A major transformation is underway and that affects every business in Charlotte.
Companies ranging from Belk to Bank of America are finding a “New IT” – one that has moved from the backroom to the forefront, employing more information workers across the company. Let’s look at three transformational trends and what they mean to the region:
Pervasive Computing and the Data Center: IT has become integrated across every aspect of 21st century businesses. In fact, technology infrastructure often doesn’t even live inside the business, but instead has moved to data centers – and western North Carolina is one of the country’s richest data center regions.
Infrastructure (storage, hosting, etc.) is moving out of the business and into the cloud. Cloud services from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others are driving the growth we see in our region’s data centers, making technology a commodity and shifting mission-critical information analysis back to the business.
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Vertical to Horizontal: Because of that commoditization of infrastructure, IT has transformed from a vertical to a horizontal industry. Now, every industry is becoming an IT industry. When we said IT ten years ago, we mostly meant companies like IBM, Intel or Apple, or IT departments within large corporations. Today, those you may initially consider finance, healthcare or retail have all become IT or IT-driven companies.
Consider this: Which is a bigger technology company, Bank of America or Microsoft? The conventional answer will obviously be Microsoft, but in terms of sheer numbers of information workers, Bank of America may be the right answer. If you were asked what industry Amazon is in, you might say retail, but in fact they are more of a leader in technology. The very nature of a technology business is changing, and North Carolina is at the forefront of that change.
Information First: Technology’s impact on investment and growth has also changed. Over the last several decades when we said IT we mostly meant “T” (technology), not “I” (information).
Technology was the driver for everything and information (or data) played a secondary role. Today, information truly leads technology, and many functions of technology have become or are becoming commodity.
In Charlotte, this is seen in the number of knowledge workers that inhabit our city. Those who are charged with making data useful are prized, perhaps even above those that can administer the network. With off-site hosting, companies can scale more efficiently, and focus new hires on those analyzing and putting that data to work.
It’s not just Charlotte’s leadership in finance, healthcare and retail that will take full advantage of this New IT; there’s a distinct advantage for small business. When the infrastructure is hosted in the cloud, budgets of all sizes can focus on running their business, not running their technology.
Five years ago, small business would not have had access to that infrastructure, but now, the playing field has leveled. This means that Charlotte, rich in data centers and knowledge workers, has a renewed opportunity to spawn the next great new company.
Indeed, North Carolina as a whole has strengthened its technology leadership position. With the engineering centers of expertise mid-state and across the Triangle, the proliferation of data centers in western North Carolina, Wilmington’s growth in data-centric companies and Charlotte’s use of data to continue its leadership in finance and retail, North Carolina is at the forefront of using customer data analysis to grow.
The implications for the region, including briefings on IT spending trends, skills in demand and salary trends, will be further explored this Friday during Outlook for IT, the annual conference presented by North Carolina Technology Association. The event, at the Hilton Charlotte, will also provide the first look at a new annual study, the State of Technology Industry Report.
We appreciate that Charlotte has been chosen as the city in which to launch these studies, and look forward to a continued heightened conversation among businesses here.