CXO

Report: IT's top challenges and priorities for 2016

According to a new survey sponsored by Kensington, IT feels undervalued and overwhelmed. Here's why.

IT consultant presenting tag cloud about information technology

With the increasing digitization of the modern workplace, IT's role is more important than ever. But, many organizations may be missing out on some of the value their IT employees can bring to the table.

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According to a new report sponsored by Kensington, 32% of IT professionals act mostly as firefighters for their organizations, dealing primarily with "employee errors and administrative tasks." The report, released Wednesday, was compiled from a survey of 251 IT practitioners, managers, and directors, which was collected through Spiceworks' "Voice of IT" network.

Additionally, 35% of respondents said that most of their day is spent on administrative duties, help desk, and troubleshooting. The report noted that this could mean that organizations aren't getting the most out of their IT professionals, as they are often stuck doing tasks just to keep things running.

Of course, there are many issues that affect the ways in which IT sees its opportunities and challenges for 2016. For this report, those factors were broken down into a few different components. Let's take a look at the highlights.

Influencing factors

One of the biggest influencing factors for how IT sees its organization is the budget. Roughly 40% of respondents said their organizations were planning on increasing the IT budget, but limited budget resources were still cited as a challenge. On average, 45% of organizations are planning on increasing security, 41% on increasing employee connectivity, and 30% on improving employee setup.

In terms of commitments, helpdesk is the largest for IT, with respondents noting they spend 26% of their day on those duties, on average. General administration and meetings took up another 18%. Still, strategy is important, and 65% of all respondents said that their organization reviews its IT strategy at least annually.

Productivity

To increase productivity, many companies turn to additional hardware. Of those surveyed, 62% said that they used multiple monitors to increase productivity, 47% included tablets and support for mobile, and 37% offered remote working.

Another technology geared toward productivity is cloud, which 36% currently supported and 26% planned on deploying in the future. BYOD policies also had an effect, with 24% having adopted BYOD and 18% labeling it as a priority.

Security

For the IT professionals who took this survey, security was their top priority. On average, 54% said they'd be prioritizing network security in 2016, and 40% planned to increase security spending in 2016.

SEE: Information security policy template (Tech Pro Research)

According to the report, the respondents ranked the following threats as their organization's biggest risks to IT security:

    • Human error - 43%
    • Lack of process - 40%
    • External threats - 36%
    • Compliance breaches - 16%
    • Data leakage/loss - 16%
    • Lack of control over personal devices (BYOD) - 14%
    • Lost/stolen devices - 10%
    • Social media usage policy - 4%

      Employee wellness

      Wellness, especially when it comes to ergonomic support, is a hot topic among companies where the average worker spends all day at his or her desk—22% said their company was planning on increasing wellness spending. However, 52% of IT workers surveyed said they do not receive requests from colleagues to help with workspace wellness.

      Of those who do request wellness upgrades, 13% request monitor risers, 10% request workstation assessments, 8% request ergonomic peripherals, and 6% request desks where they can sit or stand.

      Barriers to improvement

      So, what's holding IT back from improving? Twenty-two percent said it was competing priorities, and that breaks down into specific challenges on the organizational side that the survey respondents felt harmed their usefulness. They were rated as follows:

      • Lack of time/resources - 44%
      • Insufficient budget - 40%
      • IT perceived as a cost, not as an opportunity - 36%
      • Employees disregard the 'rules' - 28%

      SEE: Constellation Research VP: Tech and culture pointless without purpose (TechRepublic)

      The report sought to label some of the roles that IT professionals can take in the workplace, and break down IT's top priorities and challenges in 2016. The above-mentioned "firefighter" was one of the six roles, which also included soothsayer, diplomat, bad guy, accountant, and teacher. Those were defined and ranked like this:

      • Firefighter (32%) - Reacting to problems rather than proactively developing and delivering IT strategy
      • Diplomat (30%) - Carefully handling multiple stakeholder requirements, peacekeeping between employees and senior management
      • Teacher (20%) - Guiding and correcting mistakes
      • Soothsayer (8%) - Predicting the future; anticipating need and second guessing technological change
      • Bad guy (4%) - Always saying "no"
      • Accountant (2%) - Spending more time focusing on IT budget than strategy
      • Other (4%)

      All of these challenges are multi-faceted, but the report authors suggest placing a greater emphasis on employee wellness, productivity, and IT strategy as a good first step in mitigating these issues.

      The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

      1. Due to their heavy focus on administrative tasks and fixing employee errors, many IT professionals feel like firefighters in their organization and may be being undervalued for their skill set.
      2. Increasing security was a top priority for survey respondents, and many cited human error and lack of process as the two main security risks to their organization.
      3. Competing priorities are holding IT back, and organizations must improve the productivity of their IT staff and their IT strategy if they want a good return from their employees.

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      About Conner Forrest

      Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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