IT pros gained confidence, new skills amid pandemic

In support of IT Professionals Day on Sept. 15, a new survey explores the changes, stressors, and shifting responsibilities COVID-19 has put on IT staff.

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Image: Bulat Silvia, Getty Images/iStockPhotos

No longer relegated to a back room or basement, IT professionals demonstrated their mettle as they helmed the lightning-fast switch from on-site office to working-from-home. The wicked-fast transfer and challenging responsibilities, expanded roles, and agile adaptability,built and increased IT pros' confidence, and reminded company leaders of IT's importance.

A new report from SolarWinds, IT Pro Day 2020 Survey: You Were Built for This, reviews the critical role IT pros had during the pandemic and its unprecedented impact on the enterprise. "The success of organizations during this unique time is due in large part to IT pros' preparedness and inherent ability to adapt and manage through substantial change," said Rani Johnson, chief information officer, SolarWinds, in a press release.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

SolarWinds provides IT management software and compiled responses from 122 IT practitioners, managers, and directors from the public and private sector small, mid-size, and enterprise companies who participate in the SolarWinds THWACK user community. It also asked respondents for its mid-summer survey to comment on how they envision IT evolving in the future. 

Confidence boost

While there's no doubt to the tumult and tragedy caused by the coronavirus, this year's survey revealed 64% of the surveyed IT pros were instilled with a new sense of confidence, all the while contending with reduced budgets, even more importantly larger decision-making responsibilities (28%), increased stress (22%) and working extra long days (29%), as a result of the organizations' reaction to the crisis and its growing dependence on the IT staff. 

Supporting a remote workforce worked well for respondents; 71% felt it struck a balance in which daily maintenance was better. Internal processes to better accommodate the rapid pace of change required after COVID-19 need rethinking, agreed 31%.

Accomplishments empowered IT staff (46%) to bring new ideas to their team leaders, and 58% say they're better prepared to succeed in similar, unexpected situations, with 29% prepared for the change but requiring additional resources, training, and support. The survey found that what IT pros were able to overcome and achieve in a time of crisis, coupled with a newfound self-confidence, "will completely transform how IT is viewed by the business in the future."

IT may earn a more prominent voice in the C-suite, as 40% of surveyed IT pros believe they will now be involved in more business-level meetings. Likewise, IT's role will be leveled up due to the vast upskilling more than a quarter (26%) of IT pros underwent during this experience. With 31% admitting there's a need to rethink internal processes to better accommodate the rapid change of pace required post-COVID, it's highly likely a focus on IT pros' upskilling will continue into the future. 

Even though 18% reported their toolset and tech fell short in addressing all the needs of an entirely remote workforce, nearly a third (28%) said their companies should consolidate existing solution suites and vendors.

Tech trends

Most IT organizations acknowledge that there are elements that need to be in play to shape the future of their roles in the company:

  • Greater cross-team collaboration (53%)
  • More responsibility (46%)
  • IT inclusion in more business-level meetings and decision making (41%)
  • Tighter budgets (even post-economic recovery) (26%)
  • More opportunity to upskill/attend trainings (25%)

"2020--and the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic--is proof positive IT pros are built for moments like these," Johnson said. "What's particularly encouraging is IT pros' perception and expectation IT will be included in more business-level decision making moving forward [40%]. The dedication of IT pros around the world to ensuring business resiliency and continuity over the past several months serves to elevate and empower the IT community to work alongside business leaders to meet bigger organizational goals."

The SolarWind survey reports that IT may earn a more prominent voice in the C-suite, as 40% of surveyed IT pros believe they will now be included in more business-level meetings. 

Upskill now

The pandemic represented a time of upskilling--they were, afterall, contending with company-wide tech device assignments, and more. Because of this demonstration of capability and calm, and the IT pros' confidence, IT's role will be up-leveled. More than a quarter (26%) of IT pros have undergone upskilling during the crisis, and with 31% admitting there's a need to rethink internal processes to better accommodate the rapid change of pace required post-COVID, it's highly likely a focus on IT pros' upskilling will continue into the future.

Top skills critical for development:

  • Systems management (55%)
  • Network management (50%)
  • Security policy and compliance (43%)
  • Hybrid IT monitoring/management tools and metrics (28%)

"As always, with new responsibilities comes the need for new skills," Johnson said. More than a quarter of IT pros felt it necessary to learn even more new skills, and 47% said they've already received the training. "While almost half of survey respondents felt they received the training required to adapt to changing IT requirements, nearly one-third experienced the opposite, and are at risk of being left behind as IT teams continue to grapple with how best to support the new normal.

"At SolarWinds, we understand that for IT pros to reach their potential requires sufficient tools, resources, training, and budget," Johnson said. "We hope this new normal, one that sees IT departments align more closely with the C-suite, will bring with it even more support for IT pros--and make their jobs easier as they continue on their journey to supporting business continuity."

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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...