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Category Archives: Industry Trends and Insight

IT industry trends and insights, including information about the IT job market across Canada, tech news from around the world plus the latest in technology and current opinions.

Questions to Ponder for a Post-Pandemic “Office”

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Senior Vice President, Business Development at Eagle

As most of the country outside of the Maritimes are working through new stricter lockdowns to deal with a surging COVID virus in a predicted winter spike, we hold out increased hope that beyond the next few months there will be better days ahead as the vaccine gets distributed to the wider Canadian and global population. With that, it’s fair to ask what will change as workplaces begin to reopen and what lessons have we learned about remote working.

The IT/Technology industry “at large” was able to pivot relatively seamlessly, as one may have assumed, to working remotely with very few hiccups. The Federal Government impressed with the ability to get much needed fiscal programs up and running digitally in record time, at the same time as they moved the majority of their workforce home; likewise, for many in private sector.

So, what to make as we move forward and the pandemic has all but normalized remote work? Will we go to the office again, and if so, at what frequency? Is it a hybrid model of working? What changes are to come in how we communicate, connect and innovate?

But, is there any real choice? Recent polls of many knowledge workers showed that only 12% want to go back to full time office-based work and more than 70% prefer a hybrid model. What that means and where we go from here raises more questions than answers.

The shift to more remote work, or even all remote, is massive and consequential as both employers and people make new choices about where they in fact live and where they hire from. Senior Federal Government executives have talked now about truly decentralizing both FTE jobs and contracts outside of Ottawa and across to the rest of the country.

With a “virtual first” default mode, we are definitely seeing changes in the way clients hire, looking beyond geographic boundaries to search and hire nationally and indeed globally. Perhaps it was a natural change in the way we source talent, but nevertheless, that direction has been accelerated now.

There are a number of other societal impacts, and while the grind of the one hour plus commutes to downtown cores will not be missed, what’s to become of the many downtown restaurants, dry cleaning stores, cleaners, retail stores and all of the workers and support staff in those industries? The estimates are there is as much as 60% of today’s workforce that can’t work remotely who are at risk as we move forward. What of working parents with children at home and all the inherent challenges that can pose? The burden on working parents in these circumstances is real and, in many ways, unsustainable.

As social beings, we all need human interaction and as we move to a remote/ hybrid model, what of the “natural” conversations that help bind us, and in work teams, help us grow, solve problems and innovate? The pandemic has led to a loneliness epidemic for many. There are a number of indicators that this is particularly harder on younger workers, millennials and Gen Z’ers, as many friendships, and in fact social circles, are formed through office or location-based work. The inability to be face-to-face with co-workers or with clients is a challenge. We as humans communicate through more than words, but also by body language and tone, which all are more difficult to “interpret ” and process over a Zoom call. How do organizations work to establish their culture and values without the “heartbeat” of an office and coworkers and, yes Managers, who strive to demonstrate and live the company culture?

It will be incumbent on leaders to look to other ways to promote their values, goals and culture to ensure a dispersed workforce understands what that is and can participate and grow in it.

Change is good and there is much good that will come out of this dreadful year in our lives. We all we need to take the time now to help shape how we want to live, work, and play post-pandemic, such that we are living balanced, healthy and productive lives. Let’s stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, stay safe, be kind!

Contractor Quick Poll Results: How do you spend your lazy time?

Almost all of us love (and need) a lazy day here and there. A day where you turn off your mind, relax your body, and indulge. And there’s no better time to have one of those days than during the Winter (and depending where you are, while on Lockdown). While we all might plan a do-nothing day now and then, how we spend it will be different.

In last month’s contractor quick poll, before we took a break for the holidays, we asked our readers how they spend lazy days. Results were mixed, but the majority said they like reading or binge-watching a series. We also had a few write-ins which included playing music, leaning and exercising. And, naturally, there were a few go-getters who say there’s simply no such thing as a lazy day inside.

Here’s a complete look at how people answered:

Quick Poll Results: How do you spend your downtime?

Top 5 Skills All Tech Professionals Should Follow in 2021

Have you planned out your learning roadmap for the year yet? Do you know which skills you want to explore deeper, either formally or at least by following a couple extra blogs and Twitter accounts? If not, this video from David Bombal has five suggestions for you: Python, Linux, Cloud, Networking, and APIs.

Bombal believes that a lot of his career success is because he followed trends and knew which waves to ride. There is no need to become an expert in these skills but because technology is all connected, he states that you need to understand each of them to be successful at whatever it is you’re doing in the field of IT.

Want to know more? Take about 10 minutes to review the complete video below:

Contractor Quick Poll: What do you want to get from a contract?

Great IT contractors are service-oriented. You’re focused on delivering a quality solution to your client so their organization can thrive and you can leave knowing the team is in good hands. That professional attitude is great and all, but let’s be honest, you had some other, more selfish reasons for accepting that gig.

The majority of us are working because it pays the bills. Ultimately, we look for the contract that has the best rate, plus a few other outcomes that benefit you. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re seeking to learn what else gets you excited for a contract. When you finish, aside from having made money, how do you consider it to have been successful for you?

IT Industry News for December 2020

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on January 11th, 2020

This is my 30,000 foot look at events in the Tech industry for December 2020. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of previous year’s Decembers …

Five years ago, in December 2015 M&A was quiet but there was some interesting activity.  The big deal saw Canadian telco Shaw make a big play into the cellular space with its proposed acquisition (subsequently approved) of Wind for $1.6 billion.  Meanwhile Rogers was also out shopping and growing its Maritimes presence through the acquisition of Internetworking Atlantic Inc.  Other deals in December were not large but did feature some of the big players.  Oracle bought Stackhouse a cloud company with a specialization in “containers”; IBM boosted its video in the cloud capabilities with the purchase of Clearleap; and Microsoft picked up a mobile communications company, Talko.  Other deals saw Ingram Micro buy the Odin Service Automation business from Parallels and in the storage world Carbonite bought Evault from Seagate.

Four years ago in December 2016 Adecco sold its majority stake in Beeline VMS to GTRC, a Uber logoprivate equity firm, for $100 million in cash plus a $30 million note; CRN solution provider SS&C purchased asset service firm Conifer for $88.5 million; solution provider QRX Technology Group acquired IT equipment provider Kerr Norton; networking solution provider, Juniper Networks acquired cloud operations management provider AppFormix; Uber bought start-up Geometric Intelligence Inc.; and Shopify acquired Tiny Hearts, a Toronto-based mobile product development studio.

December 2017 saw Atos enhance the footprint of their IT Services firm by paying $5 The apple logo and apple with a bite out of itbillion for Gemalto.  Apple were busy, paying $400 million for music recognition app Shazam, plus they invested $390 million into optical communications components company Finisar.  Finally, in a relatively quiet M&A month Ingram Micro increased its data protection capability through the purchase of Cloud Harmonics.

Two years ago, in December 2018 IBM sold off a portion of their software portfolio to HCL for $1.8 billion.  Cisco paid $660 million for optical chip company, Luxtera; and OpenText paid $310 million for data management company Liaison Technologies.  In other deals, Google bought “where is my train” app company, Sigmoid Labs; Corel bought desktop virtualization company Parallels; Trello bought Butler, whose product is a popular addition for Trello users; Kaseya bought IT documentation company IT Glue; and GE continued its restructuring efforts by spinning out its IoT subsidiary and selling its interest in Pivotal.  Finally the end of December was the beginning of Dell’s return as a public company.

Last year, December 2019 saw some big dollar deals in the M&A world with the biggest Intel logoseeing LogMeIn sold to private equity for $4.3 billion.  Intel shelled out $2 billion for AI chip company Habana Labs; and F5 Networks paid $1 billion for Shape Security.  In other deals Solarwinds paid $175 million for VividCortex; NTT picked up AWS company Flux7; Fortinet bought Cybersponse; CheckPoint Software bought security company Protego; Acronis bought security company 5nine and Opswat bought cyber security company Impulse.

Which brings us back to the present …

 In December 2020 the pandemic continues to dominate news, and with vaccines approved and beginning to roll out there is cause for some optimism but that Is going to take time.  Meanwhile increasing spread, and mutated strains of the virus are causing concerns.  When coupled with the current political upheaval in the US, small positive economic and job data indicators are not great indicators of where the economy really stands.  Lockdowns are only going to continue and the impact on small businesses continues to be devastating.  It remains to be seen what happens in the US and what the fallout will be on the markets and the economy in general.

It was an active month in M&A and some very big deals were announced.  The $27.7 billion Salesforce logoacquisition of collaboration software company Slack, by Salesforce was certainly an eye opener;  Platinum Equity paid $7.2 billion for Ingram Micro; Self driving startup Aurora is paying reputedly $4 billion for Uber’s Advanced Tech Group; and Google is reputedly paying $1 billion for data protection company Actifio.

There were a lot more deals too. Hyundai’s robotics arm paid $921 million for Boston Cisco logoDynamics, owner of Spot, the robot;  Cisco bought two companies, paying $730 million for contact center as a service company IMImobile and also picking up audience interaction tech company Slido; NortonLifeLock paid $360 million for cybersecurity company Avira; And Facebook is buying customer relationship management company Kustomer.

There were some other big names out buying, including ServiceNow picking up Canadian IBM logodarling AI company Element AI; IBM bought another Canadian company in the Fintech space, Expertus; Juniper Networks bought a startup, in the network space, Apstra ; Fortinet bought network tools company Panopta; RingCentral picked up AI comms company DeepAffects; Storage company Quantum bought media storage company Square Box Systems; and Goldman Sachs bought fraud detection system White Ops.

Cybersecurity continues to a be big news, with McAfee suggesting losses from cyber crime in 2020 were $945 billion, doubling the amount in just two years.  The breach of FireEye by a “state sponsored” hacker does little to help, given this was essentially a case of the best of the best being breached!

That’s my look at the tech industry for December 2020. The full edition will be available soon on the Eagle website.   Until next month Walk Fast and Smile … don’t forget to be safe, wear a mask, wash your hands and socially distance.  We will get through this together!   Let’s hope for a much better year in 2021.

Regional Job Market Update for Vancouver (January 2021)

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Ea
gle
Downtown Vancouver Sunset
Downtown Vancouver Sunset” by Magnus Larsson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Vancouver’s economy and labour market has gone through much the same challenges and cycles as that of other Canadian provinces over the past year.  With trade barriers thrown up by the US last year, government spending impacted by reduced revenues and emergency spending/measures, housing prices falling dramatically, and BC’s large travel industry being hammered by COVID accommodations, it is no wonder that last year was a difficult one.  However, BC also benefits from a burgeoning high-tech industry — a sector of the economy that actually benefitted from the health issues of 2020.  This sector helped to lessen the blow overall and helps to set up the province and its largest city for a nice recovery.

Due to changing conditions across the board, BC is set to enjoy a Canada-leading rebound in 2021.  According to the  Business Intelligence for BC website, the unemployment rate is expected shrink to 6.5% this coming year (from 7.5% in 2020), to become one of the lowest of all provinces in Canada.  And GDP is to expand 5.6% vs last year, again, more than what is forecast for any other province.  Demand for housing, a strong underlying economic indicator, is forecasted to be strong, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. In fact, the Canadian Real Estate Association predicts that home prices are set to rebound strongly, growing by 9% this coming year.  As well, TD Bank Economists expect that government stimulus will make a big impact this coming year.  In addition to the Federal Gov’ts pledge to provide $70 – $100 billion in fiscal spending (across Canada), the BC Gov’t is expected to invest $2 billion in new spending and contingencies in 2021.  All this, along with more favorable trading terms expected with the United States and some return to normal travel helping both the tourism and hospitality industries, BC and Vancouver are set up for a very strong economic rebound this year.

Most of the economic benefits are expected to be seen over the final 6 to 8 months of the year as COVID accommodations are relaxed in lock step with the availability of the new vaccines.  That said, businesses and industries are planning for these coming benefits now and this is beginning to drive additional demand for information technology knowledge workers.  BC has already replaced over 90% of the jobs lost during the worst of the downturn last year (source: TD Bank Economists) and, as such, it is expected that knowledge workers of every stripe will be in shorter supply; perhaps no industry impacted as much as the IT industry that had already been somewhat insulated from the worst of 2020 economic impacts.

Demand for Eagle’s staffing services were relatively strong throughout December of 2020. December is typically a slower month given year-end, vacations and holidays, but January is expected to be red-hot and, even during these first few days of January, requirements have been strong.  Vancouver has always been rather steadfast as far as swings in contractor rates go.  Never being the highest in Canada, but seldom being the lowest, 2021 may challenge this trend.  Human resources (IT workers) that are experts in specialty roles in such areas as Cloud, Security, eCommerce, and Machine Learning/AI /Data Science will be harder to find and the expectations are that rates will increase over the coming year.  Whereas roles in areas such as infrastructure, server, raised floor, networking, and application management are likely to have rates remain mostly unchanged.  Experts who can build business /customer understanding, better insight, and drive scalable and secure efficiency will be in highest demand and earn the highest rates increases.

On a micro-level, the following are some of the hiring trends that Eagle is witnessing:

  • The level of experience demanded from our clients is higher, typically senior resources with solid project and/or domain knowledge.
  • We are being asked for more specialists than generalists. This is different from the “bottom” of the economic cycle, where our clients were seeking people who were generalists and could wear multiple hats and “keep the lights on”.  Today, our customers tend to ask for people who have expertise in a certain area and can go deep, delivering value to new projects.
  • There appears to be a balance between technical and functional roles. Demand is rising for both.
  • The “type” of technology being implemented is leading-edge vs. mainstream, with many cloud and AI projects and supporting business transformation initiatives. (although most organizations had to move their business transformation initiatives up earlier than they might have wanted to support work from home, etc. in 2020)
  • Contract hiring activity was slow-paced last year, but is now picking up its speed-to-hire. This will become critical as the market heats up this year. Companies who are slow to make hiring decisions will lose top candidates to others who are motivated to hire quickly.
  • As mentioned above, last year saw some downward pressure on contractors’ rates. This year we expect this to rebound. How far and how fast depends on the speed with which the economy rebounds.  All indications are that the economy is in for a strong improvement; rates will tend to follow.
  • Hiring organizations are more open to remote workers. This is a direct impact of the COVID accommodations that the entire world had to manage.  Companies have learned how to operate effectively using people working remotely from one another.  Organizations are able to cast a wider net for talent by adopting a work-from-anywhere approach.
  • Finally, we are seeing a change whereby job seekers are more active. People have been hunkered down, happy to have a stable position (if they were working through 2020).  These people were not looking to make a move, afraid of jumping from the frying pan into the fire!  This is rapidly changing as opportunities begin again to expand.  People are open again to considering new opportunities that will allow them to learn new skills and/or advance their careers.

All in all, 2021 appears to be highly promising for BC, Vancouver, and the IT industry as a whole as we bounce back from the impact of the slowdowns of this past year.

Quick Poll Results: Do you listen to podcasts?

Podcasts are a great source of education, entertainment and a combination of the two. People love them for keeping up with current events and trends, hearing an interview with their favourite influencer, learning more about an interesting topic or just killing time.

In last month’s contractor quick poll, we were curious about how many of our readers embrace podcasts and build them into their regular sources of information. It turns out there is a fairly equal mix among Canadian IT contractors. While the majority of respondents did say that they either have a favourite or check-in now and then, a good chunk also said they rarely or never listen to podcasts, or at least haven’t in a long time.

The full results are below. Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what’s your favourite one to check out? If not, what’s been stopping you?

Quick Poll Results - Do You Listen to Podcasts?

Contractor Quick Poll: How do you spend those Lazy Days?

It’s that time of year! Those months when it’s more comfortable to stay inside and enjoy the comfort of your home rather than be outside in the winter weather. And that’s especially more enticing over the holiday season. Even for those Canadians who love being outdoors this time of year, inevitable extreme cold, snow storms, and ice rain will force everyone to cancel plans and stay home here and there.  Throw in physical distancing measures and you’re guaranteed a few lazy days in your near future. So, what are you going to do?

Sure, there’s work to be done for clients and chores to tackle around the house, but we all need time to do absolutely nothing. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to know your favourite way to spend a do-nothing, lazy day when you’re stuck inside.

Regional Job Market Update for Calgary, Alberta (December 2020)

Kelly Benson By Kelly Benson,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Regional Job Market Update for Calgary, AlbertaMuch like everywhere else in the world, Calgary’s economic recovery hinges on COVID-19 spread, as well as the availability of vaccines to finally put the pandemic behind us. If that weren’t enough of a challenge, our city’s recovery also depends on reasonable global oil prices, which could quickly be impacted by ongoing disputes in the Middle East over production levels.

Calgary’s unemployment rate is currently sitting at 10.4% and the economic data that is rolling in suggests that the path to recovery will be prolonged. It will most likely take a couple of years to build back what has been lost. 

While we are expecting COVID-19 to leave a lasting mark on the labour market and a long, slow recovery, we are starting to trend in the right direction.  

  • The number of job orders coming into our Calgary office is nearing where it was at the beginning of 2020.
  • While contract rates fell in some job categories in the early days of the pandemic, rates have been holding steady for the past 5-6 months.
  • Companies across the country have adapted well to remote work. As such, there is a greater appetite for remote workers and the job market for Calgarians is becoming more national in scale. Many local consultants are taking advantage of this to keep their skills current while the local market continues to recover.
  • The unemployment rate for IS careers typically runs a few percentage points below the general average, so we are closer to “a balanced labourmarket” than what it may look like in the government labour 

Demand for technical resources with specialized skills continues to remain high. In particular, demand is highest for: 

  • Software Developers
  • Data Engineers
  • Systems Analysts.

We are regularly seeing multiple offer scenarios across these categories. If you anticipate needing technical resources in the near future, our advice is simple. A quick and efficient hiring process and quick action will result in better outcomes. We are seeing far too many clients losing out on their first-choice talent because they are not making decisions fast enough. 

At the moment, there is currently an oversupply of talent in functional and leadership roles, but we expect this labour market imbalance to be temporary. Many of our clients are looking forward to new IT budgets and approved projects, as well as pent up demand and a better understanding of how to work and thrive in this new world.  

As we look forward to a very different and quieter holiday season, many of us are looking forward to bidding farewell to 2020. While 2021 may not offer a lot of quick fixes to the challenges that we face, there is light at the end of the tunnel and things are already looking up. 

IT Industry News for November 2020

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on December 7h, 2020

This is my 30,000 foot look at events in the Tech industry for November 2020. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of previous year’s Novembers …

Five years ago, November 2015 saw Expedia pay $3.9 billion for HomeAway as a vehicle to better compete with Airbnb.  Zayo Holding Group became the first foreign company to own The apple logo and apple with a bite out of ita Canadian telco after paying $465 million for Allstream.  Other, smaller deals saw Apple buy Faceshift, a motion capture company whose technology was used in a Star Wars movie; and Lightspeed POS bought SEOshop, increasing its size as a competitor to Shopify.  Other deals saw Ingram Micro grow its Brazilian presence with the purchase of ACAO; PCM bought Edmonton-based services firm Acrodex; Data centre company CentriLogic bought infrastructure company Advanced Knowledge Networks; solution provider Scalar Systems bought another Toronto company, professional services firm Eosensa; and Washington-based New Signature bought Toronto-based Microsoft Partner, Imason.

In November 2016, Broadcom acquired Brocade Communication Systems for $5.9 billion; Oracle logo a large software company originally noted for its databaseAdobe purchased multi-channel programmatic video platform TubeMogul for $540 million; IT services and outsourcing provider Wipro Limited bought IT cloud consulting firm Appirio for $500 million; Oracle announced its plans to acquire DNS solution provider, Dyn Inc.; SoftwareOne acquired and integrated House of Lync; and Avnet completed an acquisition of Hackster.

Three years ago, in November 2017, the big M&A activity for the month saw investment firm Thoma Bravo pay $1.6 billion for Barracuda networksMcAfee also made an acquisition, Skyhigh Networks which used to be an Intel company.  Smaller deals saw Talend buy Restlet and Qualys buy Netwatcher.

November 2018 was a busy month in the M&A space, with lots of action!  The largest deal saw SAP shell out $8 billion for experience management company Qualtrics.  Not far behind was Commscope paying $7.4 billion for telecommunication equipment maker Arris.  Vista Equity partners paid $1.94 billion for cloud software company Apptio; and private equity fund CVC paid $1.8 billion for a global IT and managed services provider, ConvergeOne Holdings.  The final billion-dollar deal saw Blackerry make its largest acquisition to date, paying $1.4 billion for AI cybersecurity startup Cylance.  In other deals, Thoma Bravo bought security testing vendor Veracode for $950 million; LinkedIn paid $400 LinkedIn Logomillion for a surveying startup, Glint; power management company Eaton paid $300 million for Turkish company Ulusoy Elektrik; and Citrix shelled out $200 million for intelligent portal company Sapho.  There were plenty of big name companies out shopping with no price tag named. Accenture bought a German design agency Kolle Rebbe; Apple bought AI company Silk Labs;  HPE bought big data company Bluedata; Oracle bought Talari Networks; Cisco bought networking company Ensoft; Microsoft bought another AI company, startup XOXCO; Red Hat (recently purchased by IBM) bought storage startup NooBaa; VMware bought Kubernotes startup Heptio; Symantec bought a couple of companies, Appthirty and Javelin Networks; and DXC bought a couple of companies, TESM and BusinessNow.

Last year, November 2019 saw quite a few “big dollar” deals.  The biggest saw Apollo Global taking TechData private in a deal worth $5.4 billion.  Google sold its Stubhub subsidiary to Viagogo for $4.05 billion; Xerox sold its stake in Fuji Xerox such that Fujifilm will own the whole entity at a cost of $2.3 billion; Google paid $2.1 billion for Fitbit; and Opentext paid $1.4 billion for security company Carbonite.  That is a lot of $ billion deals for one month!  Other deals saw Proofpoint pay $225 million for threat management company ObserveIT; DXC picked up solution providers, Virtual Clarity and Bluleader; Rackspace bought professional services company Onica, and Mimecast picked up DMARC Analyzer.

Which brings us back to the present …

 November 2020 continued the trend of M&A activity that we have seen these last few months, despite or perhaps because of the pandemic.  Certainly, there are distressed companies “out there”, but many companies are also just continuing to pursue their long term strategies.

The biggest deals this month saw Adobe shell out $1.5 billion for Workfront, a work management software company; Coupa Software paid $1.5 billon for AI powered supply chain design and planning company Llamasoft; Telus International also bought AI capability with their $1.2 million purchase of Lionbridge AI; and Palo Alto Networks paid $800 million for security vendor Expanse.

IBM logoSecurity company FireEye paid $186 million for cybersecurity investigation automation company Respond; and Connectwise paid $80 million for cybersecurity company Perch SecurityIBM made a couple of acquisitions; TruQua Enterprises is an SAP consulting company and Instana an application performance monitoring company with AI capability.

Cisco logoThere were  plenty more deals including Cisco buying cloud company Banzai Cloud; Splunk  bought network monitoring company Flowmill; Ping Identity  bought developer Symphonic Software; cybersecurity company Barracuda bought remote access company Fyde; StorCentric bought storage company Violin Systems; and another cybersecurty deal saw Acronis buy CyberLynx.

Apple was in the news this month, settling a case related to their throttling performance on iPhones to encourage users to upgrade.

Around the world we continue to deal with the pandemic.  There is promising news of vaccines, which will bring some relief as they are rolled out.  Economic indicators and job numbers have been improving for several months, but we are seeing rising cases and more lockdowns so the recovery is forecast to slow down.

That’s my look at the tech industry for November 2020. The full edition will be available soon on the Eagle website.   Until next month Walk Fast and Smile … don’t forget to be safe, wear a mask, wash your hands and socially distance.  We will get through this together!