The abrupt shift to remote work has been a shock to the collective IT system. No CIO expected to have to move everything from accounting and HR to supply chain and customer support to a home-based remote model. It was especially hard for IT departments not yet equipped with remote work technologies like cloud services, VPNs and collaborative software. But even technology leaders were caught off guard by the massive and sudden change in IT requirements.
Now that the dust is beginning to settle, we might ask what we’ve learned from the pandemic and what should we do to address future potential disasters. Several of the IT leaders who presented at BraveIT 2020, TierPoint’s technology and leadership conference, shared their thoughts on how Covid-19 is changing IT.
Held September 16-17, BraveIT showcased a wide range of technology innovators, experts, and IT executives speaking on topics such as cloud and multicloud infrastructure, disaster recovery planning, cloud security, and the future technology trends.
In a session on Enabling a Remote Workforce, TierPoint’s Matt Brickey and Nutanix senior director of product management, Param Desai talked about the main ways in which sudden, major disruptions impact how CIOs manage technology and work in their organizations.
Brickey and Desai identified three major ways in which IT managers will change their approach to workforce and technology management.
Embracing new tech to support remote employees
Companies that have embraced new technologies often have more options for surviving disruptions and disasters. That was borne out last March 2020, when the organizations that had already rolled out cloud services, mobile devices for employees, VPNs, and collaborative applications were most able to support remote workers.
“Businesses that have been on the forefront of adopting newer technologies were able to deal with this pandemic better,” said Desai, noting that just about every remote workforce technology currently in use already existed prior to the pandemic, including telemedicine, remote video conferencing applications, remote payment services, contact-less shopping and delivery, and cloud-based applications and storage.
Small organizations with limited budgets often had the fewest options, but even many large companies lagged behind in new technology adoption, often due to corporate culture or industry practices that favor the status quo. Those organizations may use out-of-date enterprise applications that are well passed their end-of-life services, continuously patch aged legacy systems, or use cloud services for small, point applications only.
Adopt an outcomes-based approach to problem solving
As TierPoint’s Brickey noted, IT departments traditionally provide products not outcomes or results.
“An employee needs a new server; you provision a new server,” said Brickey. “But IT needs to be an enabler of business outcomes not just things.”
That products-based approach was evident during the pandemic when IT leaders issued thousands of purchase orders for laptops, home desktops, headsets, VPN licenses, WIFI and ethernet routers, and other remote work equipment.
However, Desai explained that they could have considered alternatives such as TierPoint’s Virtual Desktop Services and Nutanix’ XiFrame desktop-as-a-service, both of which can securely enable distributed workers to access critical applications from any location, over any device or browser.
“Instead of looking for point solutions, they should look for wider solutions to a more general problem,” said Desai.
Disaster recovery (DR) is another area that calls for a broader perspective. For instance, IT departments are used to handling server outages. But what if the entire server farm suddenly goes dark? Or a flood or fire takes out the corporate data center? You can’t simply replace hundreds of servers.
“IT needs to proactively look for larger global sets of problems and solutions, not just small, short-term ones,” said Desai. “For instance, we’ve had a lot of fires in California that forced people and businesses to relocate. If your data center were impacted by a massive fire, could you switch access to your data to another data center?”
Greater collaboration with IT services providers
Outsourcing parts of your IT operations is common in companies of all sizes. CIOs will often outsource activities that are either outside of the experience of in-house IT staff or take up too much of the IT staff’s time. Examples include cloud storage and compute resources, software as a service, security monitoring, and managed Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).
Desai predicts that outside service providers will continue to be a key resource for IT organizations. Outsourcers such as managed services providers offer a cost-effective alternative to building out data centers or hiring additional IT staff.
Service providers can also give organizations access to new technologies that they wouldn’t have the time to research or implement on their own.
“IT will need to rely on outside experts like TierPoint more than they used to,” said Desai. “A good IT provider can enable a remote workforce for any organization. Think of them as part of your team.”
Watch the full BraveIT 2020 Nutanix session
Learn more about the BraveIT Conference and watch more sessions
Want to hear more advice and insight on surviving and thriving in the face of rapid change and potential disruptions? Watch all of the presentations by IT industry leaders at BraveIT 2020.
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