IT Priorities 2023: Distributed IT and hybrid work drive adoption of new networks

Research shows security continues to dominate networking needs, along with the need to support users wherever they are, with firms more than ready to invest in future of work initiatives

Since the Covid outbreak, the rapid shift to cloud services and the complexity of dealing with a hybrid workforce have changed how modern IT and networking leaders go about ensuring their business can cope with the demands of the modern workspace, and the good news is that firms are showing a strong inclination to back a digital-ready workplace and hybrid work environment.

That is one of the key findings of the UK and Ireland-focused segment of the TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities survey for 2023, which was fielded from November 2022 to February 2023 and represents the views of 156 technology decision-makers from the UK and Ireland.

The study covered three key areas: broad technology initiatives that are more important this year than last; what’s changing with organisations’ technology budgets; and technology investment plans for the upcoming year. Most respondents have responsibility for more than three functional areas – that is they wear multiple hats – and this number has increased year-on-year.

Looking at overall tasks, the survey found that functional areas of responsibility have grown. Just over half (51%) said their primary focus was on cyber security, security operations, risk and compliance, while 45% noted cloud, infrastructure and operations. Application and software development was cited by 38% and business applications by 31%.

Networking in itself came in as the sixth highest priority, with 30% noting that it was the area they were most focused on. Worryingly though, the study revealed that networking and associate infrastructures were low priorities when it came to broad initiatives driving spend in 2023.

Not surprisingly, cyber security has dominated the top spot for the past two years, with 57% of firms saying cyber security has become significantly more important in this time. By contrast, just 13% regarded on-premise infrastructure (including network/compute, storage) in the same manner. For edge computing, internet of things (IoT) and industrial IoT, this figure was 10%.

Assessing organisations’ current postures around supporting a digital-ready workplace and hybrid work environment, 84% of all firms said they would invest in “future of work” initiatives. A second wave of investments is being expanded to employee training, retention and experience, networking, end user computing and digital workspaces.

In terms of what is driving networking spend this year, the IT Priorities survey found security continues to dominate networking needs and is seen as a critical differentiation point for suppliers. It also highlighted the need to support users’ experience wherever they are.

Drilling deeper, the survey showed that the top drivers of networking spend in 2023 are network security (46%), user experience (37%), network health and performance (26%), hybrid work (20%), unified communications/UCaaS (17%) and application performance (11%).

Network traffic analysis and security topped the list of IT professionals’ networking investment plans. These were followed by network firewalls, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), remote access and as-a-network initiatives, network visibility and performance management, and datacentre interconnect.

Commenting on the study, Bob Laliberte, principal analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said: “Distributed IT and hybrid work create network complexity, which is driving adoption of new network technologies and operational frameworks to help organisations provide secure connectivity where and when it is needed to support the business.”

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