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The risk of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, more regulation and skills gaps all likely to impact business in 2022 

Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace manual and repetitive tasks freeing up staff for business-critical jobs  

 By Neil Taylor, Enterprise Solutions Architect, Northdoor 

 The last two years has seen a new, hybrid, way of working become normality for many firms. Although the world had hoped it had seen the last of the pandemic, the last few weeks of 2021 have shown that this is not going to be the case and the COVID-19 hangover will be with us for some time. 

 As a result, many of the same issues that have impacted businesses over the past three years will continue. Although initially we saw a rapid acceleration in investment in technology that allowed companies to continue trading in the face of the pandemic, the last year or so has seen a certain ‘COVID nervousness’ around investment and business decisions. We would expect that continue.  

However, more positively, we expect 2022 to see technology initiatives that have been crucial over the past 12 months to continue. Automation, AI and cloud are more important than ever for businesses as they continue to develop a more digitised business ecosystem. 

 Increasingly persistent and sophisticated cybersecurity threats 

With a newly connected and digitised business ecosystem cyber-criminals are more confident and capable than ever of gaining access to large amounts of valuable and sensitive data. We have seen attacks on companies of all sizes and across multiple verticals, including healthcare and laboratories seeking to find vaccines to the pandemic. 

 One trend in terms of cyber-security that will continue throughout 2022 is the threat to companies from their supply chain. With cyber-criminals finding access to data through the ‘back-door’, companies have to gain a 360-degree view of all vulnerabilities that lie within their supply chain – this has to be a priority for most businesses in 2022. 

 Environmental concerns impacting IT decision making 

 The UN COP26 Summit held at the end of 2021 has placed climate change issues under the spotlight. This increased Government concern has placed an emphasis upon all of us to take a look at the impact our businesses have on the planet. The IT sector, generally, does not have the best reputation for being environmentally friendly, and customers may be adding requirements on suppliers to have more environmentally friendly plans and targets within their offering. 

 Becoming more sustainable can be a real positive for the sector. Not only are we seeing increasing cost savings coming from taking a more sustainable approach, but there is an obvious reputational boost too. 

 Accelerated migration to the cloud pushed by chip shortages 

With many of the backend infrastructure update projects lying on the back shelf for nearly two years, 2022 is likely to see IT teams looking to implement these as soon as possible, to maintain and update their environments. However, 2022 is also likely to see a continuation of the scarcity of available hardware due to the chip shortage. This shortage is affecting almost every technology that uses chips from cars to TVs to enterprise IT and was caused by the huge shift to home working during the pandemic, a fire in a semiconductor factory in Japan, increased logistics costs and stockpiling by companies. This shortage is likely to see more companies move to the cloud, to negate the chip shortage, as well as taking advantage of the numerous benefits of operating in a cloud environment. 

 The pandemic has led to cloud providers pushing out a variety of user workstation solutions and again as the shortage of chips drives up the cost and limits the availability of hardware, so this leaves businesses struggling to find new systems to run the updated environment, so we will likely see more workstation virtualisation. That said, Microsoft Azure cloud technology has certainly matured and shown its worth throughout the pandemic and this technology is now ready to ease the burden of buying high-spec hardware for servers and desktops every few years. 

 Skill gaps and industry-wide shortage of IT talent 

As IT teams are scrambling to catch up with updates they will be faced with another challenge. The IT skills and in particular cybersecurity skills gap has been an industry issue for some time. This is not going to go away in 2022. Indeed, the latest data from the 2021 (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study has shown that whilst an additional 700,000 professionals have joined the cybersecurity sector, the gap between the amount of professionals needed to defend organisations and the number currently available is a worrying 2.7 million. Add in the number of people needed to fill general IT roles in organisations and we are suddenly looking at a real issue that is likely to have a huge impact in 2022. 

 Attracting and retaining the best talent through the use of innovative tech 

Additionally, the stresses of the pandemic have prompted employees across all industries to re-evaluate their relationship with work. The IT sector is as susceptible as any other to key personnel deciding to choose alternative paths.  With the demand for skilled staff high and wages increasing all of the time, as the pandemic eases, this is unlikely to change. Companies will need to reduce staff churn whilst attracting and retaining good people, and it is going to take more than just incentives and salaries to achieve this. IT professionals will be attracted to and will want to work with the latest and most innovative technology. Therefore, businesses are going to need to invest both in technology and the people. 

 IT consultancies are standing by ready to provide skilled staff to customers that don’t have the depth or breadth of skilled team members to complete modernisation projects.  This will also lead to more automation to lift the burden of repetitive and mundane tasks from skilled employees and instead allow them to flex their talent in more interesting areas.  Here we will see greater adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to replace these manual skills. 

This is all set against a backdrop of new and increasing compliance regulations aimed at IT service provision.  We may see some relaxation of regulations at a government level as we move away from EU rules that are seen as restrictive or onerous. 

 The pandemic to continue to bring uncertainty and hinder investment 

The renewed and ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic is going to continue to have an influence over the coming months. No one can predict when there will be a return to ‘normality’ and in the meantime, understandably, there will be a continuing reluctance to investment heavily. 

 However, once we return to a pre-pandemic normal, we should see a swift return to investment as businesses look to bounce back. IT should be high up the priority list with this increase in investment, allowing companies to demonstrate leadership and giving them a competitive advantage over others. 

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