The information technology (IT) industry will morph in 2021, prompted by its response to the chaos of 2020 and affirmation that it is the central nervous system of our digital society, according to the IT Industry Outlook 2021 released today by CompTIA.
The annual report from the leading nonprofit association for the technology industry and IT professionals provides insight into the trends that will shape the industry, its workforce and its business models in the new year.
“The confusion, disruption and uncertainty we’ve experienced in 2020 will have some spillover effect in 2021, but rather than rebuilding to restore what it was, we believe that the industry is poised to rebuild for a better and brighter future,” said Carolyn April, senior director, industry analysis, CompTIA.
“Transformative changes accelerated this year, leaving no doubt about the critical importance of digital operations,” said Seth Robinson, CompTIA’s senior director for technology analysis. “But as the spotlight on tech brightened it brought other matters into focus, including the industry’s responsibility to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive; and whether its influence and reach will be subject to new government regulation.”
10 Trends to Watch in 2021
- There Is No Normal – The concept of an established pattern will be more elusive for businesses, forcing them to juggle a multitude of options, from employee locations to supply chain components to customer demands.
- Cloud Is King – Organizations will adopt a cloud-first mentality when it comes to building or upgrading IT infrastructure.
- Channel Firms Respond to Customer Changes – The need for flexibility by channel firms has never been greater as customers work their way through uncertain times.
- Channel Dynamics Become More Balanced – Vendor/partner relationships become a marriage of equals, with cloud computing as the primary matchmaker.
- Emerging Technologies Find Their Place Inside Business Solutions – Organizations direct their energy into building solutions on top of the platform’s they’ve built on cloud and mobile options.
- Zero Trust Shapes Cybersecurity Initiatives – Verify everything becomes the new paradigm that guides cybersecurity practices.
- Managed Service Providers Build Deeper Cybersecurity Expertise – More MSPs redefine their businesses almost exclusively around security, adding advanced services.
- Tech Industry Prepares for Regulation – The impact is likely to be felt by everyone, from the largest industry titans to the smallest channel firms.
- Business Conversations Drive Business Skills for Tech Pros – No longer relegated to the help desk, IT pros’ need for professional skills is accentuated – and often required.
- Companies Set Public Goals for Diversity – It’s time for companies to move beyond awareness to accountability with deliverables that are public and certifiable.
Era of Cautious Optimism
CompTIA’s IT Industry Outlook 2021 also includes expectations for the year ahead from the perspectives of technology company executives and IT professionals.
Companies expect to alter their business models next year by offering more services, getting more involved with emerging technologies, exploring vertical market opportunities and stressing their cybersecurity expertise. Each of these steps (and others) are part of their plans to bounce back from 2020’s challenging environment. Just over 60% of firms said the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on business.
Asked about 2021 prospects, 37% of firms expect to grow revenue in excess of both their 2020 and 2019 results. Another 25% expect revenue to remain stable with 2020 levels, though for some firms that might be less than 2019 because of the effects of the pandemic. About one-quarter say the lost revenue this year but hope to revert back to 2019 levels. Four in 10 companies anticipate keeping their budgets at 2020 levels, with a quarter predicting somewhat higher spending and 13% somewhat lower.
Similar mixed signals are present in survey responses from IT professionals. Nearly 80% feel good about their role as a technologist. The majority see a bright outlook thanks to the high demand for skills, driven by the increasing importance of technology to business strategy. But there is also uncertainty over technology spending, with 44% feeling that budgets are too small, and they acknowledge that they’ll likely be asked to do more with less. In fact, three in 10 companies are retraining existing staff to fill open positions or address new areas of focus.
The report also includes insights to how the industry responded to the pandemic; their plans to support their employees in 2021; hiring plans and criteria; and the potential impacts of more government regulation.