What enterprise IT professionals need to know to prepare for 2022, according to 6 head geeks at SolarWinds.

The year is coming to an end, and COVID-19 has drastically impacted how the IT landscape will continue to evolve and adapt in uncertain times.

To help IT professionals brace themselves for what’s ahead in the new normal, 6 SolarWinds ‘head geeks’ share 7 key trends affecting tech pros in 2022 – from revisiting their cloud strategy and investment, to IT leadership changes and IT security challenges.

  1. Revisiting cloud investments and best practices in 2022
    According to SolarWinds Head GeekLeon Adato, the pandemic has pressured organizations to modernize and accelerate digital transformation efforts, resulting in increased investments in cloud computing.

    “However, every organization has unique needs and business objectives — and many have learned the cloud isn’t the be-all and end-all to an organization’s success,” he said. 

    In 2020, organizations wasted US $17.6 billion on idle cloud resources and cloud overspending. In 2022, organizations will evaluate the implications of their cloud investments and will need to revisit best practices for engaging with the cloud.

    “One trend we expect to see is businesses putting in place a team to manage cloud costs. This may be in the form of an individual from the IT/cloud/DevOps team, and in some cases, a dedicated team will be formed to focus on it. When the team or individual is put in place will be determined by the velocity of cloud initiatives, architectures, and overall budget for the project.”
  2. The rise of AI/ML services
    Head GeekSascha Giese said:The explosion in data available to a company has made the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) a critical competitive advantage, but the talent and resources required to build solutions in-house is still prohibitive.”

    Machines are faster than humans, which means shifting to AI/ML services also allows for cost savings. “Yes, purchasing or subscribing to an AI service and integrating it doesn’t come cheap, but it’s still far more efficient than a team of 20 data analysts,” she explained.

    “In 2022, we’ll start to see AI and ML featured more prominently in organizations’ IT environments through the adoption of off-the-shelf AI/ML services. As businesses look to strengthen their security postures in response to the evolving threat landscape, for example, they may look for security tools leveraging AI/ML to perform tasks.”

    Meanwhile, offerings from cloud service providers, like Amazon SageMaker or Google TensorFlow, will similarly see widespread growth by reducing the barrier to adoption and implementation for tech pros. “We may also see companies become proficient at building AI algorithms and start to monetize them through licensing, data streaming ingress, or even by renting those algorithms out to other businesses.”
  3. More organizations will implement chief data officers, resulting in a bigger emphasis on data and analytics governance initiatives throughout the industry

    Head GeekKevin Kline predicts that a growing number of companiesoutside of the Fortune 500will hire chief data officers (CDO) charged with implementing one or more data governance programs in the coming year.

    “We’ll also see organizations without an official CDO moving to implement specific subsets of the data governance portfolio, such as corporate-wide data dictionaries,” he said. “The CDO position, with its emphasis on protecting and promoting the value of corporate data, will see rapid growth in companies of medium size, such as those listed on the Russel 2000 index.”

    According to Kline, this will further emphasize data and analytics governance for small and medium businesses, triggered by two widespread issues:

    • The extension of work from home (WFH) and hybrid work arrangements has acted as a big motivator for companies to build stronger data governance programs as small and medium-sized corporations continue to allow access to their on-premises data for the first time from new and unsecured locations, such as employees’ homes.

    • Global data privacy legislation—such as the EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA—apply to organizations of all sizes doing business in those legal jurisdictions. These new laws have potent punishments for violators, prompting many firms to make data governance a new priority.
  4. Tools, technology, and processes will be reevaluated by tech pros to accommodate the changing nature of hybrid work
    According to Head Geek Liz Beavers, while businesses continue to navigate the new normal, tech pros will be tasked with maintaining and supporting hybrid workplaces by implementing new tools and technologies.

    “To keep up with the pace of change, they’ll also need to continuously reevaluate existing tools and processes,” she said. “Tech pros should take a step back and review the goals of refining processes or implementing a new tool. Are you aiming to enhance visibility or eliminate silos? Improve communication, reduce bottlenecks, or enhance the user experience?”

    When introducing changes, she advises IT pros to consider the holistic impact on those responsible for implementing these updates and the end users. “As you evaluate new tools or business processes, focus on the value these changes will bring to the organization.”
  5. Tech pros will start to finetune their skill sets and focus more on nontechnical skills to enhance their career
    SolarWinds Head Geek Chrystal Taylor commented: “The SolarWinds 2021 IT Pro Day Survey found respondents are increasingly recognizing a balance between nontechnical skills learned in daily life and technical skills/professional certifications is key to career advancement and new opportunities in the future.”

    In turn, these newfound skills will play a large role in enabling tech pros to handle broader responsibilities, such as project management and becoming part of the decision-making process, “which 34% of respondents say is their biggest opportunity at work in the next year.”

    “In addition, these skills will help tech pros foster improvements in relationships with management teams, customers, and teammates. Relationships are the building blocks for success, and these nontechnical skills are the keys to building better relationships.”
  6. Securing the enterprise in 2022 by normalizing risk aversion
    Cybercrime has reached a new peak with the onslaught of ransomware attacks and data breaches in the last several months, observed Head GeekThomas LaRock. “The 2021 SolarWinds IT Trends Report details how organizations experienced medium exposure to enterprise IT risk over the past year.”

    Although the survey respondents felt their existing risk mitigation and management policies/procedures were sufficient, he advised that it is critical for organizations and tech pros to adopt a mentality where even ‘medium’ risk exposure is unacceptable.

    “We expect to see two trends emerge in 2022 in response to the evolving threat landscape”, he said. These two trends are:

    • As the rate of attacks continues to accelerate in lockstep with hackers’ attack methodologies and schemes developing at scale, more tech professionals and organizations will look to cloud service providers, managed service providers (MSPs) and managed security service providers (MSSPs), and other third-party security tools (like those offered by Microsoft 365 subscriptions) to supplement their own IT policies and keep pace with the new, more effective security measures.

    • Tech pros and the IT community at large will better secure the enterprise by normalizing a sense of risk aversion — that is, moving from simply accepting the current exposure to a mindset where any level of risk exposure is unacceptable. This means beginning to evaluate and implement the principles of a secure enterprise, starting first and foremost with understanding security compromises will happen as cyber hackers deploy more sophisticated attacks. Tech pros should also implement detection, monitoring, alerts, and response along the kill chain and engage in red team/tabletop exercises to measure effectiveness.
  7. DBAs will start to disappear
    LaRock also noted that the rise of automation over recent years has been a disaster for traditional database administrators (DBAs): “More and more systems and processes have been automated with code, and as a result, the need for DBAs as we know them today is changing.”

    “In 2022,” he predicts, “we’ll start to see the traditional DBA role evolve into something new — say, a database architect or database engineer — in response to these shifts. No longer should DBAs see themselves as purely operational or focused on maintenance of the data estate.”

    Instead, as automation empowers them to take on work that is higher-level, more proactive, and more innovative, their role will increasingly focus on how to turn data into actionable insights capable of keeping business moving forward.

    “They’ll also play a role in advising the business on what databases would make the most sense for their organization. According to the SolarWinds Query Report 2021: Database Priorities and Pitfalls, 33% of tech pro respondents ranked cloud database as a service (DBaaS) as the number one priority to adopt over the next three years. The report also found a growing number of organizations are adopting and/or considering the adoption of NoSQL and open-source databases.”