As the dust settles on the fallout from the Covid crisis and companies gear up for a new future in how they operate, research from Dynabook Europe has revealed that changing work patterns and locations have been a clear driver for growth in IT spend.
The research, The hybrid shift: managing an increasingly remote workforce, commissioned by the laptop provider in partnership with Walnut Unlimited, surveyed more than 1,000 senior IT decision-makers at medium to large enterprises across a range of industry sectors in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands to reveal IT spending, new working patterns and device priorities for the next 12 months.
The study found that more than two-thirds (67%) of employees are expected to either work from home or from no fixed location following the pandemic, which has increased from 53% before Covid-19. As a result, 65% of European IT decision-makers now have access to increased IT budgets this year, both to accommodate more widespread remote and hybrid working, and to support business continuity.
All regions surveyed revealed an increase in IT spend, with Spain showing the most change with 71% of organisations demonstrating a rise in tech investments in the next year, closely followed by 70% of businesses in the Netherlands. More than three-quarters (76%) of financial services organisations revealed increased budgets, as did 73% of manufacturing businesses. Enterprises operating in the retail sector were the least likely to up their IT budgets, although over half (54%) still indicated increased IT expenditure.
As regards how firms ensure the productivity of their growing remote workforce, over half (51%) of the organisations surveyed said they will prioritise providing remote support/assistance for staff. Compared with similar research conducted by Dynabook in 2018, this figure has increased from 29%. Secure communication and collaboration tools were regarded as important for employee productivity – 41% of IT decision-makers noted both as key for supporting good employee performance, while 37% named IT training as an important factor.
The survey also revealed that European businesses continue to accelerate digital transformation and equip themselves with a robust IT infrastructure to support a new remote and hybrid workforce. Cloud systems and remote IT assistance were highlighted as top priorities for organisations across all markets and sectors, with 50% of respondents ranking both technologies top. UK businesses were found to prioritise remote IT support the most, with nearly two-thirds (63%) naming it as a key focus.
Not surprisingly, cyber security infrastructure (48%) was also expected to be a tech investment priority in the next year, followed by IT training for staff (40%) and equipping employees with devices coming in fifth (37%).
Comparing the importance placed on these technologies with pre-pandemic times, 77% of organisations now regard security software as more important, while 73% said collaboration tools are now more significant. At the same time, 70% indicated cloud platforms as more valuable, and 62% regarded device accessories with heightened importance going into the “new normal”.
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The research also highlighted an increased value placed on laptops, with nearly three-quarters (74%) of businesses now regarding purchasing decisions around such devices as more important than before Covid-19. The UK saw the highest disparity between laptop and desktop usage, with 90% of UK companies using laptops and only one-third (33%) using desktops for remote working.
Desktop popularity remains higher in other parts of Europe – Spain (52%), France (47%) and the Netherlands (46%). Two-thirds (66%) of organisations across the region plan to integrate more laptops into their remote working infrastructure over the next 12 months, indicating that the reliance on notebooks will remain strong for the rest of 2021.
When it comes to key device features, the survey found that European businesses appeared to be taking heed of warnings of increased cyber attacks, with 81% of them considering security to be an important feature when buying a laptop. Other key priority features include connectivity (80%), performance (76%), battery life (72%) and portability (70%). That said, 28% consider performance to be the most important feature, compared with 20% for security.
“The last year has seen unprecedented change in the way we work, and it is clear from our research that European businesses are still racing to ensure their IT infrastructure meets the demands of an increased remote and hybrid workforce,” said Damian Jaume, president of Dynabook Europe. “Armed with increased budgets, it is evident that the role of the device has grown in importance as organisations realise the vital role hardware plays – alongside the right software – in keeping employees secure, connected and productive in this new world.”