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The COVID-19 pandemic is once again setting off alarm bells in hospitals, schools, and other industry segments. This time around however, we seem as a society to be better prepared to handle the resurgence – even when, as some argue, our government is not. The same is true for enterprise IT.
Back in March, businesses were forced to adapt essentially overnight to a workforce that was, practically speaking, entirely remote. At the same time, IT teams had to themselves adapt to working remotely. In spite of those conditions, essential IT support continued to function.
Many in IT likened the situation to a disaster recovery exercise. Yes, buildings were still standing, but there was no one inhabiting them. IT teams tasked with providing the critical resources responded quickly and effectively by creating a virtual workplace that allowed business functions to continue; for productivity levels to be at least maintained if not increased; and for a collaborative work environment to be digitally reproduced.
Once the infrastructure supporting remote work was in place, IT started to think about longer term impacts. Near- and long-term IT priorities were re-evaluated as a premium was placed on facilitating the infrastructure needed for remote working, and on determining new business priorities. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technologies and public cloud resources became top-of-mind as remote work was becoming the new normal. IT projects in flight were put on hold and budget cuts were contemplated given an uncertain economic climate.
Six months later, a new survey reveals to what degree the changes brought on by responding to COVID-19 in the past have become permanent.
Digital Transformation Acceleration
Digital transformation is real, and COVID-19 is an accelerant. The majority of respondents (66%) in Evaluator Group’s recent survey were either in the process of implementing, or have completed implementing, new technologies to support their organization’s digital transformation initiatives. Meanwhile, the majority of those respondents (60%) reported the creation of new business and/or technology requirements as a result of COVID- 19.
Targeted Growth in IT Investment
Investment in IT has once again resumed and at an accelerating pace in some areas such as cloud, infrastructure for remote working, security, and data protection. But the emphasis remains on prioritizing IT projects deemed critical to day-to-day operations. IT spend must be justified with an eye to the impact on the business in order to avoid future budgetary cuts and there is still a fair degree of uncertainty about the overall future of budgets and priorities.
Retrained and Refocused IT Staff
A little more than one third of survey respondents reported that they expect an uptick in re-training and re-focusing personnel, as well as a resumption in hiring to better support IT functions now deemed essential to new business-critical functions. Better visibility into the mid-term impacts of COVID-19 justifies this optimism.
The Shift to OPEX Continues
Economic uncertainties were expected to cause enterprises to leverage operational spending in order to conserve cash. And while the shift to OPEX is still discernable, it was not overwhelming as only 20% of respondents reported shifting from CAPEX to OPEX as a result of COVID-19 impact. Nevertheless, a longer-term shift in IT budgetary resources to OPEX spending is clearly underway.
Winners and Losers
As anticipated, planned data center upgrades/replacements have taken a hit as the need for a more balanced approach to the on-premises data center footprint in what is now a remote-centric world is seen. This means that enterprise IT is increasing the use of public cloud resources to augment existing data center infrastructure, reflecting the need for scalability, to obtain IT services quickly, and to provide remote accessibility for both IT and end users. Related to cloud is an increased focus on containers. Not only has COVID-19 encouraged organizations to turn to cloud-native workloads, it has also underscored the need for operational agility.
As enterprise IT looks to a pandemic resurgence, they will continue to leverage VDI and the public cloud to support remote workers. Meanwhile, this dramatic shift to remote operations creates new cybersecurity vulnerabilities that bad actors will attempt to capitalize on. As a result, cybersecurity solutions have been and will remain in demand as well.