How IT priorities are shifting during the COVID-19 crisis

Survey from AppDynamics indicates the acceleration of digital transformation during the pandemic creates new IT risks

How IT priorities are shifting during the COVID-19 crisis
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COVID-19 has disrupted every business around the globe. IT professionals are under immense pressure to continue overseeing infrastructure, applications, and security in this new normal, where most employees are working from home and services are being accessed exclusively online. As a result, businesses are accelerating their digital transformation initiatives and turning to real-time data to make smarter decisions.

COVID-19 related IT priority shifts create new technical challenges

Today’s IT departments are facing a number of challenges—from supporting remote workers to managing networks and applications. A whopping 95% of businesses have changed their tech priorities, placing more focus (88%) on improving the digital customer experience.

The findings come from the Agents of Transformation Report, published by AppDynamics, a part of Cisco that provides application performance management (APM) solutions. AppDynamics surveyed IT professionals around the world, including board-level directors, CIOs, and senior to mid-level IT management from various industries.

Digital projects are being done faster than pre-COVID

Due to the pandemic, 66% of businesses uncovered weaknesses in their digital strategies and have since accelerated their initiatives. For 71% of respondents, digital transformation projects were implemented within weeks during COVID-19, compared to months or years under normal circumstances. AppDynamics isn’t the only company make that observation. Earlier this year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the company had seen two years of digital transformation in the first two months of their quarter.

This makes sense as digital initiatives create new ways of working and dealing with customers. For example, most retailers are only able to have customers receive merchandise via curbside pickup. This makes the online ordering systems and mobile applications critical to capturing the dollars that customers are spending. The better the apps, and the more digital channels can be used, the more successful a retailer will be.

Digital projects focus on customer experience and employee productivity but resources are lacking

A number of digital initiatives focus on creating new ways of working. This has become increasingly important in the current pandemic era as workers are having to take on bigger workloads. The majority of IT professionals (81%) said COVID-19 put significant technology strain on their business, with 61% feeling more pressure at work than ever. Almost two thirds (64%) of the respondents found themselves performing tasks they had never done before.

While facing pressure to accelerate their digital initiatives, IT professionals reported not having enough resources and support. Most respondents (80%) said they lack visibility and insight into the performance of their systems. The respondents cited several problems that prevent them from providing an optimal digital customer experience. This data point shouldn’t be a big surprise as digital initiatives often include components such as the cloud, IoT, mobility, and other technologies that make the infrastructure more complex. IT’s job was difficult when things were orderly. The chaotic nature of cloud native, distributed systems makes fast troubleshooting difficult, if not impossible.

Web spikes are the biggest challenge

Managing spikes in website traffic was the biggest issue 81% of IT professionals faced during COVID-19, followed by lack of visibility and its impact on customers (80%), and managing mean time to resolution (MTTR) with a remote IT department (79%). I can’t express enough how important it is to get a handle on customer facing systems.  Customer experience is now the top brand differentiator, outpacing price, products, and every other factor. My research shows that in 2019, two-thirds of millennials changed loyalties to a brand because of a single bad experience. That means the 81% of companies having trouble with websites are risking a huge churn of their base.

Also, IT professionals that don’t have accurate data feel they aren’t making informed decisions. In fact, the report found 89% of IT professionals would like to have real-time data at the point of need. Otherwise IT is just throwing darts blind-folded.

For most (92%), having visibility into the performance of the technology stack—from the apps to the IT infrastructure to the network—is necessary to become what AppDynamics calls an “Agent of Transformation.” These are key people within a business who rely on real-time data and strategic tech partnerships to rise up to the challenges created by COVID-19. They are also the people who will drive innovation as businesses recover from the crisis. 

IT pros prefer established vendors and a vigorous vendor selection process

IT professionals (78%) prefer to work with established vendors who provide flexible options during COVID-19. The report’s findings show more than half (66%) of the respondents are accessing free or discounted software, services, support, and training from established vendors.

Going forward, IT professionals want to focus more on app security and disaster recovery, as well as invest in solutions that monitor the digital customer experience. For 79% of those surveyed in the report this means going through a more vigorous vendor selection process.

Overall, 87% IT professionals believe the pandemic was a wake-up call for their business. If digital transformation, real-time data access, and long-term resilience weren’t priorities in the past, they are now at the top of the list.

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