Change is Coming, and It’s IT-Fueled

“Clairvoyance required” is not something that’s likely to appear in a CIO’s job description, but it probably should. With the massive amount of information (and misinformation) available these days about coming trends in IT, a crystal ball would sure make our jobs easier. The good news is, we can gaze into the future by examining the present IT climate, and extrapolating what shifts are likely to occur.

One of the safer bets is that workplace mobility will continue to skyrocket. There are numerous data points to support this; one of my favorites is that an astounding 34 percent of the U.S. workforce – that’s 53 million people– are doing freelance work. As more and more millennials enter the workforce, that number is sure to climb since many from that generation report that a “9-to-5” office job is not their ideal career trajectory.

Even those who aren’t freelancing don’t necessarily have to be tethered to a desk; enterprise technologies such as cloud services, collaborative work platforms and video conferencing have progressed to a stage where employees are no longer restricted to the location of a company’s headquarters. The playing field has become leveled to such an extent that working offsite will become the norm, not the exception.

Which leads us to another, possibly more controversial, projection for the future; We all know that BYOD stands for “bring your own device,” but within 10 years I believe we’ll know that acronym by its new meaning: “bring your own data center.” But don’t take my word for it; by 2016, Gartner predicts that 30 percent of BYOD strategies will leverage personal applications and data for enterprise purposes.

What that means is that the line between personal and enterprise data usage will blur. Now we see an unmistakable trend emerging – millennials are redefining not only when and where they work, but also how they get their work done. This is no passing phase, either. It will present an ongoing challenge for IT device makers and service providers – not to mention CIOs trying to formulate a coherent BYOD strategy – for years to come. What are those challenges, exactly?

In my mind, the biggest one of all is security. With the proliferation of connected devices fueling the current and future BYOD movements, the inevitability of a robust Internet of Things (IoT) can simply no longer be ignored. Just what are we talking about here? Well, the current number of connected things – over 5 billion – will skyrocket to 25 billion by 2020. That’s just five years away.

No crystal ball is needed to tell us we must make security planning for IoT a top strategic priority. Fortunately, cyber-criminals can only steal raw data and being able to turn that data into real-world analog, criminal activity will require a deeper understanding on the part of the would-be thieves. Make no mistake, though; understanding will come sooner than we would like. As CIOs, we certainly will have our work cut out for us.

The shift in how and where employees are working will bring about a number of technological challenges in the short term. Looking ahead, however, the opportunities it will create for workers, companies and IT vendors will be unprecedented. If you want to hold me to any of my predictions, make it that one. After all, human ingenuity wins every time.

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