Investment in IT is set for significant growth in 2021. According to a recent Gartner news release, worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.9 trillion in 2021, an increase of 6.2% from 2020. This is in contrast to 2020, when worldwide IT spending declined by 3.2%.
This is not purely a numbers story, however. The existential threat of COVID-19 transformed the way we think about many aspects of our lives—from stopping for coffee to shopping for necessities, meeting friends after work to work itself.
Tying all these disparate daily activities together is the job of IT professionals, and their world was just as much—if not more—thrown for a loop in March 2020.
Here are 3 reasons why the work of those IT professionals will become front and center over the next 12 months.
1. The new world of work
71% of the workforce in the US is currently working from home, according to a Pew Trust report. This put enormous pressure on IT departments, who were also forced into a virtual work environment. It also turns out this was not an isolated disruption, but in fact the start of a fundamental shift in the way people work; and a trend that isn’t likely to shift back. According to Pew, 54% of employees want to continue to work remotely.
We did our own research to dive deeper and understand how remote work impacted IT decisions. According to our February 2021 survey of 500 IT professionals, 64% of respondents said their company’s cloud usage increased over the past year due to work from home.
Work from home isn't the only thing impacting IT decisions. Supporting employee productivity is a strategic IT priority, whether employees return to work or continue to work from home. 74% said the return to work will drive changes to their cloud deployments over the next year, with 18% saying they will completely change out what they currently have.
2. Critical infrastructure needs are high on the C-suite agenda
According John-David Lovelock, research vice president at Gartner, “Digital business, led by projects with a short Time to Value, will get more money and board-level attention going into 2021.”
While many critical projects happen in the background and under the radar of the C-suite, the massive and sudden switch to remote working affected the whole employee base, from C-suite down. How successful have IT professionals been at rising to this challenge?
The Pew Research says it best: “Among those who are currently working from home all or most of the time, about three-quarters or more say it has been easy to have the technology and equipment they need to do their job and to have an adequate workspace.”
We asked IT professionals whether their spending on cloud infrastructure would increase to keep track of new demands. 45% of respondents agreed that their organization was very reliant on cloud services. 61% planned to spend more on the cloud, compared to prior years. Only 9% of respondents said they spent less to support work from home.
These growing investments have demanded significant C-suite attention beyond the actual spend. 45% of our survey respondents said that their infrastructure investment was primarily to improve employee productivity whether at home or in a traditional workplace, and a similar number said it was to improve their customers’ experience—both key strategic goals.
3. Protecting against greater security threats
Imagine being in charge of a building with 5,000 PCs, an array of printers and routers, and all the connections to the outside world. Big job, right? Now imaging 5,000 buildings, each with a PC set up, and all of the end-point security challenges that entails.
Planned digital transformation had to be accelerated in order to accommodate this completely unexpected environment. Projects that were scheduled to take a year were fast-tracked to months, and in fact many IT deployments had to be installed within weeks as governments and businesses faced the unique complexities of a remote workforce in real time.
67% of IT professionals say they will make changes to their cloud security deployments this year
What's driving the changes to cloud security? A third of respondents say their business goals have changed since COVID-19, and another third say they will add new capabilities this year. 30% say they've outgrown their services. In addition, 27% say their current security deployments do not support back-to-work plans.
2021 marks not only the beginning of recovery from the pandemic. It is probably the pivotal year for organizations of all sizes to reset their working methods and the expectations of their workforce. Through all of these changes, the challenge for IT is to operate in a highly visible and strategic way, with little opportunity to test and a strong bias toward getting their solutions integrated, deployed, and securely used by a dispersed workforce.