CompTIA lays out framework for the future to cope with rapid pace of change

The IT trade association told solution providers that they need to invest some time learning about new tech areas – even though some of them won’t develop as anticipated – to avoid scenarios where a customer knows more about these things than them.

CompTIA’s Nancy Hammervik and Todd Thibodeaux onstage at ChannelCon

LAS VEGAS – Change is by definition endemic to the technology industry, but the pace – and the breadth – of change has reached an unparalled scope. That requires CompTIA, as the IT industry’s leading trade association, to adapt with new measures. That was the central theme of the main keynote at CompTIA ChannelCon at the Bellagio Hotel here on Tuesday morning.

“We’ve never had a point since the modern age of the technology industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s where we have had this many potentially paradigm- changing techs hit the industry at the same time,” Todd Thibodeaux, CompTIA’s CEO told the audience. He listed a large number of these, including AI, which he noted has quietly revolutionized a huge number of industries.

“Almost every credit report and loan application is processed by AI today,” he said.

Others included cybersecurity Big Data and analytics, 5G and broadband, autonomous transportation mechanisms, the IoT in Smart Cities, Virtual reality, digital health, and robotics and bionics.

“Robotics isn’t just about vacuums now,” Thibodeaux said. “There will be fully autonomous military vehicles on the battlefield within five years.

“All these things that seemed way-out are now becoming realities,” he stressed. “At CompTIA, we want to normalize these technologies for people.”

Thibodeaux noted as well that for years, the IT industry was one where software was eating the world. With the profusion of the vast number of hardware devices today, that has shifted, and this shift to device-centricity is happening in the context of this broad and massive change in the revolutionary impact of IT.

“We are now in a period where hardware is going to be eating the world over the next ten years,” Thibodeaux said. “We need a framework for the future to respond to this.” He also indicated that CompTIA will use this framework to talk about their traditional message of hope and empowerment.

At the same time, Thibodeaux cautioned that many ‘next big things turn out to underperform.

“Some things turn out to be duds, like RFID,” he said. “The only thing that has it now is my dog.” He also noted Electronics Health Records, Mobility and Green IT as things which certainly happened, but whose impact turned out to be less than anticipated.

“With Green IT, some of it happened, but it never emerged as a separate practice,” he said. “Some of these new things won’t turn into business – but some of them will.”

Because of that, Thibodeaux told solution providers that they must keep up on these new concepts in order to preserve their expertise to their customers.

“You will be at a disadvantage if you get questions about these things from customers and they know more about them than you,”  he stressed. “Just take 15 minutes a week looking at these new fields. A new innovation in AI or robotics could happen next week that could change everything.”

CompTIA gave special attention to three areas of innovation in its selection of programs and research reports for this year’s conference: IOT, Big Data, and AI.

Nancy Hammervik, CompTIA’s Executive Vice President of Industry Relations, discussed five steps that CompTIA is taking to better bridge the future. They begin with the establishment of new communities, advisory councils and Business Technology Groups.

“We are doubling down on communities and advisory councils,” she said. “We are investing more in new tools and resources, because we want CompTIA to be the go-to resource.”

One new tool that will be launched is

“It is a free and growing library of resources created by CompTIA to get you up to date on what’s new and what’s next,” Thibodeaux told the audience. “This came to us when we were travelling in Japan, when we saw the big copier makers there were branching out into all these areas – and their salespeople had no understanding of them. You can point anyone to this, and they will have a good conversational knowledge.”

Expanding the use case library is another priority.

“Our use case library will be on the web,” Hammervik said. “We encourage you to submit your use cases – both success stories and lessons learned.” She also highlighted the work of CompTIA’s use case team, which she said does approximately a dozen stories a year.

Establishing industry standards and best practices, something that CompTIA has always emphasized, will continue to be a top priority, including building standards for these new areas and their marketplaces.

“This is still the wild, wild west,” Hammervik said. “There was never a published standards guide for drones until we did one a few months ago.”

“We need to help government understand what these issues are about – not congresspeople, who are an inch deep on everything – but staffers who do go deep,” Thibodeaux said. “We want to be there at the forefront to help establish easy access to develop job skills.”

Hammervik noted that many of these new growth areas come from segments where the channel has played a minor role or no role at all historically.

“We will make sure that these groups who were not part of the traditional channel understand the power of the channel,” she said. “We are building a roadmap for emerging technology vendors to build a channel.”

Thibodeau indicated that all these changes will impact CompTIA’s core work, like their certifications.

“It will underpin what we do in certification and training in terms of broadening roles and being smartly first to market,” he said.

Thibodeaux explained what building smartly means, and noted it has special context in an environment where some segments don’t develop as anticipated.

“We look for developing new job roles and build certifications around that,” he said. “We have done some where we were too early, and job roles never emerged.”

ChannelCon continues on Wednesday, the final day of the conference.