2020 has been an unpredictable year, especially for IT professionals. But with the new year the time has come for IT teams to determine their priorities for the coming months and set some resolutions. What’s next for 2021? What should IT pros be mindful of—and prepare for—to avoid being caught by surprise?
One thing’s for sure: it’s back to the basics. Business priorities have quickly swung away from overhyped but unproven technologies and back to essentials like managing our IT environment, specifically the cloud and network. This perspective was validated by the recent SolarWinds® IT Pro Day Survey. This is great news for any IT pro, I’m sure—but this “basic blocking and tackling” directive is likely to be reactively driven by immediate business priorities, goals, and budgets. Here are some developments IT pros should consider as they draft their resolutions for 2021.
Budgets Will Focus on “Running,” Not Innovation
Much of the world will enter the new year with uncertainty still hanging in the air, and this is likely to drive budgetary decisions for much of 2021. According to Gartner, IT pros can expect to see a 4% uptick in IT spending for 2021, but this money is likely to be earmarked for investment into the technologies that “run” the business—anything from laptops and cloud services to application performance management (APM)—to ensure stable and reliable delivery of business services. In other words, sensible businesses will likely channel their budgets toward the mission-critical hardware or digital services on which remote workers rely rather than kick-starting new initiatives or adopting new innovations.
How should this inform the next steps for IT? For starters, this merits a good, hard look at the current utilization of existing IT infrastructure. Identify high-use areas—like particular cloud service environments or networks—and work to adopt digital tools capable of validating, streamlining, and optimizing the performance and delivery of those areas. For example, adopting network monitoring solutions to monitor the stability of VPN tunnels will minimize disruption to this critical communication resource. This approach doesn’t just help IT better utilize contracted budgets; it solidifies their role as a critical partner in the running and recovery of the business and not as the cost center many perceive them to be.
Multi-Cloud Strategies Need a Realignment
There’s no denying it: the cloud is both the critical foundation and scaffold for supporting the current remote workforce. But for many companies, the cloud has ballooned in both cost and complexity; more than 34% of organizations use two or more clouds today, and this may have increased over the course of the pandemic. It’s probably not an exaggeration to state IT has deployed multiple cloud offerings to enable a range of specific services. And these are just the clouds IT is aware of—more than likely, other business departments have deployed cloud-based services not under IT’s purview.
To prevent massive drain on their already limited budgets, IT pros will need to radically rethink their multi-cloud strategy. And this will likely require IT pros to work with decision-makers to understand upcoming business needs only the cloud can deliver, allowing them to adopt a more informed and proactive approach to multi-cloud adoption. Many executives (who learned hard lessons in IT risk management in the days of NOCs, when “redundant” almost always meant “safer,” if not “better”) insist on redundant, multi-cloud approaches because it conveys the same sense of security. IT practitioners are going to need to walk through the realities of this, explaining how “What if Amazon goes down?” isn’t a good (let alone cost-effective) justification for duplicating the environment on another cloud provider. With a broader understanding of business needs for the coming year, there’s even an opportunity for IT pros to consider cloud providers with services covering multiple requirements—for instance, a cloud solution providing data accessibility to employees while possessing the critical database analytics and management capabilities DevOps or project managers need.
Automation Should Be Embraced, Not Feared
Ask any IT pro, and their experience will likely be the same. Throughout the pandemic, most IT teams were swamped with troubleshooting requests and service tickets, often for minor issues they could have solved in minutes in person. IT went from being a help desk to a service desk, and in most instances, it happened almost overnight. A potential panacea to this predicament? Automation of repetitive tasks like patching, user access resets, network configurations, and compliance checks—important but time-consuming and unsustainable tasks when done remotely and at scale.
The gradual automation of service requests shouldn’t seem strange to IT pros. Even before the pandemic, most IT teams were quickly becoming pseudo-internal service providers within their organizations, leveraging old-school IT service management (ITSM) best practices and coupling them with automation to manage help desk functions like user configurations, migrations, and service deployments. As most organizations remain wary of bringing their remote workforce back on-premises in early 2021, an automation-based approach on the right ITSM platform will be critical in handling the influx of service tickets. It’ll also free up IT resources for more important tasks, like planning and onboarding new employees or technologies.
The start of 2021 heralds a return to tried-and-true technologies, albeit with different requirements and considerations. Sure, current economic and remote work conditions complicate the work of IT professionals, but they can still come out ahead if they play their cards right. With proper consideration of the above developments, intelligent planning, and a little bit of luck, they can easily set up their New Year’s resolutions for success in 2021 and beyond.