When everyone went home to work and learn last Spring, there was a general acceptance of necessary increased risk. Companies and schools needed to do what they could to remain operational and productive so most CIOs held their breath and hoped nothing would happen as employees and learners accessed company/school data from mobile devices on home networks. While that heightened risk appetite may have worked then, it is no longer a sustainable practice today. We’ve now reached a point of reckoning.
In 2021, it will fall to CIOs to inform business leaders of the real risks involved and, as economic uncertainty continues alongside the ongoing pandemic, likely prepare to do more with less.
Many organizations balanced this high risk tolerance with low willingness to add more (costly) tools as the pandemic took hold. Now nine months into the global health crisis, CIOs understand the criticality of finding a safe intersection of these two positions. For many, it will mean shoring up loose ends and ensuring the tools we have are doing the job as intended.
Many organizations now find themselves with multiple versions of software that do essentially the same thing. It’s a relatable problem – everyone wants the newest, greatest solution but inevitably, it takes time to phase out the old. And, in the case of security tools, we don’t always trust them independently, so we layer them. If some is good, more must be better, right? To be frank, you don’t actually need belts and suspenders. One will do the job without the other. And, as our research shows, layers of more may actually create more issues than they solve. Software agents collide and fail regularly.
As purse strings tighten in the new year, 2021 will be the time for CIOs to take a hard look at their software estate. This is the opportunity to look at your inventory and make practical, data-driven decisions. Are those tools doing their job? Are your licenses in order? Are your security agents installed and working as intended? Can these applications self-heal when they become corrupted? In the absence of those things, you could have a false sense of security. It’s time to know, concretely.
As CIOs look for ways to reduce risk introduced by the 2020 rush to remote work, they will also have to come up with effective communication for describing the risk in ways their organization can understand. Fear isn’t a long-term strategy. Instead, it will be increasingly important to quantify the business impact this risk brings using actual data, and the steps needed to do a better job going forward.
Agility will be the new normal in 2021 and it’s the second resolution CIOs should consider making this year. Many organizations have already said they will likely never return to work as it once was. Remote work will forever be a part of their workforce, either fully remote or, most likely, a hybrid model. This is especially challenging as we don’t know what a broadly hybrid workforce will truly look like yet. Many have suggested that the increased productivity many companies experienced when we all went home was a product of everyone being remote. How can the workforce be as effective when some are at home and some are in the office? How will we facilitate teams through the learning curve of hybrid?
Policy and solutions will be defined on the fly for some time to come — we don’t have all the answers yet. We don’t even know all the questions. Flexibility will be key.
In the new year, CIOs may have to take a cautious approach to hiring. COVID-19 brought about challenges and opportunities when it comes to adding talent to our IT teams. Work from home scenarios means we can hire from almost anywhere – a distinct advantage for both employers and employees. But will we see a change in what we pay remote employees? Some markets demand higher wages due to cost of living and while that can be an advantage for a company in Silicon Valley paying lower wages to someone outside the area, what does that mean for the person who lives in a high-cost area but works for a company in a lower cost of living city? There are a lot of uncertainties in how this will play out long term and how it will impact both employers and employees, especially in high demand roles.
Perhaps even more important than compensation however is a work-life balance. Work from home has helped many companies realize a tremendous increase their productivity. By eliminating long commutes, many employees are working longer hours than ever before. This may also mean they are also feeling significant burnout. How can we help support our teams? There are no easy answers but will over-productivity become an issue? Only time will tell.
For the success of your IT team and your organization, resolving to do more with less by understanding your risk, inventory, and options while maintaining an engaged and productive team will help you a set smart strategy for the new year. Here’s to a prosperous 2021!