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As CompTIA peers into its crystal ball, a number of trends are coming into view that will shape the tech landscape in the year ahead. Emerging patterns, old favorites and the wholly unexpected will see daylight in 2017. Technology providers and customers alike will be presented with new opportunities, as well as new competitive pressures. Those with an orientation toward action – be it incremental or giant leaps forward, will be best positioned to succeed. This preview provides a starting point. CompTIA’s complete IT Industry Outlook report, with a full slate of technology, channel, and business trends, will be published January 2017.

THE TOOLS OF THE CLOUD ERA EMERGE
CompTIA has described the evolution of IT in three stagesPradipto Chakrabarty—the mainframe era, the PC/Internet era, and the cloud/mobile era. There are many factors that define distinct eras, but the end result is a new foundational platform that supports new tools and techniques. Moving forward, new elements built from a cloud mindset will play larger roles. Software-defined components will lead to hyperconverged infrastructure. Blockchain will redefine database architecture. Artificial intelligence will provide a new layer for technology interaction. These changes, as with cloud, are primarily focused on the backend and will see initial adoption at the enterprise level before moving downstream into the SMB space.
WORKERS PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF ‘BRING YOUR OWN COLLABORATION’
With the growth of telecommuting and remote work arrangements, coupled with demographic shifts, and leaner, more team-oriented organizational hierarchies, workforce dynamics continue to evolve. At every stage, technology has been both a driver and facilitator of these workplace changes. Of late, an ever-increasing array of new collaboration and communication tools has further changed the equation. Mirroring the BYOD trend, organizations have not always embraced these new tools at the same rate as their employees’ desire to use them. Workers eager to move beyond legacy corporate email systems, intranets, or project management applications can often be up and running on cloud or mobile-based alternatives with little more than a simple registration. As with any “shadow IT” scenario, organizations must balance the potential benefits of greater worker productivity and job satisfaction with security and corporate IP risks.
NEW FACES, NEW FOCUS TEST TRADITIONAL GO-TO-MARKET APPROACHES
No longer dominated by resellers of products, much of today’s channel is shifting to a services focus and specializing across vertical industries and/or solutions niches. In the year ahead, more channel firms will be developing their own intellectual property too, whether that is a piece of custom code or a business process they replicate across end customers. And the players in the channel will keep changing their look: digital agencies, marketing firms, accountants and other non-traditional partners are selling or recommending IT solutions today, a development that has upended the traditional competitive landscape. The SaaS ecosystem alone is reinventing what it means to be “in the channel,” with a new take on vendor relationships, selling strategies and compensation demands.
2017 – ANOTHER YEAR OF CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM?
Several years removed from the Great Recession, cautious optimism continues to be the predominant sentiment among IT industry executives heading into the new year. A reasonably stable economy, a strong pipeline of new tech products and services, and customers eager to pursue digital business strategies contribute to the sense of optimism. On the flip side, economic turmoil always seems to be just one international incident away. With new competitive pressures in the form of new market entrants or increased customer leverage, compounding the ever-present challenges of commoditization and margin pressures, caution is never far from the minds of industry executives. As expected, projected growth categories include security, cloud, mobile devices and services, and IoT. While these categories have mostly moved passed the emerging technology phase, there are a number of new elements and nuances to their place in the market in the year ahead. Complementing the top ranked growth categories are the integration and digital services to bring disparate technology components together through platforms, APIs, and business process automation. While certain facets of technology are becoming easier to manage, the overall complexity of managing technology ecosystems often exceeds the capabilities of many customers, especially small businesses. For this reason, managed services also ranks as a likely growth category in 2017.
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