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      COVID-19 Pandemic Shines Spotlight on How Essential Soft Skills are to the Future of Tech

      In the day-to-day life of a workplace, success often hinges on how well a team works together. All the technical skill in the world won’t help an IT team or company reach its goals if it’s plagued by poor communication, poor leadership and lack of flexibility, among other things. These soft skills have proven even more important in the age of COVID-19, with a rise in remote work and the corresponding shift in the ways we work with each other.

      Even before COVID-19 disrupted work as we know it, soft skills were so important that one study found 67 percent of human resources professionals declined to offer a job to an otherwise qualified technology candidate because of a lack of soft skills.

      Prior to the pandemic, we asked 500 senior IT professionals and infrastructure managers to rank the soft skills they thought would be most important for future IT professionals to possess. The attributes were ranked 1-6, with 6 being the least important. Below are the average ranks.

      Most Important Soft Skills for Future IT Professionals

      Soft Skills in Tech

      Since these results were collected, the world has obviously changed. And yet, our “new normal” only underscores the results.

      Flexibility Is the No. 1 Soft Skill for IT Pros

      Based on the rapid changes we’ve seen in tech and the world at large, it should come as no surprise that “flexibility” was ranked most important. Working with a team that’s willing to step up to the plate and roll with the punches will lead to better outcomes than working with players who are rigid and unwilling to bend as priorities shift.

      “Hiring managers need to identify flexibility as a key behavior and skill set during the hiring process,” said Jackie Coats, INAP’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources. “To evaluate it, have the candidate explain a time when they had to deal with an unforeseen situation, and what they did to accomplish their goal regardless of the surprise.”

      Business priorities are often adjusted and the demand on IT teams will move with them. Or a team member might leave unexpectedly, and the rest of the team will need to fill in.

      “Another question to determine flexibility would be to ask how the employee has helped outside of their role when the team was short-staffed or under a tight deadline,” Coats added.

      As we’ve seen remote work become the norm for many businesses, flexibility is an important trait for both employees and for supervisors to possess.

      “Being flexible during these times is a critical tool we as leaders must leverage,” said Matt Cuneio, INAP’s Vice President, Global Support. “Nothing is more important to the health of a team than confidence that we’re all in this together. We’re going to be flexible with each other, ensuring we all win.”

      A Need for Innovation Necessitates Creativity

      Change often feels unexpected, as we’ve seen with the pandemic, but it’s always inevitable. In another pre-pandemic survey, we wanted to get an idea of what exactly will be driving change in IT roles now and in the future, so we asked our participants to choose the top driver. The need for innovation took the top spot, selected by 27 percent of participants. (Robust security and infrastructure scalability came in a close second and third.)

      All of this change and need for innovation emphasizes the importance of creativity — the second ranked soft skill for IT pros. IT teams are also asked to problem solve on a daily basis and come up with new solutions to help the business achieve its goals or to find solutions to unique problems, like how to adjust networking strategies for a decentralized workforce.

      Undervalued Empathy?

      Empathy is the ability to identify with another person by sharing in their perspective and feelings. This soft skill is commonly valued in the helping professions, like counseling and social work, but can bring great value to teams in all professions by helping develop camaraderie and trust. Yet empathy ranked lowest on our list.

      Cuneio shared his thoughts on the impact of empathy for IT, both within a team setting and with customers. “I had a friend tell me once, ‘Listen to understand.’  A listening ear is a powerful and necessary tool in today’s world,” he said.

      Fostering empathy between individuals helps people feel heard and understood, which in teams can benefit collaboration and brainstorming sessions where colleagues feel empowered to share ideas.

      “Every interaction you have is an opportunity to impact someone’s life,” Cuneio added. “It always amazes me the response I get by asking the simple question ‘How are things?’ The key component to this question is to listen and inquire to the response.”

      It’s also been shown that companies that have a more empathetic culture outperform less empathetic companies by 20 percent. The bottom line: Individual empathy shouldn’t be overlooked.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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      INAP’s New Strategic Alliance Showcases Benefits of Private Cloud for Legal Tech

      We’re pleased to share that NMBL Technologies LLC (pronounced “nimble”) today announced it will offer its legal workflow management solution, Proxy, in a secure private cloud environment managed by INAP.

      The partnership strengthens INAP’s foothold in the legal services industry, and bolsters Proxy’s position as a secure legal technology solution that businesses can trust with their most sensitive data.

      “While cloud adoption in the legal services industry has improved recently, many corporate legal departments remain wary of moving to a public cloud provider,” said Daniel Farris, a NMBL founder and the company’s so-called Chief Man in Suit. “Leveraging INAP’s secure private cloud environment further bolsters Proxy’s position as a leader in secure legal technology.”

      INAP’s hosted private cloud solution is offered as a logically isolated or fully dedicated private environment ideal for mission-critical applications with strict compliance standards and performance requirements.

      NMBL Homepage

      “INAP is already a trusted provider of cloud services in highly regulated industries, including healthcare, financial services and ecommerce, where stringent standards like HIPAA and PCI dictate how infrastructure and applications are secured and managed,” said T.J. Waldorf, INAP’s Chief Marketing Officer. “When we looked at the legal services market, we could see that it was underserved, and very much in need of providers who understand the unique issues lawyers face when adopting and implementing new technology. This alliance is a natural fit for us, bringing together our platform with a workflow solution tailor-made for corporate legal departments.”

      “Inefficiencies brought about by antiquated processes, lack of adequate controls, poor workflow management and collaboration tools, and the generally ineffective use of technology plague the legal market,” said Farris. “Corporate legal departments feel the effects more acutely than most; they’re often trying to manage their work with solutions that weren’t built for their needs.”

      “In-house lawyers are under greater pressure than most other business managers to protect data and documents,” agreed Rich Diegnan, INAP’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “In fact, lawyers in many states have an ethical obligation to understand and ensure the security of the legal technology they use. Implementing already-secure platforms like Proxy in INAP’s secure private cloud environment allows in-house lawyers like me to migrate to the cloud with confidence.”

      NMBL and INAP have a common perspective on their work, viewing the management of legal work performed within companies by in-house counsel as the most significant opportunity in legal tech.

      “NMBL is embracing the legal ops movement, viewing in-house legal departments as business units, and developing enterprise solutions like Proxy for the corporate legal ecosystem,” said Christopher Hines, NMBL’s so-called Uber Geek. “Partnering with INAP is a no-brainer for us—their secure IaaS solution is yet another differentiator that creates competitive advantage for Proxy.”

      “Seventy-five percent of all U.S. legal work is now performed by in-house counsel, but the majority of legal technology products and solutions are still targeted at firm lawyers,” said Nicole Poulos, NMBL’s Marketing Maven. “Combining legal ops, workflow management, and a secure cloud platform powered by INAP, will provide corporate legal departments with greater control of their legal function, improve efficiency, and provide actionable data and intelligence.”

      The two companies also share a geographic connection. INAP’s cloud services expansion has been heavily influenced by the Chicago-based personnel brought on with the company’s acquisition of managed hosting provider SingleHop in 2018. Also based in Chicago, NMBL was recently named a Finalist in the American Bar Association’s Startup Pitch Competition at TECHSHOW 2020, taking place in Chicago in February.

      “The Chicago tech scene has generally been more focused on enterprise and B2B solutions,” said Farris. “INAP and NMBL are both dedicated to helping companies be more productive and efficient by enabling the adoption of strong technology suites.”

      “Cloud adoption in the legal market still trails other sectors significantly,” said Jennifer Curry, INAP’s SVP of Global Cloud Services. “The most-cited reason is concern about privacy and data security. INAP’s secure private cloud solutions make a lot of sense for an industry focused on not only ensuring the privacy and security of information, but also on faster, better, more effective ways to manage legal tasks and documents.”

      Both companies focus on providing flexible, lightweight solutions to customers in regulated industries.

      “INAP is always looking to establish alliances with disruptive tech companies,” said Waldorf. “Our scalable, reliable and secure platform offers best-in-class architecture with all the convenience and power of any well-established cloud provider. NMBL wants to leverage INAP’s platform to continue to disrupt an industry ripe for technology-driven change.”



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      The Most Overhyped Tech Trends and Buzzwords of 2020

      Tech trends impacting IT departments evolve at a break-neck pace. Whether they are expected or not, this reality forces IT pros to quickly distinguish which trends are relevant and which can be treated with skepticism.

      To learn what tech trends really deserve attention in the coming year, we presented 500 senior IT professionals and infrastructure managers a list of general tech and IT buzzwords and asked whether these trends will be overhyped or noteworthy in 2020.

      Take a look at the results:

      tech trends

      Trends IT Pros Deemed as Over-Hyped

      None of the buzzwords/trends broke 50 percent in the over-hyped column. While there wasn’t a broad consensus, augmented reality (AR), 5G wireless, biometric authentication, blockchain and AI in the data center claimed the top five spots in this category.

      Augmented Reality

      AR ranked highest on the list of over-hyped trends at 39 percent, but the majority agree that it deserves attention (51 percent). Why the disparity? It may depend on whether or not AR has practical applications for the IT pro’s industry or business.

      There are plenty of examples of AR being incorporated across a variety of use cases. While it more prominently (and visibly) has to capture the imagination of the public, AR has also worked its way into the data center. As this technology continues to develop, a greater majority of IT pros might come to view AR as something worth giving attention.

      5G Wireless

      This next frontier in wireless may be a popular topic of discussion, but 35 percent of IT pros think it will be overhyped in 2020. Mary Jane Horne, INAP’s SVP of Global Network Services, weighed in on the on the 5G buzz at CAPRE’s seventh annual Mid-Atlantic Data Center conference in September 2019.

      “Just because I have a region with 5G, doesn’t meant that that particular provider is going to get it to the destination the fastest,” said Horne. “I need to have a variety of providers I can pick from. 5G is only going to be fast as the background network.”

      CNN Business notes that most consumers won’t be using 5G technology until 2025. At the enterprise level, conversation on 5G will be more relevant when upstream network infrastructure is better equipped to handle it.

      Biometric Authentication

      While it may come as a surprise that 1 in 3 IT pros view this proven, cutting-edge branch of security technology as over-hyped, it may not be practical for every business or IT team.

      Biometric authentication is another layer of protection on top of a strong security system, and it can frequently apply to specific locations, such as data centers or other high-security facilities. However, for day-to-day user access, it may not hold as much of a practical application as implementing two-factor authentication.

      What Tech Trends Will Earn IT’s Attention in 2020?

      Participants showed greater consensus on what is really deserving of attention in 2020, with 71 percent of pros agreeing on the top buzzwords—machine learning and digital transformation. DevOps and multicloud rounded out the top four, with more than 65 percent of IT pros saying these trends deserve attention.


      Multicloud strategies continue to gain traction as we launch into 2020. The model gives companies the flexibility to pick the right environments that allow their workloads to run optimally.

      “The adoption of multicloud by enterprises spurs the innovation of tools to monitor and manage across platforms and increases the value of the role MSPs play in partnering to design and manage these complex scenarios,” says Jennifer Curry, SVP of Global Cloud Services.

      She continues, “The traditional division of dev and test in public cloud and product on prem or in a private cloud will go by the wayside as multicloud makes it easier to optimize your environment without sacrificing performance, security or visibility.”

      We can definitely expect to hear much more on multicloud services over the coming years.

      Digital Transformation and DevOps

      Seventy-one percent of IT pros deem digital transformation to be worth attention. While some may think the term has become a bit “nebulous from overuse,” the concept itself is popular because companies across industries are adopting new technology that changes the way business itself is done.

      DevOps is tied into digital transformation, with software developers and IT teams working in closer collaboration to more rapidly build, test and release new software. With these silos eliminated, processes can be automated, giving IT pros the ability to solve critical issues faster.

      Senior leaders are significantly more likely to think DevOps deserves attention than non-senior IT infrastructure managers, with a 21 versus 11 percent split, respectively,  As leaders for their respective areas, it makes sense that fostering a DevOps culture/philosophy is appealing, especially if it means that work can be done with greater speed, agility and results.

      Machine Learning

      Considering machine learning makes it possible for a computer to efficiently process large amounts of information and make adjustments accordingly, it’s no wonder that 71 percent of participants said this technology deserves attention. Paired with AI, machine learning can be even more effective. At present, the growing amount and variety of data necessitates this technology to deliver faster and more accurate results.

      The cost effectiveness of machine learning will likely lead to shifting functions in tech roles. As accurate and efficient as machine learning technology is, time and resources are still needed to train it properly. IT pros will need to stay on top of the latest education and skill building as their career paths evolve.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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