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Reflections on Tech in 2019

We look at 2019's most popular content on InformationWeek and put perspective around the technology areas that took off in terms of innovation and adoption.

As we close out 2019 it's becoming easy to see how technology has changed, not only in the evolution of individual tech concepts like artificial intelligence, 5G and cloud computing, but also how tech has reshaped our businesses, our jobs and our lives.

But how about IT as a profession? Is the IT staff doomed by automation and shadow IT? Not likely! We entered 2019 with 11.8 million IT workers employed in the U.S., up by 261K from a year earlier, according to CompTIA, and that was with 3.7 million open job postings at the time. There's no sign that the IT field will be shrinking any time soon.

No, IT isn't going away, but it's undergoing dramatic changes. We can't put a finger on an exact date, but at some time in the past year or three, executives and business unit leaders, even common line workers, began knocking on IT's door with new types of requests.

Image: Choat -
Image: Choat -

It wasn't about lost passwords or cracked notebook screens. Rather, it was about using technology to run a better business. Sure, some of the requests merely echoed industry buzzwords and talking points: "We need AI," "We need automation," "We need to improve the customer experience," "We need digital transformation." But, IT finally took steps toward being strategic. It's what some experts envisioned almost 40 years ago when the CIO title became popular, information becoming a corporate asset and a tool to drive efficiency and revenue.

We're at a point in time when IT professionals, from staff to CIO, are expected to understand which technologies can help the business make or save money, and how. Those emerging tech concepts even change the day-to-day IT operations. Operations personnel who once monitored data center status may now be evaluating potential cloud providers. Project managers who once fretted over deadline dates can play an active role in the DevOps process with analytics that measure the quality, not just the status of new software. Chatbots guide users through the mundane password reset process, freeing up the support person to test or implement new mobile devices and apps.

All of this doesn't mean that everyone is thrilled with the shakeup of IT. Some IT pros, including many who are skilled in configuring servers and PC break-fix roles have lost their jobs, and change always brings a bit of dread and pain. Yet new IT roles are being created. Many of the 3.7 million job postings were for work in growing tech companies, not just traditional end user organizations. IT pros who once supported email systems and financials in transportation or insurance companies often are a good fit for product development/integration roles in Silicon Valley and the regional innovation centers around the country.

Even within traditional user companies, IT pros are taking on advisory roles rather than just punching tickets.

In this feature we look at 2019's tech trends as illustrated in some of InformationWeek's most read content, and we try to put into perspective what a year's worth of tech innovation and adoption means to all of us.

[The InformationWeek editorial team of James Connolly, Cathleen Gagne, Jessica Davis and Joao-Pierre Ruth contributed to this report.]


Your IT Career: New Opportunities, New Skill Sets

Image: StockPhotoPro -
Image: StockPhotoPro -

One thing we know about IT professionals is that they have to keep their career plans and their skill sets in high gear, whether they are looking for a new job or simply preparing for the arrival of the next tech challenges and standards.

Keeping tech skills and certifications up to date seems like a no-brainer. The tough part today is how many in-demand skills come and go so quickly. What's hot tech today is discarded tomorrow. Plus, the learning curve is getting steeper. Ten or 12 years ago, a new certification might have meant just moving up one release or level in a familiar Windows Server or Cisco platform. Today, operations and development pros must be ready to jump from one architecture to something totally new. Heck, many folks are still figuring out where machine learning stops, and AI starts.

IT Careers: 12 Job Skills in Demand for 2020

Employers will likely be looking to fill these kinds of IT positions in the coming year, building out their teams' tech skills.

7 Technologies You Need to Know for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is actually a term that encompasses a host of technology and tools. Here's a closer look at some of the more important ones.

10 Career Moves You Can Make in 2019

IT unemployment is very low, but that doesn't mean you should let your skills stagnate.

Must Have IT Skills You Need to Remain Competitive

Engineers, developers, and IT managers might want to consider training on these skill sets to keep themselves invaluable to their organizations.

5 IT Career Tips from Pros Who Know

For those looking to put their best foot forward or get unstuck from a career plateau, we've collected tips from IT pros who have navigated a successful career.

Where's That Next Job? Here, There, Anywhere

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

One of the positives about an IT career is that many of your skills and experiences are transferrable. While there are differences in how systems are managed or developed in Wall Street companies and in healthcare, there remain plenty of commonalities in the technologies used and best practices.

Learning the terminology and workflows of a different industry can be challenging, but a lot of the core tech concepts remain the same. IT pros may find that they don't have to stick with the same company or industry. In fact, IT skills are pretty portable when it comes to geographies. JavaScript in Boston is the same JavaScript in San Diego or London.

Toss telecommuting into the mix -- at least for those IT folks who aren't required to get hands-on with hardware -- and many more IT jobs are available.

How about IT jobs that aren't in central IT? One thing we've seen this year is IT talent being spread out throughout the enterprise. That may mean an IT pro moving into roles in marketing, operational tech and product development.

The traditional boundaries on where IT happens are fading.

10 Best Places in the World for Tech Workers to Live

This ranking considers factors like mobile and broadband speed, quality of life and property affordability, as well as tech salaries, and you’ll probably be surprised by which city was No. 1.

15 Best Places to Work in Technology

These tech firms get the best ratings and reviews from current and former employees.

Top-Paying U.S. Cities for Data Scientists and Data Analysts

If you're a data scientist, you'll earn the most money on one of the coasts, but data analysts will do better looking for jobs in the center of the country.

IT Careers: How to Get a Job in DevOps

Here are seven steps you can take if you want to transition into a DevOps career.

How to Land a Job in Cloud Computing

These 9 tips can help you transition from a traditional IT role to a lucrative position in cloud computing.

So, You've Heard About This Thing Called AI …

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, chatbots, automation, and more -- you can't escape all of them.

Think back to 2018 when the business and tech worlds went AI crazy. It seemed that AI could do everything for everyone, this coming after AI woke up from decades of dormancy just a couple years earlier.

Now, think of 2019 as the year of the AI reality check. We're still a little AI loopy in terms of its promise. But we're also recognizing some of AI's limitations, starting with the ethical issues surrounding AI and machine learning -- built-in bias, privacy, accuracy, and the lack of transparency into how that virtual black box makes decisions. This also was the year when businesses came to realize that AI and machine learning aren't easy to do. They need investments in time, people and acquiring quality data. So, we're starting to hear companies talking about the need to start small with pilot projects and then scaling upward and outward as resources allow and needs arise.

One of the operative terms in enterprise AI for 2019 was "focus on the most important business needs". The chatbot that orders your lunch from the company cafeteria just has to wait.

That said, this year has seen more companies building AI and machine learning capabilities into enterprise software packages, as well as cloud-based AI services designed to minimize the challenges of building AI apps in-house.

Why Businesses Should Adopt an AI Code of Ethics -- Now

AI has been abused as part of disinformation campaigns, accused of perpetuating biases, and criticized for overstepping privacy bounds. Let’s address this.

AI Ethics: Where to Start

Your AI program needs to incorporate fairness, transparency, security, and ethics. Here are the basics.

How to Get Hands-On with Machine Learning

If you really want to understand the capabilities and limitations of machine learning, you have to get hands-on. Here's a short list of options for beginners.

IBM Takes Watson AI to AWS, Google, Azure

IBM is leveraging Kubernetes to enable its Watson AI to run on public clouds AWS, Google, and Microsoft Azure. The move signals a shift in strategy for IBM.

The Future of AI in America: What All Leaders Should Consider

Regardless of the spotlight President Trump put on AI, the technology was destined to make a big impact in 2019, and companies will need AI to compete successfully.

Dos and Don'ts: Robotic Process Automation

RPA is the fastest growing category of software today, driven by enterprise digital transformation efforts. Here's how to make the most of it.

Analytics and Data Science: They're Table Stakes

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

The last year of the 2010s marked a turning point for the use of data in the enterprise, in fact data in our lives. While we still may "trust our gut" on some decisions, in most cases the decision process starts with data. That wasn't the case even five years ago.

Not only is the need for analytics a given in today's business world, but also those who ignore data tend to plunge into bankruptcy or unemployment. The general acceptance of analytics as a concept also plays into our interest in AI and machine learning as the next step in data's evolution. Think of AI as a way of delivering and taking action on your analytics efforts.

Analytics are reshaping businesses and play a key role in the move toward digital transformation, identifying new business opportunities, ways to better serve customers, and strategies for enterprise efficiency.

In our personal and professional lives we get deeply involved in data analytics. From Yelp restaurant ratings to buying a new car and on to how we measure employee satisfaction and performance data plays a key role. Where business analytics and personal analytics overlap has become one big grey area.

Ready or Not, Big Data is Bringing Big Changes

Companies looking to take advantage of the complex data game need to start by identifying general areas of their business that truly need help.

Data Science Salary Survey Reveals Market Shift

Quantitative executive recruitment firm Burtch Works annual salary survey revealed changes in the job market for data scientists and predictive analytics pros.

How to Get Hands-On with Machine Learning

If you really want to understand the capabilities and limitations of machine learning, you have to get hands-on. Here's a short list of options for beginners.

Salesforce Buys Tableau: Next Wave Analytics Consolidation

Salesforce buys Tableau, and Google buys Looker, kicking off a new wave of consolidation in the analytics and BI space.

Post-Hadoop Data and Analytics Head to the Cloud

Data and analytics in the cloud era may favor platforms based on platforms that are more flexible than Hadoop. But that doesn't mean there's no future for the early big data technology.

Data Hunter: The New Sexy Technology Job

Data hunter, data scout, or data acquisition specialist may be the new hot career as organizations look to enrich the value of their data analytics and machine learning initiatives with external data.

What You Need to Know About Augmented Analytics

As enterprises travel on a digital transformation path, they need to stay current with analytics, but it’s not a linear journey.

Privacy Matters: Don't Minimize It

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

With analytics, as with AI and machine learning, privacy is pretty much the Wooly Mammoth in the room. While you may have wished to ignore the privacy issue, it too had a huge impact on businesses and citizens in 2019.

Corporate data initiatives depend on people sharing personal data, buying experiences, and financial information. Yet, with every customer data breach and every revelation about how giant tech-based companies (Hello, Facebook and Google) leverage our data and our online interactions, concern about privacy deepens. Two exceptions to that: the shrinking number of people who just don't care about privacy if sharing information gets them something for free; and those of us who feel so beaten up by privacy abuse that we are numb to it. (How did Google know that I mentioned baseball in that phone call? I surrender.)

The year 2019 saw the EU put the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into action and passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). For enterprise IT the gotchas keep showing up when it comes to privacy. Business executives have been known to ask how they can skirt the existing data privacy regulations. Meanwhile, IT faces a growing complexity in the regulations as each government body passes their own -- sometimes conflicting -- privacy laws.

Enterprise Guide to Data Privacy

Enterprise organizations could be hit with heavy fines if they don’t comply with laws (current and upcoming) to protect their customers. CIOs and IT leaders: Are you ready?

Data Privacy Regs are Coming, and the Number 50 is Worrisome

It's time for businesses to unite and back a single federal data privacy law. If not, we might end up with 50 different laws.

Top U.S. Businesses Call for More Government Regulation

So, what’s the catch? There’s a very real possibility that most states will develop their own data privacy laws, causing chaos that will benefit no one.

Your Boss: 'We're Going Cloud'

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Sort of like the situation with AI, executives saying the enterprise should go all cloud don't necessarily know the "how" behind the mandate.

Chatter about the cloud in 2019 centered on topics such as managing a multi-cloud, multi-provider environment, when a hybrid cloud strategy makes sense, and the general shift by database software vendors to essentially all-cloud offerings.

One interesting trend has been under the radar a bit. In the past year or so software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications have become the first option that many enterprises consider, not just for new apps but also when they replace proven, existing on-premise apps.

Something to consider moving forward: In 2019 it became pretty clear that most AI applications are going to work best if the data is stored and processed in the cloud. It's simply a matter of those apps requiring so much data that on-premise collection and storage doesn't make sense. Now, when you consider the move to edge computing as part of something like an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy, do the cloud and the edge become one and the same?

Cloud 2.0: A New Era for Public Cloud

With new technologies and cloud offerings available almost by the day, the impetus for cloud adoption is stronger than ever before.

Where Does Oracle Fit in the New Cloud Era?

Differing perspectives weigh in on the venerable database and the rise of its cloud-native rivals.

Getting to Cloud, What are the Key Factors?

Lessons learned from migrating a major bank's entire application portfolio to the cloud.

Dealing with Multi-Cloud Data Complexity

IT leaders need to understand that a problem exists and then think through approaches. Once they do that, the technology to employ is easier to figure out. Here's some guidance.

Learning to Navigate Multi-Cloud at ESCAPE/19 and ONUG

Experts at a pair of conferences in New York shared insight on how to address challenges and leverage advantages of multi-cloud.

Enterprise Guide to Multi-Cloud Adoption

Here's a collection of information to help IT leaders and professionals learn more about multi-cloud adoption for their enterprise organizations.

DevOps Is Everywhere

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Way, way back in 2018, the key talking point was the need for enterprises to employ DevOps. Pioneers in the space helped conference speakers hammer home the point by highlighting their success stories. The message was to build better applications, faster, and to continue to improve and deliver those improvements.

Since then we've shifted to EverythingOps: DevSecOps, AIOps, MLOps, DataOps, and so on. For 2020 the question is about which "Ops" really will be needed and where the various incarnations sort of blend together.

One thing is clear, however, and that is how Agile and continuous improvement must be key components in the enterprise structure. That includes more than just the IT group, with business unit leaders, even lowly end users, buying into the concepts.

Complicating -- or maybe enhancing -- the DevOps strategy is the evolution of low-code and no-code development. IT leaders now are faced with the question of just how much freedom they should give to business users who want to build their own apps.

If DevOps Is So Awesome, Why Is Your Initiative Failing?

True DevOps success means being able to extend initial project results to other critical application pipelines throughout the enterprise. Here are five ways to navigate the obstacles.

Why DataOps is a Major Quality Trend for 2020

Take the DevOps concept a step further and see how DataOps can improve data quality and customer experiences.

Adapt or Perish: Why Modernize IT Operations

Operations teams can learn to identify and act to remove roadblocks to necessary changes that might help organizations modernize more quickly.

How to Keep Pace with Agile Development Trends

The Agile model and its adopters are moving forward rapidly. Here's how you can stay on top of the latest improvements.

What Happens When You Inject Security into DevOps: DevSecOps

If you think that the security reviews that your DevOps team conducts are enough, give it another thought. 

Why Scaling DevOps Is a People Problem

You can have the latest and greatest automation toolset, but without people transformation, DevOps at scale will remain a mirage for many.

Getting Machine Learning into Production: MLOps

Machine learning upstart DataRobot, which pioneered the AutoML category, acquired ParallelM to help organizations move their models into production.

How a Low-Code Platform Helped 911 Services in New Orleans

Digital transformation, made easy, improved efficiency and closed gaps in the management of emergency services resources.

So, How Do All These Concepts Transform the Enterprise? Yes, the 'DT' Word

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Digital transformation is real, at least for some organizations. If you haven't done it but want to transform your organization, you aren't going to log into some online software store to buy digital transformation software. Also, migrating to the cloud isn't transformation. Nor is rolling out an AI app or implementing DevOps. It isn't about technology. As 2019 progressed we learned that transformation is about culture and a mind shift away from business as usual and toward where your organization needs to be. It's about people and processes that let the tech work.

In some cases, transformation is about abandoning an under-performing business unit. In other instances, a complete shift to the cloud is a starting point, enabling the organization to rethink its workflows and reporting structure.

Despite the drumbeat from industry thought leaders, a complete transformation may not be right for every organization. Don't feel guilty about an initiative that basically involves substituting an AI-based customer experience application for your current help desk, for example, if the move pays dividends. Each of the elements mentioned above can provide benefits to someone, but probably not everyone.

Considering all the concepts outlined above, it's crystal clear that the only thing that will be consistent moving forward is consistent change enabled by technology.

What Digital Transformation Is (And Isn't)

If you're confused about what digital transformation means, you're not alone. But survey data highlights some agreement about how it’s changing the way companies do business.

Going Up? Otis Elevator Hits Digital Transformation Button

Otis pioneered predictive maintenance before most heard the phrase Internet of Things. Now the 166-year-old company is prepping the elevator of the future.

Capital One CIO: We're a Software Company

Capital One CIO Rob Alexander has transformed his organization from an IT shop into a software company with Agile development, public cloud, new talent, open source technology, and machine learning.

Enterprise Guide to Digital Transformation

Don’t let IT modernization be the bane of your existence. This curated collection of articles will give you more clarity and help you get started.

Ford Motor IT's Changing Direction

Ford Motor Co. faces a future of autonomous vehicles, changing attitudes on car ownership, and new consumer expectations. Here's how Ford's IT group is supporting the company's vision.

Prepare for Fourth Industrial Revolution Tech

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has arrived with the emergence of new technologies. Is your company ready to join in?

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editorial director of InformationWeek and Network Computing, he oversees the day-to-day planning and editing on the site. Most recently he was editor ... View Full Bio

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