by Mark Settle

IT predictions: here’s what won’t be happening in 2018

Jan 31, 2018
Technology Industry

Nine things that will NOT be happening in information technology this year, for better or for worse.

crumpled graph paper cold trend chart failure
Credit: Thinkstock

If you’re drowning in rosy predictions about the revolutionary impact of machine learning, IoT and blockchain on commercial enterprises in 2018, then rest assured this article offers an alternative point of view. Here are nine things that won’t be happening in information technology this year, for better or for worse.

1. Tech debt won’t get any better

Every IT organization claims that it’s innovating at a faster pace than ever before but few, if any, are cleaning up technical debt faster than they are creating it. The faster any IT shop adopts new technologies, the greater the amount of tech debt they create. If you Google the term ‘tech debt,’ you get roughly 5.5 million results, whereas if you Google ‘digital transformation,’ you get almost 11 million – what does that tell you about the relative level of attention being devoted to technical debt remediation?

2. Tech hiring won’t get easier

Have you struggled to hire a data scientist, someone experienced in hybrid cloud operations or a seasoned information security engineer lately? How about someone skilled in artificial intelligence or machine learning? CompTIA reports that there are roughly 7 million tech jobs in the U.S. Not all of these are information technology jobs, but suffice it to say that there are millions of IT jobs in today’s economy. However, College Factual reports that roughly 60,000 U.S. college graduates received computer science related degrees in 2017. Admittedly, many individuals acquire IT skills without holding computer science degrees (myself included), but there’s still a gross mismatch between tech job creation and the supply of IT talent.

3. The gender gap in IT will not be closed

The National Student Clearinghouse reports that only 20 percent of U.S. Computer Science grads are women (i.e. 10,000 of the 50,000 graduates referenced above). Perhaps even more distressing, Catalyst – a workplace research group – reports that female tech graduates are less likely to enter their field of study and more likely to leave tech-intensive positions than their male counterparts. Although there have been notable successes in promoting STEM curricula at the secondary school level, translating these successes into an expanded pool of female IT practitioners will take many years. This is all the more reason for companies to do more to support female IT professionals so that they can pave the way for a brighter, more equal future. 

4. There won’t be fewer regulatory requirements to deal with

This assertion doesn’t require a lot of substantiation. There are rumors that enterprising lawyers in Europe are founding firms dedicated to suing U.S.-based companies that violate the EU GDPR regulations that go into effect in May. Enough said!

5. Chatbot backlash won’t materialize

Many companies established offshore service centers in the early 2000’s to support their paying customers and employees. In many instances, customers and employees were critical of offshore agents’ language and technology skills, claiming that they didn’t possess the knowledge needed to truly resolve a complaint or operational issue. In some cases, the backlash became so severe that the work performed at these offshore centers was ultimately relocated back to the U.S. It’s somewhat ironic that chatbots are increasingly providing the same type of support without sparking similar complaints. Perhaps we are more comfortable interacting with a machine than another human being?

6. Consumer apps and info won’t wait for you to find them – they will find you

This probably doesn’t surprise you because it’s already happening. Whether we like it or not, our web behaviors are frequently monitored via cookies or opt-in agreements that we innocently accepted a long time ago. Compute-on-demand, data lakes, cheap storage, machine learning and bot technologies will enable retailers to mine consumer web behaviors in 2018 to a degree they’ve never done before. The days of searching for apps and information on the web are almost over. The web is going to start delivering the customized content you need to run your life before you ever realized you needed it! 2018 may be the inflection year in which we find ourselves spending more time opting out of unsolicited web apps and data feeds than opting in.

7. Production systems will not be developed in the cloud and hosted on-premise

This is the myth that cloud vendors employed to entice early adopters into using cloud-based infrastructure. They didn’t want to fight the cost, security and reliability battles that would be required to convince customers to move production systems into their clouds. Instead, they suggested that companies merely use cloud infrastructure for software development and testing purposes. They assured early adopters that it would be easy to transfer cloud-developed systems into their proprietary data centers whenever such systems were ready to be placed in production. The ruse worked. Early adopters signed up, and once they became adept at leveraging the agility of cloud-based infrastructure, they lost all interest in moving cloud-developed systems back into their corporate data centers.

8. Companies that achieve internet scale operations will not abandon AWS, Azure or Google

Many companies claim to use one or more of the principal cloud vendors as a stepping stone to Internet scale operations, at which point they will start building their own proprietary data centers. Zynga pursued this strategy and ultimately reverted to AWS after trying to become self-dependent. Once a company learns to live without the recurring capital investments and operational headaches involved in maintaining its own data centers, it’s pretty hard to revert to the proprietary operating model. As they say at AWS, “friends don’t let friends build data centers!”

9. Silicon Valley will not be eclipsed by another tech center

Perhaps the easiest prediction of all. No other place possesses the unique confluence of brain power, venture capital and entrepreneurial success that exists in Silicon Valley today. New York’s Silicon Alley, Austin’s Silicon Hills, LA’s Silicon Beach and Portland’s Silicon Forest will have to wait another few years before they can come close to unseating Silicon Valley as the epicenter of tech innovation in the U.S.