specialist isn’t necessarily a Google Cloud specialist or an Azure specialist – indeed, they’re probably not. Secondly, you can’t just port cloud-native applications between service providers; they’re not interoperable and moving is harder than you might think. There are gains to be had, just not gains of efficiency. We’d generally recommend that our clients make a decision and stick with it – a thought I’ll come back to in a future article.
Hedging your bets also makes you much less agile because your teams or partners are split across different domains and can’t help each other out when it all hits the fan.
The need for agility in uncertain times
That leads me to the third theme. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that 2023 will be the year when DevOps and DevSecOps culture really breaks through. In unpredictable times like these you have to be ready for anything; to scale up, scale down, change direction, innovate... Being cloud-first certainly helps. So does DevOps and DevSecOps approach where the development and operations teams work together seamlessly, because it allows you to react faster and more effectively, break down silos and work across departments.
But if you want the sort of agility that DevOps brings you’ll also need to work with partners who are nimble. There are certainly advantages to working with the big consultancies but smaller partners bring their own advantages. There’s generally more continuity so you’re more likely to be able to forge close, trusting working relationships with a particular team and less likely to get lost in the system or passed around. They’re are often more flexible and agile, so when you need to respond to changing circumstances they tend to be better placed to move with you. And they really can’t afford unhappy customers.
So, remember those three things – look for business relationships where there’s a willingness to build trust, embrace DevOps and make sure you’re cloud enabled. Hopefully they’ll stand you in good stead through some potentially challenging months.
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