As 2020 winds down and companies begin preparing for the year ahead, it’s time to take stock of your technology assets, weigh out your priorities, and come up with a plan for 2021.
A catalyst for change and a wakeup call for many companies, the global pandemic has prompted numerous businesses to continue investing in technology to support and secure a remote workforce; offer their customers better service; and prepare for what’s coming around the next corner in 2021.
While monumental in nature, COVID-19 wasn’t the first disruption to turn multiple different industries on their heads, and it’s not going to be the last. As they continue to shake off its impacts and look ahead, 80% of companies say their IT budgets are either going to grow or remain stable in 2021.
Another 76% plan on long-term IT changes as a result of COVID-19, and 44% plan to accelerate digital transformation plans, HelpNetSecurity reports, citing a recent Spiceworks Ziff Davis survey. Among businesses taking part in the study, 33% plan to increase their IT budgets in 2021, compared to 44% in the prior year, while 17% of companies expect IT budgets to decline in 2021.
Weighing Out the Priorities
Among the businesses increasing IT spend in 2021, the following factors will influence budget growth for the coming year: Increased priority on IT projects (45%), changes to business operations during COVID-19 (38%), and the need to support a remote workforce (36%).
“During the rush to remote work caused by the pandemic, it quickly became clear that technology is the glue that keeps businesses and employees connected,” said Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks Ziff Davis, in a press release.
“With more people working remotely than ever before and face-to-face meetings out of the question, organizations wouldn’t have been able to maintain business continuity or keep productivity levels high without the many technologies companies rely on,” said Tsai, “including laptops, video conferencing, VPN, chat apps, Internet connectivity, and more.”
Supporting Digital Acceleration
According to Forrester, the next decade will require CIOs to both respond to digital acceleration and proactively manage uncertainty. “Rapidly changing consumer trends, complex security concerns, the ethical use of artificial intelligence, and the increasing impacts of climate change will drive businesses to incorporate systemic risk into their long-term planning,” Forrester points out, noting that artificial intelligence (AI), business automation, robotics, enterprise risk management, and next-generation communications as just a sampling of the technologies that will help accelerate this shift.
“COVID-19 is changing firms’ automation agendas rapidly toward back-office processes and business resilience,” it says. “Intelligent automation will represent the infusion of robotic and digital process automation with pragmatic AI and low-code tools. These technologies will help businesses become more efficient and resilient while expanding their operations.”
Forrester also expects the cloud to play an increasingly prominent role on companies’ IT agendas in 2021 and beyond. Emerging cloud-native technologies, born from open source and incubated in public clouds, drive fast innovation — and in more locations than just the public cloud, it says. “Over the next five years, cloud-native technologies such as container platforms and serverless computing will herald a new era of distributed enterprise software — from cloud providers, edge providers, and software vendors alike.”
Navigating the New Normal
In 8 key IT lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis, CIO Magazine reminds companies that organizational agility starts with culture, and that shifts to remote work require structure and support. “Prior to the pandemic, many enterprises were experiencing a rise in the remote workforce, thanks in large part to increased use of mobile technology and the cloud,” it points out. “The health crisis made working from home the norm, and for many companies the shift might be long term if not permanent.”
For 2021, a good portion of the average company’s IT investment may go to helping employees remain productive in their home environments. The cloud will play an important role in these efforts. “Being a cloud-first company leapfrogged our business continuity capability and allowed us to quickly enable over 90 percent of our employees to work from home during the first week of the pandemic,” one company told CIO Magazine.
Going forward, organizations will also need more flexible software platforms and strategies—tools that can help companies navigate quick pivots in the face of disruptions like COVID-19 (i.e., shutdowns, quarantines, social distancing requirements, etc.).
“IT teams didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the monumental changes caused by the pandemic,” CIO Magazine writes, “so having a set of software platforms in place that could be quickly implemented and scaled to support operations was vital.”
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