Covid-19 impacts on budget, project pipeline and human capital.
2020 has been a tough year for organizations. IT teams, along with other departments, have not escaped the tumult and can expect more unrest as we get further into 2021. A survey of 66,500 IT professionals globally on Twitter uncovered some impacts that demand behavioral change inside IT organizations immediately. The takeaways in some areas are positive, but many open the doorway to increased organizational risk and signpost a challenging 2021.
Our first survey question focused on the future of technology projects. Respondents reported their IT project pipelines have been significantly impacted by broader business factors, with only 21.3% remaining unaffected. Critically, half of those impacted projects are either paused or reduced in scope. This indicates that IT professionals who are seeking to roll out new projects will likely be challenged by the requirement to provide historically strong business justifications for consideration. There will be a strong focus on cost containment and savings as organizations tighten operating costs to weather the broader economic downturn. To help support this push, IT teams must think outside the box, considering tech that isn’t a whole IT rollout, but rather a targeted system-by-system, workload-by-workload deployment to keep project cost down and maximise impact on the business.
This will lead to easier justification and increased likelihood of project approval. Those looking at the traditional big-bang rip and replace strategy may struggle to achieve the approvals they seek.
The good news is that some projects do remain, and of those projects that are on track for the new year, 72.5% focus on infrastructure initiatives across the cloud and data centre. Unfortunately, only 27.5% will have cybersecurity on the radar, which may be a cause for concern amongst GRC teams. As business moves to faster and roll out more dynamic infrastructure and hybrid or multi-cloud projects, there is a real possibility of increased risk as organizations dilute the perimeter through cloud and increase the ability of infrastructure to provision change at a faster rate than ageing security toolsets can handle. IT teams need to consider baking security tools into this new generation of infrastructure to lockdown these new assets. Infrastructure and security go together and should be treated as such to avoid a catastrophic cyberattack in already tough times.
Whilst we already called out paused or reduced projects, a full 41.2% of respondents expect a contraction in budget to go along with it, with a further 31.7% expecting no additional funding relative to the previous year. This strong anticipation of a budget contraction means IT will need to find ways to save if they are to continue to deliver the outcomes expected by business leaders. Those in charge of tech should combat this challenge by comparing incumbent technologies with newer, next-gen technology vendors with different deployment and billing models that can accommodate the reduction in spend while delivering a similar outcome. In many cases, these newer options will prove beneficial, but those that do not will help build the business justification and create a stronger case for project/product rollout.
Whilst justifying and delivering infrastructure projects, teams are going to have to do it all with less in terms of headcount, too. 48.3% indicate minor or major headcount reductions within their own IT teams. Meaning they’re likely to have fewer resources to throw at project delivery and BAU operations, and a diminished ability to pull in teammates with the specialized knowledge to architect, deliver and manage complex, specialist technologies. To counter this, organizations will look for tools that don’t require unique skillsets and will help set up teams of generalists wearing multiple security or security & infrastructure hats for success. Good tools for this will have usable GUIs, extensive APIs for automation and simple BAU operations for the day-to-day changes with minimal effort.
To bring this all together, our final survey question asked whether there is a business expectation to continue to deliver IT improvements during COVID-19? Unfortunately for IT, security, and infrastructure teams, over 52% responded yes. Respondents believe that they are expected to deliver infrastructure projects around cloud and data centre, without the security to back it up and move the business forward in a secure fashion, all with limited resources around delivery, budget, and headcount to support it. This requires a reimagination of how to best approach IT in the age of COVID-19, when to consider new toolsets to support generalist IT teams, and how best to deliver on outcomes while controlling security cost. What’s needed are tools from next-gen, but referenceable vendors that a business case can be built around, capable of targeting the biggest pain points and risks that organizations face today.
So how does an IT professional operating in this climate ultimately do more with less, especially when it comes to securing the new infrastructure? We’ll answer this in response to these findings and examine the approach required – from consideration to deployment and operation in the second and final part of this series when we take the engineer’s view on how to approach these challenges with technology.
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