(By Ian Pitt, CIO, SVP, LogMeIn)
It may have taken a pandemic, but it’s official, remote work can work. Suddenly everyone from teachers to lawyers to your grandmother now understands the power of remote technology to stay connected from afar. And what’s more, many are starting to recognize that this shift can actually be a good thing for businesses. Permanently. From happier employees, to a more productive workforce, flexible work schedules, and basically the last year working in quarantine has shown time and time again a multitude of benefits – if done correctly.
But this isn’t a transformation that will just happen. Aside from putting the right HR policies in place, it requires a complete overhaul on how IT leaders invest and spend in technology. Technology, more than ever, is a crucial part of connection and collaboration. If the technology fails or doesn’t meet the needs of your employee base, business will grind to a sudden and often painful halt. But trust us, any extra resources you spend to set your business up for success will be well worth it in the long run.
A Lift in Overall Spending
It’s not new news to say that worldwide IT spend is on the rise. We all want the latest tech after all. But it might be surprising to hear that the growth is being led by a faster conversion to cloud-centric IT, with worldwide spending on cloud-related hardware, software and managed services set to surpass $1 trillion by 2024 amid double-digit annual growth, according to a recent IDC report.
Cloud adoption is a trend that has been accelerating for some time, and while we all wish it didn’t take something as tragic as a pandemic, we do believe it will turn out to be a long-term net positive for IT, tipping even more companies over to the digital world. After all, cloud and mobile technology is flexible, location agonistic, and works across devices…all key traits for a successful flexible work environment.
Rethinking How IT Spends
In 2020 IT leaders may have had to quickly outfit their entire organization with a video conferencing tool or figure out how to provide IT helpdesk services to a dispersed workforce. It may have been a lot of work up front in a very short amount of time, and very likely a hit to budget. However, there’s a silver lining. This shift in priorities and spend last year may very well have set your teams up for long term flexible work success.
While there are risks that the economic recovery will stall, and industries such as retail, travel and hospitality remain in a deep funk, the optimism about tech spending is in part based on how well it stood up when growth plummeted in the first half of last year, in contrast to the experiences in prior recessions.
While our recent Forrester study showed that technology is key in driving anywhere work satisfaction, this shift in spend is not just about software. It’s about an investment in cloud infrastructure, high speed internet to team member’s homes, IT services, and more devices like laptops and tablets that enable traditionally desk bound workers to do their job. At the start of 2020 no one would have expected business leaders to be concerned with what type of internet an employee had at home and if their neighborhood had 4G or 5G networks, but today it should actually be a top priority. Employees need to be brought into the process to ensure that the tech is easy to use and well work in a remote or hybrid setting.
Providing a stipend to offset the cost of faster internet or build a home office set up, offering employees power banks so that if they lose power, they can transition any critical work to another team member are budget line items that are new to most organizations, but they are crucial in order to maintain business continuity.
We’re Not Going Back
The workplace has been permanently altered, and the office for better or worse now includes an employee’s dining room table or den, a loved one or two, and the family pet. Despite the sometimes chaotic, never boring, new normal, in one year we’ve witnessed the kind of organizational changes that might have taken a decade or more to achieve. As business leaders begin to prepare for what’s next, it’s clear that we are never going back to the way things were. More remote jobs mean more opportunities for diverse hires, less travel for work means fewer carbon emissions, and flexible schedules means a better life/work balance.
While the model for how we work post-pandemic is still evolving, it’s clear that IT teams need to consider things that previously had never been on their radar and account for those in their budget moving forward. Even as “lockdowns” and “quarantine” become terms relegated to memory, one thing is certain: we’re not going back to the way things used to be. We have an opportunity in front of us. And we need to embrace it.