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UK digital leaders expect long-term changes to future working patterns

Research from digital infrastructure company reveals changing working patterns brought about by Covid-19, including a surge in digital infrastructure investment

As companies take stock of a year in which they had to switch to remote working almost overnight and now contemplate a future based on the hybrid working model, IT departments are preparing for an increase in digital transformation in the post-pandemic future, according to a study from Equinix.

In its latest annual global study, the digital infrastructure company sought the views of 2,600 IT decision-makers from diverse enterprises across 26 countries in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions, investigating the technology trends affecting businesses worldwide and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on digital infrastructure plans.

The study found that just over a year after the pandemic began and the subsequent flip to remote working, 44% of businesses have rearchitected their IT infrastructure to meet new remote and hybrid working demands, with tech budgets increasing to accelerate digital transformation.

Also, 69% of digital leaders believe there will be long-term changes to where and how people work within their organisation and half of companies (50%) still intend to expand into new regions, countries or metros, despite the disruption caused by Covid-19 and Brexit.

Almost half (48%) of digital leaders surveyed in the UK, compared with 47% globally, said they have accelerated digital transformation plans because of the pandemic. Almost half (45%) of those in the UK also said their budgets have increased to satisfy the rapid growth in digital demands.

The study also found there has been a major overhaul of IT strategies to meet the challenges emerging from the pandemic. In the UK, more than two-thirds (67%) of digital leaders said they have revised their IT strategy as a result of the pandemic, and 55% said they want to invest in technology to be more agile post-Covid.

Asked about the biggest priorities for their organisation’s digital strategy, 86% of respondents in the UK, compared with 80% globally, said digitising their IT infrastructure is a top priority, with 61% saying they see interconnection as a key facilitator of digital transformation – twice as many as last year.

Overall, however, concerns that the pandemic will have put the brakes on companies’ expansion plans lessened. Half of businesses in the UK (50%) said they still have plans to expand into new regions, countries or metros, according to the digital leaders surveyed. Of that 50%, more then two-thirds (68%) planned to achieve this virtually, rather than by investing in physical IT infrastructure in-market.

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Looking at the tactics companies plan to use to achieve business success, the study showed that 70% of IT leaders in the UK (58% globally), said they believe that direct and private exchange of data between organisations – known as interconnection – will help them to navigate the challenges they face due to Covid-19. Those saying interconnection was key to their organisation’s survival increased from 33% in 2020 to 60% now.

Digital leaders around the world were clearly already working to accelerate their organisations’ digital transformation, an effort that was supercharged by Covid-19, said Claire Macland, senior vice-president, global marketing at Equinix.

“Many companies are now investing more in their digital infrastructure to enable them to embrace a hybrid working model and thrive in the new world of work we all find ourselves in,” she said. “Despite headwinds in many sectors, many organisations are continuing to expand physically and virtually into new markets and regions around the world.

“This increasing focus on digitisation and expansion is one of the reasons why Equinix has continued to invest in its own growth. We completed 16 new expansions in 2020 – our most active build year ever – and expect to continue to evolve Platform Equinix to support our customers as they continue on their digital transformation journey.”

The Global interconnection index volume 4, a market study recently published by Equinix, forecast that overall interconnection bandwidth – the measure of private connectivity for the transfer of data between organisations – is likely to achieve a 45% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2019 to 2023, globally.

Equinix said the expected growth is driven by digital transformation, specifically by greater demands from enterprises extending their digital infrastructure from centralised locations to distributed edge locations.

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