Where are Firms Focusing Right Now?
By Andy Jonak
As we move into the summertime, it feels like a good time to review what I've seen over the past few months. It's been strange times for all, but businesses are moving forward as they can. IT is such a foundational part of how most firms operate, so how has the pandemic affected their IT environments, spending, and decisions? So, where are firms focusing right now around IT? Let's unpack that a bit this month.
While we've all been affected by what is happening, firms are still relying on IT to help keep their businesses going. We've found that many of the large IT projects that we have been working on with firms (across industries) have been delayed. Pushed back until a later time as they are looking NOT to spend money, and when they do spend it, they are a lot more prudent about it.
So here is my informal list of the areas firms have focused on when it comes to IT over the past few months.
WFH/Remote Workers/Endpoint devices
This is an area we all know, and I've talked about it in my previous few posts. Still, it can't be overstated enough: Firms are focused on their remote users to make sure their people can work from home securely and efficiently and that they have the tools to ensure they are effective in doing so.
It sounds like an easy thing, but it's not just WFH technology, for many, it's a change in culture. For those that are working from home, it's a no-brainer as they are used to it. But for many that aren't used to it, people had to learn to work from home. But just work from home, but learn to be as productive as they could in the office. For many, it was tough, even given that we are an information-based society, and many people can perform their jobs remotely. Some of have to adjust to working from home, find it hard, and can't be as productive as they would be in an office environment. That's something that business owners and leaders are worried about—people not being able to be as productive as they need to be. Of course, not everyone can work from home. Our warehouse and Config Center—where we configure and integrate solutions for our customers—requires that people are in the office to do these tasks.
The other consideration is the tools needed to be productive. We've all used remote tools such as WebEx, Zoom, and Teams for meetings, but now they have taken center stage. This means they need to work, but not only work, allow people to be effective in their jobs, be secure, and protect corporate data and resources. Also, WFH users need endpoint devices and accessories to do their jobs. I know that I experienced the fact that headsets were challenging to find when I needed them for my remote users and employees. The importance of these tools cannot be understated.
Security is and always will be a concern for firms, but the current situation really brought it to the forefront. Now your 100 employees, who used to work in your office, work from home. In addition, security tools are needed as firms are extremely concerned with keeping their people safe and secure while protecting corporate data and assets. Used to be that most of your people were under one roof on the same network. No longer the case with most working remotely.
We see firms investing heavily in VPN and other technologies (such as Cisco Umbrella and other solutions that help protect against internet threats) to keep people, resources, and data safe. It's is a good thing and firms should be doing more in this regard anyway. If there is anything good that comes out of this pandemic is that firms have a renewed and intense focus on IT security. People, data, resources, and network security. The pandemic and lockdown have forced firms to revisit their security postures, and it's for the better.
While cloud solutions across the board are something that is generally embraced by firms across the board, the current climate has firms doubling down on it. With so many working from home or remotely, firms were not able to be in their offices to manage their IT data centers, even if they wanted to. This has caused firms to continue (or double down) on their cloud strategy and using it to help their IT remain stable and, but yet grow.
As always, with the cloud, firms are looking to be prudent with it. We all know that the cloud is generally more expensive over the long term, so firms are looking for ways to mitigate that and investing in solutions that help manage and control cloud spend. I expect this to continue, especially when the firm hesitant to invest in IT right now.
This one is a bit of a surprise, but do we a lot of customers investing in new storage solutions, which I know kind of goes a bit against what state about cloud above. But both can be true at the same time, where firms are investing in the cloud but also in new on-prem storage solutions. Why is that?
We've found that firms are modernizing their storage and are looking for easy management, modern and easy to use UI's, have integrated features such as data protection, backup, replication, deduplication/compression, and, critically, seamless hooks into the cloud. And they want it to be cheaper than their existing storage solutions. So interestingly enough, we see firms making more investment in storage solutions, and we are talking enterprise storage solutions, not cheaper, off-brands.
Another thing we've seen is an uptick on firms investing in tools to manage and automate their environments. Especially with everyone working remotely, firms are looking for tools to keep their infrastructures optimized and updated automatically to ensure that an optimum environment is continually achieved.
BTW, this is something that operations managers have been doing for years, but we see more activity around this today due to what is happening. I believe this is a trend that will continue long after the pandemic and lockdown is over.
Investing Wisely in IT
This is probably one of the most important of the bunch where we've seen firms being very smart and calculated in their IT spending. As I mentioned above, firms are delaying IT projects they know they need to accomplish, but are very cautious in spending—any money.
I see this a lot in my role as Marketing Director, where we are continually talking with new firms we'd like to work with, our prospective new clients. We hear from many of them how they would like to move forward on some technology solution or project, but that it's tough to get any IT projects funded right now. That's a common theme. What I envision will happen is that while firms will continue to be prudent about their IT spending on technology solutions and services, many of these new projects will happen later into Q3 and Q4 of this year. We will then see a significant uptick in 2021, as firms push to get done the things they needed to this year but couldn't, plus the stuff they need to do for next year.
So IT and business continue to move forward, as we can see by my informal list of where we see firms focusing the past few months. I don't think anything I've discussed is something anyone would find odd, as what I mention above is around keeping users productive and safe while protecting corporate assets (data) and trying to spend money on IT smartly. That's what it all seems to boil down to.
What do you think? Can you relate to my findings? Is that what you see in your firms and your own IT environments? Let me know as I'd love to understand what you are seeing. In the meantime, let's all keep moving forward and doing the best we can with our IT and our businesses.
See you next month.