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This past year, we saw an accelerated sophistication of high profile security threats, a proliferation of new vendors, an increasing shortage of IT skills, and a pace of innovation in the Cloud that is exceeding many organizations’ abilities to keep up.

What’s in store for 2018? In a nutshell, we believe companies of all sizes will feel an urgent need to overhaul their organizations’ cultures, processes and technologies to keep pace. In no particular order, here are seven areas that we see as fundamental discussions in the coming year, each of which is necessary to address before companies can move on to the next, shiny new areas like IoT and AI.

Cloud Governance & Security
We have found that far too many companies are moving to the Cloud without paying due diligence to Cloud security, under the assumption that their Cloud provider owns the issue. Organizations need to take control of their own fates, in this regard, and must assess their current security postures so that they can implement the proper governance policies and practices, and shore-up potential vulnerabilities.

End User Experience
At the end of the day, if the end user is not able to effectively use the applications in the Cloud, the organization’s Cloud initiatives will fail. Tools to help IT get visibility into network and application performance will gain importance, and will provide baseline metrics for ongoing usability improvements.

Companies should consider outsourcing where there is value—particularly in the areas of Cloud Management and Security Management—to a dedicated resource that already has the people, processes and platforms in place. In the traditional “buy versus build” discussion, outsourcing all or part of IT management saves significant human resources costs, instantly closes the skills gap, and also ensures the necessary, dedicated attention that is otherwise fragmented internally by competing daily priorities.

Network & SD-WAN
Digital transformation continues to be the driver behind network refresh initiatives. Increasing bandwidth, Cloud IaaS and SaaS applications, along with WAN complexity and security, are largely the same as in previous years, but these disruptions have evolved and are becoming increasingly important issues that IT needs to solve across their networks. As Cloud adoption grows, the network becomes even more important. SD-WAN technologies are central to the discussion, and play a large part in organizations’ ability to effectively leverage the Cloud.

Cloud Cost Containment
While the Cloud delivers tremendous cost-savings—plus gains in efficiency, collaboration, productivity, agility, etc.—companies are seeing their Cloud provider bills soar. The Cloud billing model is a bit the Wild West, and companies are getting whacked with unforeseen charges. “Corralling” the Cloud cost is going to be a top discussion in the C-suite, as CFOs start to raise eyebrows about IT costs.

IT Staff Training & Augmentation
With the shortage of skilled new IT candidates, it is imperative that organizations establish training/re-training programs for their existing staffs in order to support Cloud-based infrastructures. Hiring an outside organization that can deliver experienced on-site professionals to work alongside internal staff, and transfer knowledge in the process, will increasingly be considered as a cost-effective way to achieve both project goals and internal resource training.

Carrier Bandwidth & Services
Bandwidth and carrier services have become increasingly “commoditized,” while at the same time even more critical for successful Cloud adoption. Without the right carrier services, successful Cloud adoption is handicapped. Sorting the “wheat from the chaff” in the field of carriers is a daunting, time-consuming, and often frustrating task—but essential to the success of digital transformation.

All of the above will be layered with boardroom discussions about AI and IoT, among other “hot topics,” none of which will be possible without first addressing, and solving for, these seven underlying topics.

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