CompTIA's 10 trends for 2021. No. 1: There is no normal.

The global IT trade association unveils nine other industry predictions and the role tech professionals will play.

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Source: CompTIA

The search for "some semblance of stability" continues in the world and at some point–possibly in 2021—there won't be as many hoops businesses have to jump through related to COVID-19, global IT trade association CompTIA is predicting in its IT Industry Outlook report.

In the first of 10 trends, CompTIA said organizations can expect that there is no normal.

"For businesses thinking about the long term, though, the concept of an established pattern will be more elusive," the association noted. "Instead of setting hard rules for how the business will operate, organizations must now juggle a multitude of options, from employee locations to supply chain components to customer demands." 

Cloud computing, which was absent from the trend list in 2020, not surprisingly, is back "and no longer needs to share the spotlight with other trends."

"With flexibility and resilience as the guiding principles for future success, organizations will adopt a cloud-first mentality when it comes to building or upgrading IT infrastructure," the report said.

The third trend is that channel firms will respond to customer changes. "The need for flexibility by channel firms has never been greater." In the coming year, they must assess their own offerings and capabilities in direct relation to customer needs in this new, uncertain environment."

A related, fourth trend is that channel dynamics become more balanced. "The power equation has morphed–and will continue to in the future–from one in which vendors once held all the cards to one in which partners have more leverage. It's not adversarial, but rather more balanced," per the report.

The fifth trend prediction is that emerging technologies find their place inside business solutions. The entire approach to IT is changing, the association said. For example, "businesses are placing much more emphasis on strategic IT as opposed to the tactical mindset of previous decades."

SEE: Top tech trends for 2021: Gartner predicts hyperautomation, AI and more will dominate business technology (TechRepublic)

Zero trust will shape cybersecurity initiatives is the sixth prediction. While various techniques have been employed to combat the new threat landscape, CompTIA said: "The overall approach has felt like a growing list of best practices. Zero trust is emerging as the new paradigm that guides all the new practices. Instead of trusting any network behavior or user access that appears to come from a secure location, everything must be verified."

Another prediction is that managed service providers will build deeper cybersecurity expertise, because MSPs have been shifting to redefine their businesses "almost exclusively around security" in the past few years.

In 2021, the managed security services provider category will strengthen, CompTIA said. "Cybersecurity, especially during this wave of remote working, is a discipline that is table stakes for all kinds of channel partners. It is not a nice to have, but a need to have."

The move toward regulating the tech industry will reach from the giants like Google and Amazon, downstream to smaller firms in the channel, CompTIA is predicting in its eight trend. Tech businesses must get informed and be up to date on federal, state and local regulations. "Regulation is not avoidable in the tech industry anymore," the report said.

There has long been talk about a skills gap in the tech workforce, primarily around so-called soft skills such as the ability to communicate, lead, make a case, write well, and organize a team. Citing a move toward digitization and the cloud, IT is now front and center in the business, and will drive tech pros to attain these skills next year as the ninth trend, the report noted.

"The fact that IT pros are interacting much more with all lines of business … has only accentuated the need for professional skills."

Diversity will also be front and center next year, and CompTIA's final prediction is that companies will set public goals for diversity. "It's time to move from awareness to accountability. As organizations emphasize social responsibility, the metrics and deliverables need to be public and certifiable."

Companies will reap the benefits of multiple perspectives and support equal opportunity for all groups.

"As much as 2020 taught companies about flexibility and resilience in the face of business disruption, it has also drawn a spotlight to fair treatment," the report said. "The most forward-thinking companies will publicly demonstrate their commitment to this ideal."

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