The global pandemic has changed the world, shrinking the global economy and forever changing our definition of the workplace. With shutdowns forcing people to work from home (WFH) and the emergence of a new hybrid work model, one thing is certain – IT will need to adapt. It is no wonder that Gartner predicts worldwide IT spending will grow by 6.2% this year to $3.9 trillion.
To get a first-hand sense of the effect the pandemic has been having on businesses in general, we approached a few of our clients to discuss their biggest pandemic-related challenges, what concerns them the most about the present situation, and how they are planning for the future. We spoke with the CIOs at companies from various industries, including commercial real estate, consumer goods, and professional services, and we posed these questions:
- What was your biggest transformation over the pandemic?
- What is your greatest worry right now?
- What is your back-to-work plan?
The 5 Biggest Transformations Over the Pandemic
In response to our question about pandemic-related transformation, the answers were mixed, but these five changes made the top of the list:
- Embracing the Remote Working Phenomenon: The majority of our clients said they already had their technology set up for WFH, but a few had to scramble to implement new technology. Some clients took up to 3 months before they had the necessary IT systems in place and felt stabilized in the WFH model.
- Implementing or Improving eCommerce Websites: Some of our consumer goods customers accelerated their implementation of, or made improvements on, their existing eCommerce solutions, in response to customers not being able to visit their brick and mortar stores.
- Upgrading IT (Hardware and Software): The WFH transformation put a strain on our clients’ IT infrastructure. They needed to order new hardware, including laptops for desktop-based employees. They also needed to change their software licenses to support their entire WFH team. Additionally, the companies that worked with large files had to find solutions to share data and collaborate with all stakeholders.
- Adapting to the New WFH Culture: Our clients’ HR managers were faced with many challenges during the WFH transformation. They needed help on how to best manage remote employees, how to keep in touch with them and each other, and how to enable employees to work at their peak levels, all while maintaining the company culture. Many of the HR managers turned to IT for help, who quickly moved in and went from tech support to the forefront of employee engagement, helping HR operate as usual, continue with existing projects, and implement new ones.
- Maintaining the User Experience and Enthusiasm: Most of our clients invested heavily in the required IT infrastructure improvements, often exceeding their capital expenditure budgets. But they felt it was money well spent, and with some input from the IT department, users are now more comfortable with technology than they were before. To maintain this positive UX momentum, IT departments need to keep users current and engaged, and tech companies can help by keeping software intuitive and easy to use.
The Greatest Worries Right Now
For 100% of our CIOs, cybersecurity was the primary concern. Corporate growth and product supply also made the list.Fighting Cybercrime: Every single participant in our survey mentioned cybersecurity as a major concern. This was no surprise. According to a Statista report, IT professionals saw an upswing in cyberattacks/attempts during the pandemic.
Some of our clients were further behind in their IT security protocols than others and therefore more vulnerable to a cyberattack. For example, WFH staff were not trained in how to deal with new IT protocols and networks
- Users were customizing their own sign-in and security settings
- Remote employees were using less-reliable and unsecured internet connections
- Users were accessing corporate networks remotely using personal devices
- BYOD users were not running antivirus or anti-malware scans regularly
- Individual identity management was fragmented
- IT security policies and incidence response plans weren’t in place
This list of issues and the overwhelming increase in cybercrime made it clear that ongoing efforts and stricter protocols are required to keep company data secure.
Growing the Company: Some of our clients said that company growth is also a worry. On the consumer side, they were concerned about meeting increasing user demands and expectations, for example, that their technology should be easily available, intuitive, and bug-free. On the corporate front, there were concerns about the rate at which corporate takeovers and mergers were happening.
Maintaining the Supply Chain: The pandemic posed significant challenges for consumer goods supply chains. Our retail customers expressed real concerns about restrictions that continue to slow the flow of raw materials, movement of laborers, and the delivery of finished goods, disrupting their supply of products as a result.
The Outlook for the Future of Work
Our commercial real estate clients are looking forward to the day when they can bring their entire teams back into the office. Whereas companies that are less dependent on an in-office presence are mostly planning for a hybrid working environment. To facilitate this new hybrid work dynamic, there are numerous factors that need to be considered, including:
Outdated Meeting Spaces: Conference rooms will need upgraded hardware to facilitate regular online video meetings for hybrid teams.
Higher Noise Levels: With the increase in video meetings, rather than having employees working quietly in their cubicles, the workplace will become much noisier. Companies will need to invest in noise-canceling technology, including headphones.
Obsolete IT Infrastructure: The pandemic’s lockdowns caught many companies off guard, as they had to quickly cobble together IT solutions to deal with the sudden shift to WFH. To ensure the success of their new hybrid working environments as well as the safety of their data, they will need to invest further in modern IT infrastructure.
Future Hybrid Environments: As countries and companies continue to open up, employees have had mixed reactions when asked whether they would prefer to return to the office or continue working from home. Overwhelmingly, they like the way the improvements in their companies’ tech infrastructure make their lives better. To maintain this positive momentum, companies must continuously evolve with technology, such as investing in VR software.
One message from our survey that resonates above all others is, the hybrid working environment is here to stay, and companies must ensure their technology is up to the task or get left behind.
To find out how CrucialLogics can help you future-proof your IT infrastructure against disruptive events like pandemics, reach out to our team.