Turns Out IT’s “New Normal” Is Much of the Same

(“In Case You Missed It Monday” is my chance to showcase something that I wrote and published in another venue, but is still relevant. This week’s post originally appeared on TechInvest)

The recent global crisis has, among many things, significantly changed the landscape of business IT. Out are expensive yet unproven “emerging” technologies, and in are the longstanding solutions used to build hybrid IT infrastructure to deliver dependable stability and performance, according to our SolarWinds® IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT.

So far, so expected. This throwback trend is something any IT pro worth their salt should have seen coming, what with shrinking budgets and shifts to remote work. In this “new normal,” what delivers tangible value gets top priority. But besides a return to familiar ground, the report also stresses the need for IT pros to brush up interpersonal skills and pick up new disciplines and tools—to understand new business priorities, while ensuring highly-stressed digital infrastructure doesn’t go up in flames.

Once More Unto the Cloud

I know what you’re thinking: not this again. But the urgency to move to the cloud has only grown, fuelled by demand for greater agility and an increasingly remote workforce. Based on our report, the top technology influencing organisations’ staffing needs is cloud computing (56%), followed closely by hybrid IT (41%) and security and compliance (38%). However, while the recent crisis has presented IT with “work-from-anywhere” use cases and evidence to fuel their case for cloud adoption, the familiar challenges of prohibitive cloud costs, performance, and security will continue to plague IT pros.

The solution, as always, is to communicate with the business. Understand what the most pressing needs are, then form a solution—from the many “as-a-service” cloud options out there—with enough compute power and scalability to meet those needs. Factor in “spin-on-demand” clouds, like Amazon EC2, and IT pros have a veritable arsenal of options when it comes to provisioning for costly development, without breaking budgets. But to ensure every dollar spent is used maximally, IT pros will need visibility into cloud utilisation and data loads—which may require solutions like application monitoring.

A Tale of Dollars and Data

Even before the crisis, application performance monitoring (APM) was growing in importance—now it may be key to keeping businesses alive. Not an exaggeration, in my opinion. The only way to keep hybrid infrastructure stable and business services available for customers is to enforce constant monitoring of underlying applications—ensuring performance is trackable and issues resolved, even as they occur. And, shown in our recent report, IT pros know this: over 61% are investing in APM for traffic analysis, while 56% are monitoring user experience, and 54% are relying on APM as a way to ensure stability and security for business services.

This monitoring data will feed into the business need for tangible results, especially as profit margins and growth stall. In this climate, only data can quickly reveal if precious dollars are creating results, or if shifts in thinking are required. For instance, network traffic can be used to quantify growing interest towards an offering that resulted from a marketing push or qualify whether certain platform updates are favoured by customers.

Finally, there’s also the case to be made for security. IT pros won’t soon forget how data breaches and service outages made headlines during the global crisis; increasingly, I expect monitoring resources will be channelled towards keeping services and applications safe from malicious intent. But don’t take my word for it: our report states over 44% of IT pros are looking to up their network security game, while 32% are pushing for real-time analysis of security alerts. Only 29% are looking into disaster recovery—surprising, given its importance toward business continuity in light of current times.

Upgrade Communication and Empathy

These are trying times, and business leaders and employees alike face mounting pressure to keep the business afloat. IT pros need to brush up their interpersonal skills and communicate with the business. Be transparent and honest about the challenges your hybrid IT infrastructure faces and understand the reasons behind investment decisions—not just from an IT point of view, but also from a business one. Any proposed solution or upgrade shouldn’t just make sense to IT; it should also help the business meet financial or performance targets or help ease already challenging workloads.

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