Every year, I post about lessons learned last year and what we can expect for the year ahead. This year is a particularly worrying one for all industries, including tech.
But I believe there are going to be some bright spots ahead.
I don't possess the ability to see into the future, and I won't even claim to be smarter than the average Mac administrator. What I do have, though, is a long view of the tech industry— the challenges, the changes and the lessons learned over the decades.
What did 2022 teach us?
Last year, I predicted a few things would dominate the tech world in 2022, based on trends I was seeing. Let's see how I did, and what we should expect to see in 2023.
The rise of Apple
My first 2022 prediction was a rise of Apple in the enterprise. I grounded this in Apple's ability, especially with Jamf, to provide IT consumerization— a must in a hybrid work culture.
And that's exactly what happened in 2022: Apple rose.
An International Data Corporation (IDC) market share survey reports that worldwide PC shipments were down 13.3% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2022, totaling a drop in 112.5 million units. Traditional PC market shipments totaled 73.8 million units during the quarter. Apple? Gained 40.2% globally that quarter, with Mac shipments rising to just over 10 million units.
According to Statista, for the first time, Mac shipments as a percentage share not only hit double digits in the third quarter but reached 17% in the United States; far higher than it's ever been.
And, of course, iPhone continued to dominate the smartphone market share and actually overtook Android in the United States earlier this year.
What's ahead for Apple?
I stick to my prediction from last year: Google devices have yet to gain a significant share of the enterprise. And Microsoft does not offer a mobile device or operating system. That leaves Apple: with a breadth of device types (iPhone, iPad, Mac) that are consumer-friendly and enterprise-secure. These factors will result in Apple overtaking Windows' market share in the enterprise by the time we reach the end of 2029. Maybe even sooner.
Remote and hybrid work
Last year, I predicted that remote and hybrid work would transform access as more companies replaced VPNs with Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).
That's what they did: Gartner reported a 60% year-over-year growth rate in ZTNA adoption between 2021 to 2022. And that trend continues to skyrocket.
What I didn't see coming? The remote work pushback.
According to Forbes, employees simply prefer remote and hybrid work: 32% of employees still want to work fully remotely, compared to 59% who choose hybrid. In fact, only 9% want to return to the all-office schedule. But that's exactly where many executives want people to be.
Covid protocols have loosened, but I don't think we can put the genie back in the bottle. When people have worked very effectively remotely for two years, it’s hard for staff to respond well to CEOs explaining "we really all have to be together in the office."
Management and employees do not see eye-to-eye on remote work
A recent Microsoft study tells us that, despite increases in the number of hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics, 85% of leaders say they don't have confidence that employees are being productive when they are out of sight.
I have to ask: Is the resistance to remote work based on productivity data— or a feeling?
Outdated management styles
Honestly, I think it's largely because of old fogeys (I'm an old fogey, so I can say that).
Throughout my career, I saw disturbing behavior among business leaders. Some would purposefully take a walk around the floors at five o'clock. They’d say: "Back in my day, I was sitting in that chair at 5:00; where is everybody? People aren't committed."
Even then, it drove me nuts. Managers didn't necessarily know anything about a person’s life or work habits other than they weren’t in that chair right at that moment. And what relevance does it have that they’re not in that chair at 5:00 on that specific day? Not much, if you ask me.
But it's how my generation was raised to lead. It was a cube farm, and management could see everybody and whether they looked busy or not. It was normal to assess people on who was first in and last out of the office each day.
In short, many of us learned how to manage through employee surveillance. I believe part of the objection to remote work can be part of that old thinking.
Leaning into remote work
Of course, remote work isn't possible for all jobs— like working in a retail store. But, for jobs where remote work is technically feasible, going forward the best companies will empower their employees to work where they feel most productive.
I acknowledge that, in some organizations, managers have observed that remote workers may not perform as well as their in-office counterparts. But that's not necessarily because working remotely doesn’t work. Perhaps it simply doesn't work in that company.
The question is: "why?"
When leaders are biased against remote work, they will likely set up an 'office-first' culture. If how we communicate, empower, and recognize depends on people’s presence in an office, we shouldn't be shocked if remote work doesn’t succeed in our organizations.
Remote work "failing" isn't so much an indictment of employees as it is a reflection of how organizations approach remote and hybrid work. Going forward, to survive in the modern age, I believe organizations will eventually lean into remote work for the same reasons we have at Jamf.
Why Jamf leans into remote work
We get the best talent.
Wherever they happen to be in the world, we can offer a career.
We improve balance.
We save employees money on commuting and parking expenses. Employees are also much better able to manage the balance between their work and personal lives.
We are more efficient.
While it's fun and productive to get employees together in person for collaborative sessions occasionally, regular visual remote meetings are simply more efficient. Jamfs can move quickly from meeting to meeting, and we don’t have to cancel because someone has to travel.
We are more accessible.
Everyone is on an even playing field — rather than some in the conference room and others remote. Also, speaking as someone who has a hearing challenge, I can tell you I welcome the perfect clarity I get through my AirPods versus how much I battle to hear from across the room. Other Jamfs report an appreciation for meetings with subtitles and easily-accessed ASL interpreters as well as the ability to use other assistive tech more easily.
We have fewer inhibitors to growth.
Facilities are the bane of a growing company's existence. Before we leaned into remote work, Jamf could not build out our facilities fast enough to absorb all of the people we were hiring. We were constantly under construction. Now, it’s saved us money and allowed us to grow without significantly increasing capital expenses and overhead.
Who will win this cultural battle?
For careers where remote work is technically possible, I believe the remote work movement will continue and ultimately prevail for three specific reasons:
- Workers will vote with their feet.
- The business benefits will become increasingly evident over time.
- Those rejecting remote work will eventually retire.
The struggle to balance privacy with business needs
Last year at this time, I expressed concern about how companies could balance privacy with security. I'm sorry to say that my concerns are even greater this year as some organizations are not only looking to violate employee privacy in the name of security— but also to measure their productivity.
As leaders discover that employees are not embracing their return-to-office plans, some are actually looking for tools that creep further on their employees.
That's just extending the old, outmoded management method into digital places: "If I can’t watch you physically, I’ll watch you electronically."
I believe this approach will backfire in a monumental way. If organizations build up more monitoring and recording tools that are privacy-violating, it has the potential to result in employee backlash and potentially even legal action. One or two high-profile cases are all it takes to change everyone's approach to privacy.
More restrictions do not necessarily mean better security
But we still must secure critical company resources and data. That requirement is intensifying every year— in fact, every day! However, the answer isn't always to lock down employee capability or violate their privacy.
To illustrate, let's look at a recent example: some financial institutions have faced customer claims that employees were using personal communication vehicles such as WhatsApp in order to work, bypassing institutional controls and exposing customer data.
If an organization has a policy that employees shouldn't use personal apps for work communication, violation of that policy is an HR problem. Unfortunately, too many organizations seek IT solutions to HR problems.
Some organizations eliminate BYOD programs and buy phones for every employee just so that they can fully manage the devices and ensure WhatsApp is not installed.
But this solution costs the organization more money and makes the problem worse.
Employees will not carry their work phones 24/7. It's inconvenient to carry two phones. Plus, since the work phone is fully managed, employees know IT can track location. So they leave the work phone behind.
But what everybody does carry 24/7 is their personal phone.
So what happens when a work situation comes up when employees are away from their work phones? Employees can only use their personal phones and personal communication tools to work. Thus, the IT solution to eliminate BYOD is actually forcing employees to use the very tool that IT processes tried to avoid.
The right solution, and my prediction for 2023 and beyond: Organizations, as they think through this, will realize they have to provide both an HR policy and a secure IT solution that promotes adherence to the policy.
In my view, the right way is with a single-phone solution with two partitions and two eSIM phone lines — one for work and one for personal. IT cannot and should not attempt to control what is on the employee's personal partition. But, with Jamf, IT can ensure the work partition is protected and contains the secure communication tools approved for work purposes.
With new focus features in iOS 16, employees can easily put their phones in personal mode to completely unplug from work. Yet they will always have a simple and accessible way to adhere to the organization's communication policies.
When IT carefully considers user experience and human behavior when making security policies, their organizations end up more secure.
What schools learned about tech over the past two years
Believe it or not, something really good happened during the awful pandemic. Educators had two major epiphanies:
Some kids have never had a way to do their work from home.
Wealthy kids have always been able to go home and do homework on their awesome home tech, but under-resourced kids could not. This discrepancy became impossible to ignore when daytime learning went remote.
After being forced to use technology for distance learning, teachers learned how to bring more technology into the in-person classroom.
Even some of the most resistant educators began to see that this tech stuff is actually pretty neat. Technology isn't a necessary evil and it doesn’t have to disrupt the classroom: technology can enhance learning.
Rather than simply repeating traditional classroom modes in a digital format, educators realized that they could use technology to enable learning of all kinds — not just to learn about tech.
All of a sudden, you've got educators worldwide saying: "We need to embrace technology as part of learning."
For instance, Taiwan's government, with Jamf's help, recently deployed 400,000 tablet devices to schools. Taiwan understands that education isn't just about tech in the classroom; it’s about a new way to learn in the classroom. iPads are self-correcting, so students get instant feedback while helping teachers scale more effectively in the classroom. With the help of Jamf School or Jamf Pro, iPads are personalized for each and every student, at any scale, allowing them to work at their own pace. And with Jamf Safe Internet, schools can both empower enhanced learning and protect students from the online dangers technology can present.
Taiwan isn't alone. We've seen similar activity in Japan, Germany and the United States. Computer labs are a thing of the past. Governments are getting involved to ensure the mass, safe deployment of technology to schools in order to provide greater student equity, engagement and active learning.
The tech industry in 2023's economic climate
Many people are worried. They ask me when tech will bounce back as layoffs have been common in late 2022— and we seem headed toward a recession.
Honestly, my hope is that it doesn't 'bounce' back.
Bouncing around itself can cause this problem. The pandemic hit. Layoffs followed. The economy reopened. Mass hiring followed with elevated compensation plans. As it turned out, hiring was too aggressive. Layoffs followed.
My hope is that tech stops bouncing. We are in an amazing industry with great potential. But we should accomplish growth —all growth— responsibly. Let's not hook it; let's not slice it— let’s just hit it down the middle of the fairway.
Tech is embedded in every part of our world. The industry will recover as always, but the entire industry should quit oscillating with each day's news and focus on the long-term health of the organization and its employees, customers and shareholders.
My prediction: For the tech industry, 2023 will end better than 2022 did.
Ourselves? Jamf is still growing and hiring. But, as always, we will take a prudent approach to growth. We have a history of strong financial performance, and our products lend themselves well to trends I've outlined above: more companies shifting to Apple devices, remote work and online learning, with cybersecurity technology and policies that promote the right behaviors while ensuring that every device and person accessing company resources is trusted.
In other words, we are well well-positioned to continue helping customers succeed in 2023 and beyond.
2023 should be all about balance.
People need work-life balance, organizations need to balance privacy and security, tech companies need to balance growth and profitability and schools need to balance equitable access to technology— while keeping students safe from its possible dangers.
As with most things in life, balance is the key. With it, we can empower people and find better ways to lead, work and learn.
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