What a year 2021 was for the information technology industry. The global pandemic forced a widespread shift to an increasingly remote workforce, which pressured IT departments to deliver better tools for collaboration, improved resource provisioning, and stronger endpoint security.
As the pandemic spread, many IT leaders thought they could handle the change to a remote workforce and keep their businesses running smoothly. But then everything kind of blew apart at the seams when people realized this disruption was completely resetting expectations for both employees and management. Our work life will never be the same as it was before the Covid-19 outbreak.
Going into 2022, many of the solutions we adopted for remote work are reshaping how the IT department functions. At the same time, many workers are rethinking their careers and deciding not to return to work in a pre-pandemic way. As a result, we are creating a permanent hybrid workforce, in which employees and their IT needs are based at home, at an office, or anywhere else around the globe.
This growing trend for a hybrid workforce has deep implications for IT departments, and we should expect to make more refinements to address this change over the coming year. Most organizations are getting better at managing remote meetings and securing data at many more endpoints, out of sheer necessity. But we are still experiencing these rapid changes, so we should expect the coming year to be a time to wash, rinse, and repeat more of the same while we learn from each new project and experience.
As we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the New Year, it’s helpful to consider some of the top trendlines facing IT organizations today.
The Hybrid Workforce Is Driving Hybrid Cloud Adoption
Many companies are still reluctant to move all their business processes to a hybrid cloud architecture for various reasons, especially in the midmarket. Some are concerned about forsaking control of data, while others are stymied by internal inertia. However, most organizations will end up in the hybrid cloud eventually.
Hybrid cloud adoption combines in-house private datacenters with leased space on public cloud platforms such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba. The private cloud approach requires managing datacenters in-house or leasing dedicated racks of servers, processors, and storage from managed service providers such as Rackspace. That can be a costly proposition, but in some cases, the private cloud approach makes sense to closely hold sensitive data such as personal health and financial records, or a company’s intellectual property assets.
That said, there is undeniable value in moving many aspects of traditional business IT to the cloud. A classic example involves Microsoft Exchange. Most organizations historically managed their own Exchange systems in-house because email was such a business-critical function. But when Microsoft introduced Microsoft 365 as a cloud service, it offered greater convenience and stronger security protections than most companies could provide on their own. Today, most organizations have converted their email systems to Office 365.
Common Missteps When Buying Tech Gear
Unfortunately, many organizations are reluctant to expend capital on technologies they don’t really understand, especially at midsized companies. The common mindset is to be conservative and hold down costs, without really grasping the relative value propositions of their information technology investments.
This frugal mindset can end up costing more money in the end because much of the technology that people buy is already dated by the time it gets implemented. The biggest mistake comes in blindly pinning the technology problem to a line-item capital expense, rather than doing a complete analysis of the overall value and return on investment for each purchase.
Even large companies can get complacent about purchasing information technology based on “how it has always been done before.” Those who have long bought servers through the same purchasing processes time and again will often fail to do a server utilization analysis to assess whether the server purchases were worthwhile.
IT buyers should revise their purchasing systems and evaluations to be more precise and targeted over the coming year and beyond. In this way, they can reinvest all the savings they accrue to improve other higher-value aspects of the IT role.
Addressing the Nagging Shortfall of Qualified Talent
Right now, everyone is also facing a very tight market for talent, which makes it hard to hire the right people with the right skillsets to do the work. That is one of the biggest challenges for information technology today, and it gets even harder to find practitioners who possess high-level expertise to meet complex business objectives through technology.
The demand for talent has outpaced supply over the past decade, and this problem shows no signs of slowing down. Due to the dire shortage of IT skills, the market faces growing pressure to hire new staff at a competitive pay scale.
Part of the blame for this problem rests squarely with technology companies and leaders themselves. We need to do a better job of investing in local talent development, such as through educational programs in schools that can engage student geeks to get more excited about computers at a younger age. As an industry, we must work harder to create a more robust pipeline of talent over the next decade.
Strengthening Security in the Time of Covid
Faced with the mass exodus to a remote workforce, the top priority for IT leaders today is ensuring appropriate levels of security to protect their highly distributed business users and assets. This issue will remain a central concern in 2022 and beyond.
We know that cybercrimes will also continue to rise with the growing prevalence of digital data stores around the world. After all, it is easier to sit at home and hack into a computer system than it is to throw a brick through the window of a physical bank. Also, it becomes harder to assess and observe the potential attack surface for legions of employees who now work from home offices. Organizations will need to become more adept at understanding the contours of these distributed attack surfaces.
To overcome all these pressing challenges, IT leaders will need to pursue effective strategies for digital transformation that can solve real business problems through technology adoption. A successful digital transformation strategy combines several elements, but the most important points are to align the right people with the right technologies and processes. From there, the focus should be to continually improve those processes through ongoing software development and staff training.
The pandemic has created enormous challenges for everyone, but information technology leaders can emerge from this crisis in stronger shape by reevaluating their technology roadmaps with a clear plan to streamline their processes in the year ahead.