Right now, no matter where you live in the world, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is likely forcing changes to your everyday life. The same is true for businesses of all stripes, who have had to adjust on the fly as restrictions are put into place to slow the spread of the outbreak. In the process, much of the global economy has ground to a halt.
There is one industry, however, that hasn’t slowed down due to the pandemic. It’s the global IT industry, which has shifted into high gear to accommodate the sudden demand for remote working and collaboration solutions as the majority of businesses have gone digital-only. The change has been so sudden and dramatic that it’s calling into question how (or even if) businesses will ever go back to the way they previously operated.
The only thing that seems certain, though, is that the IT industry will be profoundly changed by the crisis. It’s forcing a wholesale rethinking of what it’s going to take to accommodate business technology needs as we move forward from the current situation. With that in mind, here are the five most important ways the IT industry is likely to change as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
1. Stress Testing Becomes Routine
For a long time, IT professionals and IT service providers have made sure to conduct regular stress testing of business systems deemed critical to daily operations. Still, it’s a safe bet that the majority of VPN systems and remote access solutions were never a part of those tests. They simply weren’t used by a large enough portion of the workforce to rate regular testing. If the coronavirus crisis will change anything, it will be the way that IT providers classify technology as “mission-critical”.
For that reason, it’s easy to predict that network-wide stress testing will become standard operating procedure for the majority of businesses and the IT professionals that manage their networks. It’s going to become necessary to make sure that WAN-side services can handle a complete traffic reversal like the one that many businesses have now been forced to accommodate. It’s a scenario that many never planned for, and the cost of failure in a situation such as this one could deal a death blow to many businesses.
2. Moves to the Cloud will Accelerate
Before the coronavirus crisis, global businesses had been gradually shifting computing workloads from on-premises hardware into the cloud. Still, for all the progress that had been made, data from McKinsey & Company indicated that most businesses had only shifted about 20% of their workloads into the cloud – with the remaining 80% remaining within on-premises legacy solutions. Needless to say, that has hampered the ability of many organizations to reallocate resources to support workers who are not forced to work outside of their offices.
It shouldn’t take long after businesses start getting back to normal to see many accelerating their plans to move additional workloads to the cloud. It’s the smartest way for them to gain the flexibility needed to handle any eventuality, as well as to decrease technology operating expenses going forward. It should also prompt many businesses that hadn’t considered a shift to the cloud to do so, now that the many advantages of modern cloud solutions have been on very public display in recent days.
3. Businesses will Pay for Redundancy
For most enterprises, having redundant technology solutions has always been a core operating principle to maintain business continuity. For that reason, network load balancing and standby systems are common in large network deployments. That kind of network redundancy hasn’t been adopted in the vast majority of small to midsize business networks to date, however.
Going forward, all kinds of businesses, both large and small, will be willing to pay for the kind of redundancy that used to be reserved for enterprises. That should also fuel a boom in the IT sector for companies to develop network technologies to support that demand, driving the price down to a level where even small businesses can afford to adopt redundancy.
4. Flexibility will Become Standardized
Even before the coronavirus crisis, businesses of all kinds had started to embrace things like flexible work schedules and remote work policies to provide a better employee experience. That’s even why so many businesses had turned to coworking spaces in lieu of permanent office space over the past few years. Businesses that did so also tended to embrace IT concepts like bring-your-own-device (BYOD) to help support their nomadic workforces.
After the coronavirus crisis passes, more businesses will rush to adopt standardized IT solutions to support BYOD and other flexible technology initiatives. Instead of spending their IT budgets on company-owned devices, they’ll start spending it on a management infrastructure to enforce company technology policy on employee devices instead. In the end, it may bring about the true end of the PC era that experts have forecasted for some time.
5. Automation Technology will Boom
Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPI) have slowly started to work their way into businesses around the world. In many cases, the first exposure that companies have had to the technology has been in the form of marketing automation software. Larger organizations have even started the process of automating routine day-to-day tasks wherever possible.
In a post-coronavirus environment, it’s almost a certainty that businesses will begin adopting automation wherever it is currently possible and will continue to invest in such technologies going forward. They’ll do so because it’s the surest way to minimize future business disruptions like the one they’re dealing with now. After all, computers aren’t affected by global pandemics, and automated systems tend to require only minimal maintenance and human intervention in most cases.
A Whole Different IT Environment
The changes to the IT landscape mentioned here won’t be the only things that will happen to the industry as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. They’re just the most obvious outcomes that are easy to foresee. It’s very likely that the overall effects the current crisis will have on the IT industry will be even more far-reaching than anyone can now imagine, with long-term ramifications that nobody would expect.
As we move forward, it’s going to be critical for all of the members of the IT community to work in concert with the businesses they support to devise more specific long-term plans and strategies to handle an uncertain future. Many of those plans will include the points listed here. Most will have to go a whole lot further. What’s certain is that all of those plans will result in an IT environment that will bear little resemblance to the one it’s replacing. How well it all works, of course, is up to all of us.
Andrej Kovačević is a digital marketing expert, editor at TechLoot, and a contributing writer for a variety of other technology-focused online publications. He has covered the intersection of marketing and technology for several years and is pursuing an ongoing mission to share his expertise with business leaders and marketing professionals everywhere.