IT departments inside businesses, schools, healthcare providers and governments that kept people productive during social distancing and other challenges brought on by COVID-19 increased their influence on critical business decisions, according to findings from the 2020 Enterprise Cloud Index (ECI). Their ability to keep employees working remotely, students learning online and caregivers equipped to help patients earned IT workers respect that could help them accelerate existing and new digital transformation initiatives.
As public health protocols have kept much of the population at home, organizations have turned to cloud computing, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), videoconferencing and collaboration software and other technologies to keep business processes moving.
“When COVID and the [U.S. West Coast] wildfires hit, we went from under 10% of people working from home to 90%,” said Drew Plaster, senior network systems administrator of IT infrastructure at Moda Health in Portland, Ore.
“Luckily, we already had VDI working and solid, so we just had to rob Peter to pay Paul; we took infrastructure meant for other services and redeployed it for VDI. Our remote infrastructure increased by 300%.”
The ability to pivot amid a universal crisis has broadly elevated IT teams’ profiles: more than three-fourths (76%) of 3,400 global respondents to Nutanix’s 2020 Enterprise Cloud Index (ECI) survey said COVID-19 has caused IT to be viewed more strategically in their organizations.
Also, 46% said they increased hybrid cloud investments due to the pandemic, 47% upped their use of public cloud services, and 37% invested more in their private cloud. More than a third (34%) said they’ve adopted hybrid cloud tools or solutions due to COVID-19. These cloud-based remote infrastructure investments have helped accelerate corporate digital transformation initiatives that rely on cloud computing underpinnings.
Digital transformation (DX) programs are modernizing organizations of all sizes and geographies. Digitizing and automating more operations enables agility needed to enter new markets, serve customers better, offer employees new working models and become more competitive. Success hinges on the accessibility and flexibility of cloud computing, which dynamically scales up and down across geographies to reach workers, customers, partners, students, and patients nearly anywhere.
“Like most energy companies, we’re going through a digital transformation program,” said Dominic Maidment, technology architect at Total Gas & Power Ltd. in Redhill, Surrey, England.
“COVID has highlighted the need for us to have a coherent cloud implementation strategy. In three to five years, if I get my way, we’ll have a fully integrated hybrid cloud infrastructure…that allows [full resource interoperability], so we can move data assets around. We’ll have retired our legacy data assets and put our development in the public cloud with elastic resources that we can dial up and down.”
While noble in spirit, digital transformation has been challenging for organizations with substantial legacy infrastructure and processes to transition, like Maidment’s.
“If you have 20+ years of history at your business, cloud migration gets expensive,” he said. “You might invest in new resources, then discover that you can't turn off some legacy things because not everything translates to the new environment. And whether you’re re-platforming, lifting and shifting, or repurchasing [using SaaS], you still have to customize, move data, and integrate old and new worlds until you’re ready to let go. It’s a big deal.”
When asked what their new top IT priorities were due to the pandemic, global ECI respondents’ answer was digital transformation (50%), making their organization more agile (41%) and creating or improving the digital employee experience (36%).
“Our administration is not typically willing to invest heavily in remote work, but they’ve been forced to for the first time in 25 years,” Plaster noted.
“Now that they’ve spent the money and we have been running with no performance or access issues, I think the administration will look closely at what it costs per square foot to bring employees back on site. They won’t want to waste their infrastructure investment.”
Indeed, remote work may be finally the wave of the near future in a big way, now that most organizations have had their hands forced to get a taste of it. One year ago, 27% of global ECI respondents said their companies had no regular work-at-home programs; that figure plummeted to 7% in mid-2020 when the pandemic was in full swing.
While all respondents believe some remote workers will one day return to the office, many will not. The ECI responses indicate that the global percentage with no remote work bouncing back to 13% in 2022 when presumably the pandemic will be behind us, which is about half the number without remote workers in pre-pandemic 2019.
Joanie Wexler is a contributing writer and editor with more than 20 years’ experience covering IT and computer networking technologies.
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