2020: Three wishes for the IT industry

How will the tech industry change next year? An IT consultant shares the top three items on his wish list.

Top view of empty notebook ready for New 2020 Year planning or wish list

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With a new decade on the books, rather than reflect on the past I'd like to offer three wishes for our industry in 2020. Whether or not they will happen remains to be seen, but wishing is a great start. 

We make meaningful strides toward considering the human side of technology

IT has always taken human factors into consideration to some extent, as there's generally a human impacted by, and responsible for, the technologies we create and maintain. In recent years this has crystallized into disciplines like human centered design (HCD) and customer experience (CX). While this progress has been impressive, in some cases it's still perceived as window dressing or costly fluff. At the end of the day, we ignore or delay human factors at our own peril. With program management having matured, the grand technology failures of years past are far less likely than an even greater peril: the project that's completed on time, and on budget, that no one actually uses or benefits from.

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At an even larger societal level, IT as an industry has been remiss in considering the effects of some of its technology-driven business models. Just because we can create algorithms that drive eyeballs and clicks, or because we can harvest personal data about our users at mass scale, then package and sell it at a moment's notice, should we? I remember when I first started playing with computers in the green screen days as a grade schooler. Part of the appeal was that the personal computer was the ultimate subservient companion: it did exactly what it was instructed to do, and if you could master its logical structure, you could make it perform all manner of interesting tasks at your behest. Now, every time I use one of my devices or an application, I wonder what behaviors are being tracked, analyzed, and sold in the best case, or what nefarious code I might come across that attempts to steal my data, money, or identity in the worst case.

Aside from any soapbox morality arguments, the biggest risk to the industry as a whole of ignoring the human factor is that we further erode trust in the technologies we create, and by extension, erode trust in our intentions and abilities as leaders.

We turn down the hype meter

Perhaps it's human nature, fueled by overzealous marketing, but it seems that the technology industry is cresting a wave of hype. No longer is a tool that automates a few tasks in the AP department described as such; it's now an "intelligent robot," and similarly an upgrade to enterprise software is now a "digital transformation." On the extreme end, we've become so accustomed to predictions that cars will be driving themselves across the country by 2017, 2018, 2019, and now 2020, and that AIs will become our benevolent (or violent) masters, that most people simply ignore them.

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This might all seem to be some good-natured "selling" by the industry and its leaders, but it ultimately creates a degree of noise and missed expectations that cause technology to be dismissed as so much hype and snake oil. We've seen violent swings of the pendulum away from technology, perhaps most dramatically after the dot-com bust of the early 2000s. 

Technology and IT leaders are finally becoming cornerstones of many companies' strategies, so it behooves us to provide advice rather than bombast.

We build the next generation of leaders

Technology is a great space in which to work, and it seems that it's finally transitioned from the sole province of programmers and technically-minded people to an industry and career that attracts a wide group of people. Part of this is likely a function of a solid economy and broader shift in the market toward products and services that rely on tech as much or more than traditional business functions like manufacturing and distribution. Not only should today's leaders embrace this trend, but we should actively manage the talent pipeline within our organization and think through how we find, develop, and promote the next generation of technology leaders.

As a technology leader, what are your wishes for the technology industry in the coming years?

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