Toss out last year's trends! Nothing happened the way any of us expected. This year, the critical trends do not include blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, or Virtual Reality glasses. It is more important than ever to understand the trends this year because they help to explain and document the reality of our upcoming post-pandemic world. Understanding this will not only help you describe what is happening to us now, but it will also help you prepare for what is next.
Here are seven trends that we are experiencing in real time that are affecting many of our clients and other small businesses around the country and around the world. Review each trend by asking yourself if it represents an opportunity or a threat. Also ask yourself if you are ready to react.
1. Can't Put the Genie Back in the Work/Life Bottle:
During the pandemic, staff worked at home with flexible schedules, and once they start returning, they will not be going back to the same work environment. Terms like “Hybrid Office”, “Mobile Working”, and “Remote Equation” are new ways to describe the contract between remote staff and the physical office. For your IT team, this is huge. Staff will expect to continue to operate with their own equipment while working at home with kids and grandkids nearby ... all seamlessly. Your IT team must now protect 2-3 times more remote connection points including many more computers, phones, and tablets. Staff will expect to have all data accessible all the time.
2. Companies Must Fight on Multiple IT Fronts:
This approach is usually a recipe for losing, right? VPN and home offices led to an incredible 127% increase in exposed endpoints according to the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Said differently, Cyberthieves now have more points to attack. And they are! Cybercrime gross revenue almost doubled last year to $6 trillion. One main reason is that home networks are less protected. Home offices lack the security and the cyber discipline of the corporate offices. We have always known this, but things changed dramatically in 2020. The IT team must now defend multiple fronts.
3. Cyberwars Accelerate:
Did anyone think that new, smarter Cybersecurity will make the cyberthieves give up? No. Of course not. Instead, the opposite is happening. It is simply too profitable for these thieves to pack their bags and do something else. It is also way too difficult to lock up the bad guys. Cybercrime is going in the wrong direction. Criminals are doubling down on their malicious technology by using AI for smarter phishing scams, as an example. Attacks are getting more sophisticated, and certain nation-states are sponsoring such cybertheft. This situation is leading to a "Zero-Trust" approach where networks and computers will be set to validate every application and action prior to it running successfully. It is way more complicated, but it is definitely coming.
4. Budgets Shifting More Towards IT:
After shrinking in 2020, technology spending is shifting in favor of cyber. Most small to mid-sized businesses are shifting money towards IT to better support remote working and cybersecurity. We reported on this early last year. The cool breakroom does not motivate young new hires anymore. Nor are clients impressed with the art in the lobby or the gadgets in the conference room. In larger firms, the budget has shifted from developing new and improved products and services to Cybersecurity. The other significant shift this year is that IT budgeting decisions have shifted from the IT Manager to the CxO level … and it may never go back.
5. Cybersecurity is a Layered Cake:
The newest approach to Cybersecurity is like a layered cake. The more layers of frosting, thin pieces of cake, and different flavors of sprinkles, the better. IT strategy is now analogous to this layered cake. We no longer have a simple 3-part defense consisting of a firewall, an antivirus app, and a backup solution. One of the new layers is managed endpoint detection and response. It compliments or ever replaces the antivirus solution. Today, Cybersecurity has many more layers of protection based on the security level you need. Smart businesspeople are thinking in terms of layers now!
6. Team Approach to Cybersecurity:
Today, hardware, software, cloud services, AI, monitoring, and training all contribute to a proper cybersecurity strategy. It takes more than one person to stay current or respond in a crisis. IT delivery is now a team sport. A project team requires many specialized skills working together to help define a proper strategy. When there is a problem, the team needs to be able to respond quickly, fix it right the first time, and prevent it from happening again.
7. Your IT Network is a Brand Statement:
Just recently, some leaders placed fancy artwork in the lobby to communicate success. Others increased visibility by wrapping their delivery vehicles with advertising. Increasingly, professional service firms are helping their brand by assuring their clients that their data is protected. Forward-thinking firms are promoting the fact that their firm has invested in IT security. This communication has become a signal to many that the company is a well-managed, successful business. We think this is true today more than ever before.
As we start this year, we are looking to work with our clients to help them be ready for cyberattacks. We are committed to education rather than promoting unwarranted fear. We don't want you to wake up in the middle of the night worried about your IT issues. In fact, we want the opposite. We believe that the best way to sleep soundly at night is through promoting readiness. Is your business prepared for what is happening out there?
We hope these seven trends help you see the world that will become our 2021. We want you to be ready for what is coming.