How the pandemic and remote work initiatives forced organizations to change IT priorities

Global tech professionals reveal recruiting projects fueled by budgets prioritizing staff education, according to a recent IT trends report from Netwrix.

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Image: iStock/Olivier Le Moal

One of the many company vulnerabilities the coronavirus pandemic imposed on the enterprise is the dearth of skilled IT professionals. While the job market in general suffered a tremendous loss due to COVID-19, the need for IT pros has not waxed or waned. 

Because the remote work spurred by the crisis altered budgets, companies realize more funding needs to be put into a solid, well-skilled IT department, according to a new report from the security firm Netwrix.  The company polled 937 IT professionals worldwide.

The IT skills shortage has forced 31% of organizations to prioritize investment in much-needed IT staff education, up from 19% pre-pandemic. The shift to educate IT staff (an increase from 19% to 31%) suggests organizations struggle to address key concerns amid the global IT skills shortage. 

Cloud migration and IT innovative projects have also quickly become less important for most organizations during these uncertain times.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Security a top priority

Data and network security were tied as the enterprise's No. 1 priority: 76% of organizations named it as one of their most important IT projects for the rest of 2020, and the report credits "the rapidly growing remote workforce" for the renewed push for more robust IT departments.

In retail and wholesale, 93% of organizations put network security as top priority for 2020. Of the organizations with 5,000 to 10,000 employees, 67% plan to invest in employee security awareness, double from last year, 33%.

Meanwhile, 85% of financial organizations consider data security a priority. Yet, only 31% of financial organizations plan to focus on data privacy, even though 65% named it as a core priority before the pandemic.

Interest in cybersecurity awareness remains high, with a little more than 50% of respondents listing it a priority. Fifty-two percent of organizations plan an investment in employee security-awareness, roughly the same percentage (51%) in Netwrix's previous survey.

Digital transformation

Public sector and enterprises with 10,000 or more employees said digital transformation is of much greater interest than pre-pandemic, and 28% of respondents will prioritize digital transformation. Interest greatly varies by sector; for example, the percentage of public institutions naming this a digital transformation project as a priority has more than doubled, from 26% pre-pandemic to 56% today. 

Today, 38% of CIOs and IT directors now plan to invest in the education of IT personnel. Pre-pandemic, only 20% had it on their top-five list.

Automated

The survey also showed that 36% of respondents plan to prioritize investment in automation of IT tasks, with organizations of 1,001–5,000 employees as the most focused on automation (47% named it a top priority). Overall, interest in automation dropped by 17%.

Cloud migration

Only 23% of organizations in the US said they plan to focus on cloud migration projects, down from 40% pre-pandemic.

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Image: Newrix

The top 10 global IT priorities

  1. Network security

  2. Data security

  3. Cyber security awareness among employees

  4. Data privacy

  5. Automating manual IT processes

  6. Supporting cloud infrastructure

  7. Education of IT personnel

  8. Regulatory compliance

  9. Integration of existing solutions

  10. Digital transformation

More top 10s

The top 10 IT priorities for the enterprise are broken down into six different charts, by numbers of employees.

It also separates the following industries, each with a top 10 IT priority list:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Finance
  • Government
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail and wholesale

The top job roles, each with the top 10 IT priorities for the following positions:

  • IT/system administrator
  • CIO/IT director
  • CISO

Top job titles represented in the report are IT/systems administrator, IT manager, CIO/IT director, CISO, consultant, and IT audit officer.

Regionally, a top 10 IT priority list is included for the following regions: North America, EMEA, APAC.

By country, a top 10 IT priority list is included for the following countries: The UK, France, Germany and the United States.

Trends that tried, but didn't rank on top

  • 44% of respondents from organizations with 10,000 to 50,000 employees chose supporting cloud infrastructure as a priority.

  • 44% of CIOs had integration on their "bucket lists" before the pandemic, today, only 25% say it's critical.

  • 34% of organizations in France are planning to hire extra IT staff, the highest result of all countries with representatives who participated in the survey.

  • 33% of organizations with more than 50,000 employees plan to work on cloud migration tasks.

  • 33% of organizations with more than 50,000 employees plan to deploy AI projects, but at the end of 2019, this task wasn't even in the top 10 priorities for companies of that size.

  • 23% of all respondents will focus on cloud migration (the massive transformation to remote work in March/April required organizations to concentrate on cloud migration and now, they are shifting their focus to other issues).

  • 20% to 38% CIOs and IT directors that plan to invest in IT education have almost doubled since WFH, from 20% before the pandemic to 38% now.

  • 14% of respondents plan to hire more employees, citing the economic downturn as the reason for the  low percentage.

Interest dulled for AI projects and regulatory compliance

Netwrix's previous survey found that only a few organizations were going to focus on AI projects. Even fewer are interested now (12%).

Only 24% of healthcare organizations see regulatory compliance as a top priority, down from 42% pre-pandemic.

Also see

By N.F. Mendoza

N.F. Mendoza is a writer at TechRepublic and based in Los Angeles. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Cinema Critical Studies and a Master's of Professional Writing, both from USC. Nadine has more than 20 years experience as a journalist coveri...