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IT Priorities 2020: Budgets rejigged to support 2021 recovery

IT has been essential in helping organisations remain operational. IT chiefs are now considering the IT to drive a sustained business recovery

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has forced IT leaders to reprioritise their IT spending. Businesses needed the technology available to enable them to get through the initial crisis, but now business leaders are looking at how to live with coronavirus. So what’s the IT infrastructure that supports this new normal? 

In its workbook to help businesses through the coronavirus crisis, Deloitte recommends companies take a three phase approach. The first is the survival phase, focused on dealing with the present situation and managing continuity. The second phase is recovery, where businesses learn and emerge stronger. The final phase in the roadmap Deloitte presents is where the businesses that have emerged from the coronavirus crisis are then in a position to thrive and take advantage of the new business opportunities that emerge.

At the start of 2020, the TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT priorities survey asked UK IT professionals about their priorities for 2020. The survey found that overall 2020 budgets would be softer than in 2019. Just under half of the respondents (48%) reported an increase in IT budgets compared with 67% in 2019 (19% decline).

Given how the business landscape has changed as a result of the coronavirus crisis, Computer Weekly/TechTarget repeated the survey in July through September 2020 to gather market insights on technology plans for 2021.

The figures in this updated survey show a strong emphasis on the survival phase described in Deloitte’s workbook. Out of the 120 IT professionals who took part in the survey, 46% say investments in remote working are now easier to justify. Windows 10 migration remains in the top 10 of IT projects, but IT professionals regard unified communications as the top priority. The TechTarget/Computer Weekly survey also shows that 89% of IT professionals have project plans for user computing for 2021.

Much of this investment is likely to be targeted at improving user IT security and buying equipment and software to support remote workers.

For instance, the updated edition of the TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities 2020 survey found that the most widespread IT projects all related to security and data protection, with user security training, governance, risk and compliance tools, and multifactor authentication the top current projects.

Vulnerability management

CIOs are also focusing heavily on vulnerability management, fraud detection systems and tools, identity and access management (IAM), and disaster recovery.

Analyst Gartner has estimated that almost one billion people worked from home at some point in 2020. This has led to demand for IT products and services to support remote workers. According to Gartner, desktop as a service revenue has grown by 99%.

The updated TechTarget/ComputerWeekly IT Priorities survey found that supporting remote workers has seen massive growth in communication and collaboration technology investments. The survey reported that 60% of IT decision makers plan to implement collaboration technology in the next 12 months, while 26% say they are looking to rollout more software as a service.

Read more IT Priorities

  • The updated 2020 IT Priorities Survey from Computer Weekly and TechTarget shines a light on how the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has reshaped IT leaders’ technology investment plans.
  • The emphasis on home and remote working has been felt in storage and backup as in all areas of IT, with continued evolution towards the cloud and as-a-service storage and backup.
  • This year’s transition to remote working highlighted big gaps in the fundamentals of security, as updated TechTarget/Computer Weekly data reveals.

Figures from Gartner show that there is also strong demand for thin and light notebook PCs, which employees working from home can easily incorporate into their home office workspace.

While the areas of IT to support remote workers have experienced an uptick, there is a definite shift away from on-premise IT. The pandemic’s key impact on storage and backup has been to amplify the push towards cloud computing and to downgrade some key on-premise storage technologies – such as SAN – in UK IT department plans.

Over the next 12 months, the updated TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT priorities survey found that 45% of IT decision makers say they expect to deploy cloud storage; 23% plan to deploy storage as a service.

Recovery

The top business projects for 2021 appear to be customer relationship management (34%), ecommerce (24%) and digital experience management (18%), which may reflect recognition among businesses to increase investment in their digital channels.

The previous 2020 survey reported that 40% of the 210 UK IT professionals asked said they would be doing application modernisation in 2020, a 15% increase over the 2019 TechTarget/Computer Weekly UK IT Priorities survey. Application modernisation is set to increase as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. When asked about their plans for the next 12 months, the updated survey reported that 57% of the 120 IT professionals who took part in the updated survey, said they would be embarking on application modernisation initiatives.

The survey also found that 33% of IT decision makers say their immediate spending priority is to invest in technologies to aid the migration of their enterprise workloads to the cloud in the interests of achieving business agility gains.

This drive to modernise applications points to a broader focus on digitisation, which has gained far greater prominence as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. Gartner believes CIOs should now maintain the momentum to innovate and drive forward an IT strategy that builds on digital business initiatives, to ensure companies can adapt quickly to unforeseen events. During the opening keynote at the annual Gartner Europe, Middle East and Africa conference, Gartner distinguished analyst Don Scheibenreif said: “Covid-19 swept away long-standing barriers to digital disruption. People are buying food, cars, homes, heavy equipment and even seeing their doctors through digital channels only.”

The analyst firm predicted that by 2025, 40% of physical experience-based businesses will improve financial results and outperform competitors by extending into paid virtual experiences.

For 2021, the Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities survey reported that 30% of UK IT decision makers say they are enabling more automation around technology management and/or increasing our focus on automating business tasks to rely less on human capital.

The aggressive adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) combined with machine learning, and other artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as optical character recognition, natural language processing and natural language generation is leading to what the industry calls “hyperautomation”. 

New normal

If businesses are to thrive in the new normal, they need to be agile, resilient to unforeseen events and adapt to change rapidly. The updated TechTarget/ComputerWeekly IT priorities survey reported that 48% of UK IT decisions say they are planning business process automation in the next 12 months. Application programming interface (API) management (35%) and RPA (26%) are the second and third priority in terms of application integration. Such technologies are key to any post coronavirus digital business optimisation initiatives. 

RPA, together with other low code/no code platforms can be paired with business process management and process mining to enable businesses to automate longer, complex processes end-to-end far quicker than was previously possible. 

The industry is starting to talk about the idea of composable business, where business processes can be adapted very quickly to cope with unforeseen events such as a global pandemic.

The pandemic has shown the importance of IT to keep business operational. CIOs, CTOs and senior IT decision makers will be called on to provide the IT to manage business processes through the next global disruption event.

The good news is that, from microservices, containerisation and orchestration to AI-infused business process automation, many of the architectural building blocks are available today.

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