Like every industry sector, 2020 has been a tough year in tech. The pandemic has changed the way we work, it’s changed the way our customers work, and it’s been a rollercoaster ride. In August 2020, IDC’s Global ICT Spending Forecast 2020 – 2023 predicted 2020 revenue in the sector would fall to $4.8 trillion compared to its original estimate of $5.2 trillion.
There are, though, some bright spots on the horizon for 2021. Perhaps no other sector was as ready to move to remote working, embrace the cloud, and use technology as well as develop it to ride the storm. IDC’s same forecast also projected 2021 revenue in the sector will increase by 4.2% to $5 trillion, with a compound annual growth rate of 5% through to 2024 returning tech back to its original path.
It won’t be back to business as usual, though. In CompTIA’s IT Industry Outlook 2021, the No.1 trend to watch, because of the pandemic, is ‘There is No Normal’. As it states: “Overall, business should be focused on two key qualities. First is flexibility, building an architecture and a workflow that can adapt to any number of changes in the future. Second is resilience, being able to withstand disruptions from any angle.”
I was particularly interested in the graphic representation in CompTIA’s outlook of expected shifts in workforce locations in the tech sector:
That’s quite some change, and it pretty much matches what we’re seeing at Redgate where the focus has shifted to a ‘remote-first’ approach going forward. Alongside this move to enabling a remote workforce, the Industry Outlook also highlights a greater understanding in the tech sector of the requirement to focus on business continuity, automation, security, and the cloud.
Quite simply, uncertainty has brought an increased awareness of the need for certainty. So what can you do to prepare for 2021 and ensure you reap the rewards IDC is now forecasting? I work for Redgate, so my views are angled towards database development, but they can just as easily be applied to application development as well.
Move to team-based development
I’ve visited lots of companies where their people work in teams but not as teams. Different developers favor different tools and ways of working, and the database is seen as a siloed area that is the responsibility of someone else. As a result, while new features, improvements and bug fixes do get released, deployments often fail and hotfixes are required.
The solution is to standardize and integrate workflows and tools, and introduce a DevOps approach to both application and database development. By encouraging collaboration, working with a common toolset, streamlining development processes, and testing earlier and more often, errors are reduced and teams spend less time on rework.
As a general rule of thumb, DevOps increases the release cadence, reduces the failure rate, decreases the mean time to recover from any failures, and makes unplanned work the exception rather than the norm.
The added advantage here is that it fits in perfectly with remote or office-based working. If teams work the same way and follow the same best practices, they can be ten feet or ten miles apart and the results will be the same. It’s also easier to add team members or even create whole new teams because the way they will work and what tools and processes they will use will already be decided upon.
Fortunately, the tech sector is already ahead of the curve. Redgate’s 2020 State of Database DevOps Report showed that 72% of those in tech have already adopted DevOps across some or all of their projects compared to 68% across all sectors. 78% of developers also work across both the application and the database, so including the database is also easier.
We’ve found that companies which successfully introduce DevOps for the database as well as applications start with one area or team and gradually build their DevOps capability. For the database, the first obvious candidates are standardizing the way SQL code is written and introducing version control.
Automate where possible
While agile practices like collaboration and cooperation are often part of a DevOps approach, automation is at its heart. Not everything can be automated, but where it can be, it makes sense because it smooths the development process and highlights errors at earlier stage.
I mentioned version control when talking about team-based development and it has the added advantage that it’s the foundation stone for automation. Once it’s in place, it can be used to introduce Continuous Integration for the database as well as the application, for example. This triggers an automatic build process every time a change is committed to version control that tests the change and flags up any errors in the code.
It also opens the door to automating further stages in the development process for both the application and the database, turning it into a reliable, repeatable workflow. That’s becoming more and more important for the tech sector in particular because The State of Database DevOps Report also revealed that 48% of IT teams in the sector are deploying database changes daily, weekly, or on-demand compared to 37% in the 2018.
This makes the reliability of those deployments crucial in maintaining the performance of IT teams. Here again, however, the tech sector is leading the way because The State of Database DevOps Report also showed that 73% of respondents in the tech sector say it will take 12 months or less to
implement a fully automated process for deploying database changes, compared to 59% across other sectors. Only 8% also say it will longer than two years, which doubles across other sectors.
Make protecting data part of the equation
In sectors like healthcare and finance, the protection of personal data has been a major focus for a long time in order to comply with regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the PCI Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI).
Now, increasing public concern over the privacy of their data along with new regulations are moving the spotlight to other sectors. While the exemption of business-to-business data under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was extended to January 1, 2022, in October of this year, this is only a temporary reprieve.
As the IT Industry Outlook 2021 from CompTIA states: “While the technology industry is heading toward more regulation, many companies have been somewhat slow to fully embrace compliance processes. Workforce education also moved up in the list, but that is more understandable. New concerns that stem from a remote workforce have been a primary trigger for both security awareness education and security investments.”
What’s worrying here is that concerns about data security are rising but the protection of personal data is still on the back burner. In The State of Database DevOps Report, for example, 33% of enterprises in the tech sector and 36% of non-enterprises (those with less than 1,000 employees) reported that some or all of the data in dev and test environments is not masked or de-identified.
If you’re in the same position, you should consider introducing a solution like Redgate’s Data Masker. You’ll then be prepared for when regulations do come into play – and also protect your business from any reputational damage should your organization experience a hack or a data breach.
Monitor, monitor, monitor
The last area for the tech sector to consider is monitoring and, in particular, database monitoring in this new era of remote working and access. Redgate publishes a State of Database Monitoring Report each year and the survey behind the 2020 Report was conducted at the beginning of the pandemic. It revealed that the most common cause of database issues was human error in 24% of instances, with ad hoc user access accounting for a further 10%.
Alongside this, database estates in the tech sector are becoming more complex. The State of Database DevOps Report showed that 31% of respondents in the sector host most or all of their production databases in the cloud, compared to 16% across other sectors. Add the higher frequency of database deployments and the need for a web-based monitoring tool that can monitor hybrid on-premises and cloud environments becomes apparent.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, The State of Database Monitoring Report showed that 47% of companies in the tech sector use paid-for monitoring tools compare to 39% in other sectors. Interestingly, access to the monitoring data is also shared far more widely in the sector, with more of those in IT teams, Sys Admin, Management, Support and BI having access to it.
In the current climate of uncertainty, the tech sector has challenges as well as opportunities in the year ahead. We can help you meet the challenges and make the most of opportunities in four key areas:
- Standardizing team-based development to deliver database changes faster with fewer errors
- Automating database deployments so that you can deploy with confidence
- Protecting and preserving data by giving you the capability to develop and test against realistic data
- Monitoring performance and availability and catching problems before they affect your customers
Take any of these steps and you’ll be closer to building an architecture and a workflow that can adapt to change, and being resilient enough to withstand future disruptions.
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