What will a post-pandemic world look like for IT leaders?

Two months into lockdown, Gartner is forecasting an 8% decline in global IT spending in 2020 – a figure that would be seen as catastrophic in any other year. But considering that some economies are predicting drops in GDP of over 30% during the second quarter, in relative terms, the tech sector is likely to come out of the crisis as one of the healthiest survivors.

As we started 2020, European IT buyers were confident. Only 15% expected their IT budget to decrease – 52% expected an increase, according to our annual IT Priorities reader survey. The boom areas for spending were core technologies supporting digital transformation – cloud, network infrastructure and security; with mobility, AI, internet of things, application modernisation and customer experience all high in project priorities.

Generally, Computer Weekly has seen two main reactions to the dramatic change in circumstances since then. First, IT leaders are continuing existing projects, but pausing or reviewing non-business-critical spend. There’s no evidence yet of widespread cancellation of projects. Second, organisations that are most advanced in their digital transformation are faring best, and those that aren’t are accelerating that process.

It’s no surprise to say that technologies supporting remote working became the number one priority for every organisation that could do so. Previously, fewer than one in five IT buyers saw video / web conferencing as a spending priority – lockdown has been the best thing that’s ever happened to Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Collaboration software, unified communications and VPNs have become essentials.

As IT leaders start to look to a post-pandemic environment, key considerations will be agility, responsiveness and resilience. That’s going to mean increasing focus on data science and analytics; on internet of things to understand the physical working environment better; and perhaps most significantly, AI and automation as firms look for ways to keep aspects of their business in place should there be further lockdowns.

One further consideration for post-pandemic planning is tech ethics. Users are very aware of the increase in data gathering, analytics, AI, surveillance, monitoring, automation, and so on – and they understand that the pandemic requires compromises on personal data, privacy and to an extent, human rights. But when the crisis is over, any organisation that takes it too far, and doesn’t roll back, will most likely face a backlash.

Perceptions of technology projects are changing because of the pandemic. New tech is being implemented in weeks, not months; firms that stuck to old, non-agile ways of working are unable to respond. Business leaders are open to new tech like never before. The way that IT departments work, and their relationship with the business, may never be the same.

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