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Third Annual ECI Report: How the Pandemic Raised IT’s Profile and Paved a Clearer Pathway to Hybrid Cloud

By Wendy M. Pfeiffer

Today, we announced the findings from our third annual Enterprise Cloud Index (ECI) survey and research report, measuring enterprise progress with the adoption of private, hybrid, and public clouds. For the third year in a row, respondents named hybrid cloud as the ideal IT infrastructure model. 86 percent selected hybrid cloud as the most flexible and agile approach.

We also saw that hybrid cloud adoption this year has accelerated due to a renewed focus on strategic IT team efforts to drive positive business impact during the COVID-19 crisis. Our respondent base of 3,400 IT decision-makers spanned multiple industries, business sizes, and geographies. Responses also provide a window into the expected long-term adoption and impact of new technologies as a result of the pandemic.

As a society, we’ve wanted and needed hybrid cloud for the last three years, but the last eight months have shown us how essential hybrid cloud really is to the foundation of success for every business. The pandemic and global economics have put pressure on the hybrid model, meaning there’s more demand than ever.

Hybrid cloud raised the bar both for immediate and longer-term needs

As the pandemic unfolded in early March, we saw IT scramble to get their remote workforces up and running, moving IT’s focus toward remote worker support and enabling near-instant infrastructure deployments that reached geographically distributed workforces. This shift is here to stay — the survey found only 7% of companies now have no full-time remote workers, down from 27% one year ago — and improving IT infrastructure and work-from-home capabilities are critical priorities over the next 12 to 18 months.

As the pandemic continued, however, IT initiatives tied to COVID took on a new, longer-term importance and spurred companies along the path to cloud adoption. The survey found the majority (nearly 76%) reported the pandemic made them think more strategically about IT, and 46% of respondents said their investments in hybrid cloud have increased as a direct result of it.

Deploying hybrid cloud during a crisis offered a range of benefits, including the ability to enable flexible work setups, strengthen business continuity plans, simplify operations, and increase digital conferencing usage. Today, organizations are also prioritizing IT infrastructures that offer visibility and control; 58% of respondents said their primary motive for modifying their infrastructure was to get greater control of resources, and 55% cited meeting dynamic business requirements as the driver. When it comes to driving change in IT, making strategic decisions has replaced cutting costs in our remote work era. In a world where flexibility and agility reign, a hybrid model will continue to be the top choice.

What should CIOs do with their new political capital?

Our survey illustrated that IT has taken on a more strategic role. In many cases, IT went from having maybe 20% of the responsibility for the company’s success to being one of the main drivers. If infrastructure and services suddenly became unavailable today, our companies would stop functioning. Many industries that didn’t rely on technology before the pandemic now need to, including city governments and educators. COVID has accelerated transformation in physical industries — so what should we as IT teams do with all of this responsibility?

CIOs must become educators and translators to our counterparts and demonstrate why a hybrid operational model will help companies thrive in the future. Hybrid is no longer just a technology model; it’s a business model. When we talk about returning to work and offices, or about digital transformation, we don’t imagine going back to monolithic work. All social and physical interaction will be hybrid moving forward. If we can continue instrumenting our companies to function well in a hybrid model, we as CIOs and IT teams can continue to influence successful results for our companies and industries, regardless of what the next year brings.

No matter how the pandemic shakes out, remote work and flexible IT is here to stay — and I am excited to see all the innovation these challenging times will bring around serving customers better, staying competitive, and offering employees working models that fit their changing needs.

To learn more about the findings, please download the Third Annual Enterprise Cloud Index here.

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