Workplace tech continues to evolve to fit the needs of organizations, which brings new opportunities to local companies.
Derek Kruse, chief information officer of DOTComm, said there is a major shift toward enabling an agile and mobile workforce.
“Whether it’s a more reliable infrastructure, better tools or improved access to real-time information, technology is the catalyst for a
business environment that is in a hyper-change mode,” he said. “This is driving firms to embrace more flexible cloud solutions and to invest in beefing up internal network infrastructure.”
The side effect of this rapid change is an increased focus on security and sustainability. The security piece is driving an investment in better firewalls, identity and access management solutions, and training.
“We’re seeing a focus on long-term investment over time, versus large, up-front, capital investments in technology,” Kruse said. “This ensures sustainability while also allowing for more flexibility to change vendors or products.”
Need for Tech Skills
A workforce demand that will continue to grow is that nearly every job across all industries today requires some level of technical skill, said Nicole Wheeler, director of membership & tech talent services at AIM.
“The biggest challenge facing the employment landscape is a shortage of tech workers,” she said. “In Omaha alone, there are nearly 1,200 technology jobs currently open. To create a sustainable tech sector, addressing the skills gap requires bringing more people into the tech sector through creative and inclusive workforce training initiatives and increasing access to tech education, especially in minority groups, with women, and in economically disadvantaged populations.”
Denise Mainquist, founder and managing director of ITPAC Consulting, said that another big trend is software as a service.
The big positive is that a third party handles updates and management of servers and software, which also establishes authentication and security protections. On the downside, sometimes managers forget to disable employees’ access after their employment has ended, so a terminated employee could still login from home.
“Since IT is often not involved with the procurement or management of these services, the controls around access management can be very weak,” Mainquist said.
Over the past several years, many companies have moved to cloud computing to take advantage of greater scale, lower cost, and fully managed infrastructure, according to Chris Williamson, field chief technology officer for FNTS.
“Many companies are now shifting their computing strategy to place technology in the environment best suited for it from a cost and performance standpoint as opposed to unilaterally taking technologies to public cloud providers,” he said. “This means locating technologies in private clouds, either self-managed or MSP-managed, and/or with multiple public cloud providers.”
Many business leaders are shifting to usage- based technology options to avoid large capital outlays each time core technologies like servers or storage need to be refreshed.
“Companies pay just for the capacity they use so they have more control and predictability over their spending,” he said.
Edge computing is a strategy in which computing workloads are deployed in close proximity to where data is being generated, analyzed and used.
“Edge computing is used in situations where moving large amounts of data — such as internet of things (IoT) devices like sensors data — isn’t practical or when collecting analytics closer to their usage point is more timely,” Williamson said.
“FNTS partners with many local organizations that use these strategies to accelerate their missions and build on the learning achieved over the course of last year. By researching the value of approaches like a multi-cloud operating model, we see clients position their technology to drive cost efficiency and create new opportunities for growth.”
The large tech providers continue to build on offerings in their cloud ecosystem, provide new tools, and simplify the integration of data and platforms.
“While these developments may seem overwhelming at times, there are clear opportunities for local companies to gain advantages through thoughtful usage of these expanding solutions,” Williamson said. “We’re also watching how cloud technologies evolve into their next stage and what new advantages that may bring. AI and machine learning may get more tactical in the next few years which should make applying it more predictable and useful for organizations.”
A Tech Community
“Omaha is fortunate to have Fortune 500, 1000 and other large companies based here that are great community partners and committed to building a strong tech ecosystem,” Wheeler said. “These organizations support and attend our nonprofit’s events, leadership academies and conferences like the Heartland Developers Conference and AIM Tech Awards happening in November. These are inexpensive events that bring the technology community together and serve as a conduit for sharing best practices, provide important networking opportunities and rally organizations around the vision of working together to make Omaha a thriving tech talent community.”
“There is not a big global name that I can think of that does not have a presence in our community,” Kruse said. “Recently we have seen more flexibility and pricing for the scale needed by smaller firms. As cloud solutions become more ubiquitous, we’re seeing pricing and solutions, which allow small scale needs to be met by extremely large-scale global solutions. Those may have been out of reach a few short years ago. Now, we’re seeing these solutions as accessible and affordable.”
“Since nearly every company today has significant technology needs, building an incubator for the growth of the technology sector will only become more important,” Wheeler said. “Building this talent pipeline benefits the entire community because high-demand, high-wage technology jobs help create the conditions for an economy that can continue to grow faster than the national average, full of career opportunities that help develop and retain talent and support economic development in our region.”
Kruse said that over the next few years there will likely be continued consolidation of large vendors and solutions.
“[This] will allow local businesses to work with one vendor only to meet a larger percentage of their needs, but the consolidation can lead to a lack of viable or flexible options for smaller firms or firms who are not satisfied with the service they are receiving,” he said.
TIPS FOR DOING A TECH AUDIT
The easiest way to perform a preliminary technology audit is to query the people who use the technology every day, Kruse said. Employees in many cases are used to more advanced technology in their personal lives — smartphones, cloud software, streaming television — and when they come to work, they are frustrated and disappointed.
“Ask them what could be improved to make them more productive and effective,” Kruse said. “Technology investments should answer the question: What problem are we trying to solve? If that question cannot be answered clearly and unambiguously, there is a problem.”
To conduct a thorough audit call in an independent third-party firm to identify technical debt, but make sure you are working with a partner who has no conflicts of interest and can provide an unbiased analysis.
“A third party brings a different perspective regarding risks, potential issues, and
ways to address issues,” Mainquist said. “Third parties bring additional experiences
to the situation and can often help with troubleshooting.”
Finding a partner with deep experience but a flexible engagement model is key for
“Many teams we work with at FNTS don’t have a clear picture of what they have, what state it’s in, or what risks they might be exposed to,” Williamson said.