How IT teams can help their organizations succeed in 2021

by Stephen Danos

The acronym IT surrounded by tech-themed icons

While last year’s technology trends may have seemed ambitious for some IT teams, this year has forced many to adapt to new ways of working. 

Most IT pros won’t be shocked by Gartner’s list of expected 2021 technology trends — forward-looking concepts like expanding artificial intelligence to engineering, investing in a distributed cloud model, improving cybersecurity through the mesh model, and digital transformation. And while IT leaders will help determine what’s best for their organizations, right now they are finding practical solutions that don’t break the bank to mitigate the challenges their employees face.

Companies will continue to focus on work-from-anywhere strategies, neutralizing security risks, leveraging digital transformation — all of which will impact IT budget forecasts. With these forces in mind, here are ways IT pros can help position their organizations to succeed in 2021.

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Remote work is here to stay (in some form)

Finding the right solutions is important; the key is making sure you have a people-first mentality when adopting any technology. During 2020, workers with disparate functions were pushed to work in ways they didn’t expect. Virtual and socially-distanced meetings are now the norm, as are remote onboarding and offboarding. But what does that mean for IT?

Many organizations have shifted to remote or flex work, which presents some clear challenges and opportunities for IT teams to continue stepping up. Offices will need to be redefined and reconfigured for a post-COVID work environment, the timelines of which will depend largely on mandates handed down by local governments. In addition, IT projects and processes will need to be attuned to our current work-from-anywhere reality. 

For example, IT teams might need to switch to digital intake processes for service requests and infrastructure and operations projects in order to improve prioritization. In addition, they’ll continue to invest in remote desktop software for troubleshooting. While employees won’t be able to stop by the IT help desk with pressing questions, IT will still be expected to put customer service first to improve productivity. 

This is an opportunity for companies to invest in an IT service management software platform that enables your team to connect with end users, respond to their requests, and solicit feedback to improve upon the experience.

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The changing landscape of security

Another trend identified by Gartner is cybersecurity mesh, which “enables a more modular, responsive security approach by centralizing policy orchestration and distributing policy enforcement.” This allows IT leaders to define security perimeters “around the identity of a person or thing,” ushering in a new normal of flexible security controls that can scale, dependably.  

When it comes to security as a whole, remote workers will still need clear guidance from IT on what they need to do to connect securely to their virtual private network (VPN), instructions for single sign-on (SSO), and potentially a reasonable stipend for setting up their home office.

Security teams will then need to create protocols for dealing with both cybersecurity threats and ways to ensure the security of devices, both of which depend upon the individual employee. However, with the right platform for collaborative work management, security training, and a solid approach to scaling security practices, IT teams can position themselves to not only keep up with, but stay ahead of common threats.

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Digital transformation: From buzzword to must-have

Dispersed workforces will likely make digital-first mentalities more common in 2021, and IT teams are following the trend themselves. In fact, the Spicewerks Ziff Davis (SWZD) 2021 State of IT survey found that 76% of businesses are planning for long-term IT changes. One Gartner prediction focuses on intelligent composable business, and how an organization can “adapt and fundamentally rearrange itself based on a current situation.”

Business decisions will need to be made at warp speed, using accurate data and information, and measured as to their effectiveness. IT and procurement will need to provide the right tools that their internal customers will use consistently to achieve these goals. 

This further cements IT leaders as critical business partners to collaborate with executive teams to determine which technologies to adopt, after vetting for scalability, security, compliance, and the like. And while the democratization of technology might seem unavoidable, IT teams will play a huge role in enabling end-user autonomy by picking platforms — whether it’s Smartsheet for collaborative work management or Zoom for video conferencing — that check the right boxes. 

In light of the current moment, many companies don’t have a choice as to whether or not they will digitize processes. At this point, IT gets to help steer the direction of the most efficient and effective way to do so. 

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Changes to IT budgets

The SWZD survey found that 17% of organizations expect overall budgets to go down in 2021, while 80% believed that budgets will either stay the same or grow. 

The biggest drivers for budget increases, which have been pretty consistent over the past three years, are upgrading IT infrastructure, increased priority on IT projects (such as cloud migrations and digitization), and increased security concerns. 

SWZD smartly points out that company size will be a huge factor in determining IT budget spend. However, one constant is that most companies will invest more in software that supports digitization, and less in hardware in the upcoming year. 

With so many variables determining future spend and investment initiatives in infrastructure, digital transformation, cybersecurity, and cloud computing, IT departments have an opportunity to position themselves to lead large-scale change within their organizations. 

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