For the past 5 months, the challenges of COVID-19 led many IT teams to focus on short-term issues to ensure continuity of service for a diverse workforce. The speed of the rollout often led to shortcuts, and now IT teams need to address the underlying issues. As working practises evolve, it is time to tackle the consequences of those short-term actions and re-work the strategic IT plan for the next 18 months in the ‘new normal.’
Revisiting your plan
According to IDC, Q2 2020 saw laptop sales increase by 11.2% as many firms transitioned to remote working. This rightly triggered concerns around visibility of licensing, security, productivity, maintenance and supportability of that new computing estate. Ensuring you have visibility and control of those endpoints is therefore a priority that should take precedence in your plan.
Another consequence of the pandemic and the economic shock which came with it was the common introduction of new spending controls or policy changes designed to slow down cash transactions. Across the industry, many IT teams paused or postponed imminent projects or upgrades to ensure they had both the time to focus on remote work projects and the budget required to fund these additional costs. Now, there may be a need to revisit what was paused and identify which items are still key priorities for the business, giving due regard to new constraints on cost control, expense management, customer experience projects or any digital transformation initiatives.
Creating a new plan
Once you have revisited and re-evaluated your pre-pandemic list of priorities, you can then start looking at what new initiatives could be brought in to drive additional value. That might be projects to improve customer experience and assist the business in growing revenue. Or, it might be reviewing your telephony/communication approach to ensure your staff is available if remote work remains the norm for the next 12 months.
Looking at the new issues which have arisen, with the network firewalls at offices doing little beyond VPN access, better endpoint protection becomes critical. Astute and security-aware firms have also focused their efforts on security awareness training for their staff to remind them of best practises which are more important now than ever.
Datacentre investment should also be looked at carefully as the lockdown restrictions and potential loss of key individuals due to sickness may present challenges to maintaining your facility. Look again at what mix of public cloud, co-location and owned facilities is appropriate and will enable the greatest flexibility. Many businesses have risen to this challenge by making greater use of public cloud in addition to their datacentres, a move that will provide more resilience and reduce risk.
A responsive IT sector will recognise that the “new normal” may be dramatically different – especially with the on-going number of remote workers. We have to recognise that, for the most part, employees working at home seem to prefer it. Recruiters report that new hires are now bartering for office chairs and better monitors at home rather than gym subscriptions. It makes sense for IT to re-examine any assumptions around physical kit such as monitors, docking stations, office networking and capacity as we seem to be at the beginning of a revolution around where many of us work. Collaboration software and the hardware to make remote work more effective has become critical. Who would have thought a few months ago that there would be a pressing need for virtual whiteboards to help teams previously used to collaborating around a physical one in the office?
Steps moving forwards
In summary, you should be looking at the visibility and manageability of your endpoints. Your previous list of priorities should be re-planned with customer experience or digital transformation initiatives taking priority. New projects to improve collaboration should be considered, and your investment in endpoint security and awareness training should be reviewed. Any datacentre or office networking spend should be closely scrutinised to focus on making use of the public cloud. And finally, make sure your organization is planning for the new ways of working, as it appears this shift may not be so temporary after all.