IT Pros Prioritizing APM, Hybrid Management and Security

(“In Case You Missed It Monday” is my chance to showcase something that I wrote and published in another venue, but is still relevant. This week’s post originally appeared on APM Digest)

As cloud computing continues to grow, tech pros say they are increasingly prioritizing areas like hybrid infrastructure management, application performance management (APM), and security management to optimize delivery for the organizations they serve, according to SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT.

With the convergence of IT roles in response to the interconnected nature of modern IT environments — and now the need to support a new or larger remote workforce — tech pros are also setting their sights on non-technical and interpersonal skills to ensure teamwork and communication with business leaders increases their fluency in the universal language of IT. Skills development is needed across both technical and non-technical areas to remain successful in today’s environments.

“For years we’ve been talking about hybrid IT and what it means for tech pros; in our seventh year of the IT Trends Report, we see the effects of hybrid IT in breaking down traditional siloes and bringing core competencies across on-premises and cloud environments together,” said Joe Kim, EVP and Global CTO, SolarWinds. “Especially now, when organizations worldwide are facing new challenges and uncertainty, we must take this reality seriously, focusing on skills development and readiness in key areas like security, cloud infrastructure, and application monitoring. While IT continues to be a main driver of business importance, tech pros have an opportunity to help reassure the business and focus on effectively communicating performance now and into the future.”

Key report findings show the following:

Tech pros focus less on emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and edge and more on hybrid IT and security

■ The top three technologies influencing organizations’ staffing needs (by weighted rank):
– Cloud computing (i.e., SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) (55%)
– Security and compliance (52%)
– Hybrid IT (34%)

■ Only a collective 26% of respondents name emerging technologies — like artificial intelligence (AI), edge, microservices, and containers — as the biggest influence staffing needs.

■ This makes sense when you consider organizations aren’t allocating budget to emerging technologies — particularly as this year’s budgets are reevaluated in the face of economic challenges. Nearly three-quarters (72%) indicate their organizations’ tech budgets allocate less than 25% of spend to emerging technologies.

Today’s hybrid IT reality has created a universal language of IT where tech pro roles and siloes converge, and complexities are exacerbated by flat to shrinking budgets and a lack of qualified personnel

■ With the convergence of technologies and responsibilities, the top three ways tech pro roles have changed over the past three to five years are:
– Need to retrain existing staff (43%)
– Increased on-premises responsibilities (40%)
– Increased work week hours (37%)

■ At the same time, tech pros are experiencing barriers to successfully supporting their organizations, including:
– Lack of budget/resources (36%)
– Unclear or shifting priorities (23%)
– Lack of training for personnel (12%)

■ What’s more, nearly half (48%) of respondents believe tech pros entering the workforce today don’t have the necessary skills to manage modern, distributed IT environments — outweighing those who do believe they possess the skills (28%) nearly two to one.

Many personnel and skills issues relate to growing areas like APM and security and compliance

■ 54% of tech pros/teams/IT departments surveyed are spending more time managing apps and services rather than infrastructure and hardware. This represents a monumental shift in the strategic importance of applications to the modern business.

This trend will likely continue to rise: according to Gartner, by 2022, as many as 60% of organizations will use an external service provider’s cloud managed service offering, doubling the 2018 figure. Gartner also predicts the ongoing effect on skills: By 2020, 75% of enterprises will experience visible business disruptions due to infrastructure and operations (I&O) skills gaps, which is an increase from less than 20% in 2016.

■ When organizations adopt cloud and/or SaaS technologies, 57% use network traffic analysis/network app analysis, 55% use user experience monitoring, and 52% use log analysis as their top three approaches. When it comes to APM tools, 61% use a mix of native tools (provided by the cloud service provider) and third-party tools.

More complexity equals more APM: as business size increases, the percentage of tech pros using log analytics (58% for enterprise) and tracing (24% for enterprise) increases. 23% of small businesses have not or don’t plan to adopt technology to gain visibility into cloud or SaaS technologies.

■ For 65% of tech pros, at least 10% of their daily responsibilities include IT security management. At the same time, the top three areas of security skills management tech pro organizations are prioritizing for development include (by weighted rank):
– Network security (48%)
– Security and event management (SIEM) (33%)
– Backup and recovery (29%)

■ Similar to the way the universal language of IT has affected IT departments, compliance policies have resulted in 46% of tech pros adding additional IT staff.

■ Compliance policies with the greatest effect on IT departments include:
– GDPR (45%)
– PCI DSS (34%)
– HIPAA (34%)

■ Business size discrepancies: a larger percentage of small (46%) and enterprise (48%) organizations report being affected by GDPR, likely due to a lack of resources and broad global purviews, respectively.

Tech pros need to develop non-technical skills to operate within the universal language of IT reality where cross-functional and business-level communication is necessary

■ The non-technical skills tech pros feel are most critical to successfully manage today’s modern IT environments include:
– Project management (69%)
– Interpersonal communication (57%)
– People management (53%)

These results are echoed by CIO’s annual State of the CIO Survey, which revealed the top skills needed for digital transformation were strategy building (40%), project management (32%), and business relationship management (25%). These critical interpersonal skills become more important as tech pros increasingly communicate and collaborate across previously siloed IT functions.

According to the LinkedIn 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, the demand for soft skills like communication, collaboration, and creativity will continue to rise across the SaaS industry.

■ Despite the budget and skills issues tech pros report, 53% of surveyed tech pros say they’re comfortable communicating with business leadership when requesting technology purchases, investing time/budget into team trainings, and the like.

Methodology: The findings of this year’s North American report are based on a survey fielded in December 2019, which yielded responses from 227 technology practitioners, managers, and directors from public-and private-sector small, mid-size, and enterprise companies across the United States and Canada. All regions studied in 2020, as reported on the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, were North America, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, with 983 respondents across all geographies combined.

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