The economic impact of Covid-19 is morphing on a daily basis. In the last month, roughly 22 million people in the United States have filed for jobless benefits and that number will continue to grow, as reported in Bloomberg News. Due to the CARES Act funneling $2 trillion to help individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic, the US budget deﬁcit may quadruple this year to more than $3.8 trillion, according to The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. At this rate, our deficit will likely surpass the prior record set after World War II by 2023, predicts the CRFB, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization.
Under these conditions, IT execs are quickly re-shifting all priorities and strategies to cope with palpable uncertainty over the next 12 months. In early April 2020, OpsRamp conducted a survey to learn how IT leaders will cope in the coming months. We asked questions around budgets and spending, technology priorities, and hiring plans.
While many sectors are struggling enormously, the survey results indicate the relative resilience of IT budgets and the tech industry broadly. After all, the overnight pivot to remote working and 100% online business models would be impossible without high-performing networks, stable cloud infrastructure, secure communications and collaboration software.
Here are my key takeaways from the survey:
Covid-19 is not destroying IT budgets, but in fact, may support accelerated digital transformation plans
Most (58%) IT directors and other leaders reported that they are maintaining or increasing technology budgets. Juxtapose this data with predictions from large analyst firms that IT spending in 2020 will be significantly lower than earlier predictions. A large majority (73%) also reported that they'd stay on track with or accelerate digital transformation plans.
On first take, these two data points are surprising: on the other hand, as the workplace and marketplace effects of the pandemic are evolving, we are seeing a sentiment change in conversations with our customers and partners. IT directors are moving from panic mode to more opportunistic and proactive thinking.
Firstly, this temporary switch to remote work may result in permanent changes for some companies. Gartner projects that some portion of corporate staff will continue to work from home for greater flexibility which will also result in cost savings for employers. This means a continual investment in collaboration software as well as other tools and strategies to be more nimble in the face of sudden marketplace shifts.
Secondly, IT organizations are smack in the center of driving the customer experience right now. During a period of enforced social isolation, online customer experiences will separate digital leaders from laggards. Organizations which invest in this area will be better positioned to lead in the post-pandemic world. Consider a traditional industry like groceries: it's not hard to see how a preference toward online ordering and delivery of essential goods will stick as we exit lockdowns, drastically affecting those consumer-based businesses which haven't adapted well during this time.
Technology investments return to practical, risk-reducing measures
As many people across the globe are now working from their homes, it's not surprising that IT leaders are investing heavily in information security and compliance (62%) to help protect remote workers from cyber attacks which could penetrate corporate networks and systems.
Another top category in the survey was big data and analytics (46%). While the data-driven business has been a mantra in recent years, it's hard to imagine a more critical time to obtain rapid customer insights and feedback. Change is a constant now and intelligent data management will support on-the-fly decision making around products, services and operational strategies.
Finally, IT leaders say they are investing more in public and multi-cloud infrastructure (45%) to quickly scale up or down in tune with volatile demand. That's the silver lining: we expect that Covid-19 will push the business case for public cloud adoption like no other driver of the past. Better yet, cloud, security and data platforms are necessary enablers for revenue-driving digital business initiatives. When the time is right, organizations investing in these key infrastructure areas should be able to launch new digital offerings faster than competitors.
Performance monitoring is a top priority
At the moment, digital properties represent the only source of revenue for many businesses, and thus, keeping those sites and apps running optimally is more of a priority than ever before. As noted Nancy Gohring, senior analyst with 451 Research: "Vendors offering products along the monitoring and incident management tool chain have an opportunity to position themselves as mission-critical support to ongoing business operations."
The survey found that among performance monitoring tools, IT leaders were most interested in AIOps (69%) tools that can detect, diagnose, and resolve incidents at scale, followed by cloud native observability tools (51%) and network performance monitoring and diagnostics (51%) tools. This is an opportune time for IT infrastructure executives to take a close look at internal monitoring capabilities and address gaps and overlaps. Automation in monitoring will be increasingly important to aid overloaded IT departments now, and in the future, when the business wants to recover quickly.
High-performing digital products and services give businesses the ability to take good care of customers and employees during unexpected, wide-scale disasters such as what we are enduring now. With a proactive, forward-looking perspective and a dedication to resilient infrastructure, IT leaders can not only guide their organizations through difficult times but prepare them to thrive in better times as well.
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