Sascha Giese, Head Geek™ at SolarWinds, explores how IT professionals have responded to COVID-19 and how organisations can prepare their IT pros for the future
It’s been said over and over—this year has been an unprecedented challenge for us all. For private businesses, there’s been the need to keep afloat, and in many cases simply survive. But public sector organisations have faced pressure to not only continue to run, but also enforce measures to keep the public safe and work towards treatments and vaccines for the virus. Within the IT departments, enabling as many employees as possible to work remotely and adapting systems to cope with the rapidly changing medical situation have been top priorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it’s safe to say IT professionals have risen to the challenge.
It’s vital to recognise the efforts these employees have put in over recent months, and the latest SolarWinds® IT Pro Day 2020 survey: You Were Built for This sought to understand the experiences of IT professionals across a range of industries. The survey polled global technology professionals in SolarWinds’ user community, and the results explore their journeys throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, how their responsibilities shifted in response to this unprecedented event, and how they envision the role of IT evolving in the future.
The facts and figures
So, what did the survey reveal? Unsurprisingly, the pandemic led to many changes in the day-to-day roles of IT professionals. Respondents said longer work hours due to stretched teams (29%), more responsibility (28%) and decision-making requirements (28%), and a general increase in job-related stress (22%) were the main ways in which their jobs evolved in response to the impact of COVID-19.
Over a quarter (26%) of IT pros said it was necessary to learn new skills to support their organisations’ transitions to a remote workforce, which was necessary for so many to continue to work. Overall, respondents reported the most important skills for development as being systems management (55%), network management (50%), security policy and compliance (43%), and hybrid IT monitoring and management tools and metrics (28%).
The need to rapidly boost skills is interesting in comparison with findings from a similar survey conducted last year, the SolarWinds IT Pro Day 2019 survey: Building Confidence for Tech Pros of Tomorrow, which found nearly 60% of respondents hadn’t actively pursued a new skill or completed a certification in the last six months, while nearly half (47%) cited lack of time to commit to completing the course as the reason they stopped before completion. By allocating the time and the budget to develop existing skills and train in new areas, IT pros may have felt better prepared for the challenges that arose this year.
However, there are many positives to take from 2020’s survey, too. Findings revealed nearly two-thirds (64%) of surveyed IT pros were instilled with a new sense of confidence, despite contending with challenges such as reduced budgets, greater decision-making responsibilities, and longer hours. Likewise, just under half (46%) feel empowered to bring more ideas to the table, while 58% say they now feel more prepared to succeed in similar unexpected situations. Despite the hardships they’ve tackled, IT pros are coming away from the experience with more knowledge and ability to cope with something so unexpected in the future.
Preparing for the future
With new responsibilities comes the need for new skills. 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. In public sector organisations, it’s crucial for IT pros to develop the skills they need to continue to provide a good service to the public. Not only that, but increasing the range and level of skills of IT professionals enables them to be better prepared for unexpected events such as COVID-19.
IT Pro Day is celebrated on the third Tuesday of every September to acknowledge and appreciate the hard work and efforts of IT professionals. This year in particular, those in government and healthcare organisations who have gone above and beyond should be highly praised. Looking ahead, IT and organisation leaders should work together to ensure the skills needed most by IT pros are prioritised, and training for these is provided. Specifically, training to develop skills in systems management, network management, security policies and compliance, and hybrid IT monitoring and management tools and metrics would be especially beneficial, as these were highlighted by the survey respondents as most necessary.
The success of organisations during this unique time is due in large part to IT pros’ preparedness and inherent ability to adapt and manage through change. Thanks to these professionals, the public sector has been able to survive this difficult year and continue to provide outstanding service. With increased training and development schemes, there are no limits to what they can achieve.