November 30, 2021

How IT Budgets Must Adapt to Remote Work

In a PwC survey 2021, over half of employees surveyed
said they were working remotely three days per week. Meanwhile, 29% of
executives surveyed said that long-term, their companies would adjust to
employees working remotely three days per week, 21% envisioned a five-day
remote work week, 18% said that four days of remote work per week would be fine,
and 15% wanted only two days per week.

It’s clear that
even post-pandemic, remote work is here to stay. It’s also evident that there
is still need for employees to spend days in the office.

How does this
impact IT staff deployment and budget planning? Here are six things to consider:

1. Project management
and execution will get tougher

Several years ago,
an acquaintance of mine who was a sales manager decided to move to a remote
workforce. The experiment lasted about two months before staff members began
losing a sense of cohesion and shared purpose. “I didn’t give up the remote
work strategy, but I did make it a requirement that we meet as a group at last
one day per month onsite,” he said. “Somehow, we needed to meet in person to
restore our common mission and the camaraderie of the group.”

IT will face the
same “team bonding” challenge as more project team members work remotely. There
is a human bonding agent that just doesn’t occur with collaborative tools and
Zoom sessions. Project managers will need to work harder to keep staff members
on the same page so projects can get done.

2. Investments
will continue to be made in digitalization

Going into 2022, Deloitte’s 2021 survey of CEOs revealed that,
“Expectations for business growth remain strong, as investment in digital
transformation and innovation continue to drive a positive economic outlook.”

IT can expect to
be busy in an array of digital projects that range from digitalizing
non-digital assets to deploying more analytics, IoT (Internet of Things),
artificial intelligence, and video networks.

In some cases,
internal talent may not be available. This will require fierce competitiveness
in the job market, offers of higher than usual perks and salaries, and/or
investments in outside consulting resources that might not have been called for
in the past. These personnel needs will show up in IT budgets.

3. Security
will be paramount

Security tools and
audits are likely to be major items in 2022 IT budgets, since more work will be
done remotely, IoT deployments will grow, and there will be more access points
and vulnerabilities on networks that can be exploited.

A growing concern is ransomware, which increased by
1,318% in the banking industry alone in 2021. As more employees work from home,
there is also heightened risk of family members (or employees) inadvertently
leaving a device unattended and logged on to where a cyber attacker could
penetrate the device and eventually get to the entire corporate network.

4. More
policies for remote work must be developed

Most companies
have policies in place for remote work, but not nearly as many that will be
needed as remote work becomes a permanent fixture in companies.

Even if HR heads
up employee policymaking for remote work, IT must be directly involved in
policy development, since major security issues for companies will center around
the technologies that IT enables and that employees use at home.

What happens if IT
needs to terminate the services of a remote IT employee or contractor? What are
the methods for shutdown if the individual has physical devices at home that must
be turned in or wiped clean?

Security is a
budget item that is likely to include funding for the services of an outside
audit firm with experience in remote work and technology management.

5. Staff health
issues will be a concern

The COVID pandemic
has exacerbated mental and emotional health issues for many employees who have
had trouble coping with the isolation.

IT is no
exception, and if there is a year when CIOs should gather with HR to ensure
that mental health services and funding are available, 2022 is it.

“Social
interaction is essential to every aspect of our health. Research shows that
having a strong network of support or strong community bonds fosters both
emotional and physical health and is an important component of adult life,”
stated South University’s Department of Counseling and Psychology.

6. Hiring and retention
will be areas of focus

How you structure
your remote work environment could have a substantial bearing on the types of
employees IT will be able to recruit and retain.

GoodHire conducted
an online survey of 3,500 Americans, finding that 74% of companies failing to implement remote work will
lose out on securing or retaining major talent, 67% will struggle
to find applicants, and 64% will have to compensate for not having a remote
work program by raising salaries. At the same time, there appears to be strong
consensus between employees and management that an average of three days should
be spent onsite at work.

Given the remote
work transformations that have occurred, offering remote work options and
work-life balance should be strategic goals of IT leadership.

Fortunately, IT
functions are highly adaptable to remote work.

Outsource
services, application development, systems programming, database work, and a
certain number of operations and network work can all be done from home,
whereas people-facing
functions such as business analyst work, are better suited for face-to-face
work.

It will be up to
IT leadership to determine the right mix of remote and onsite work for various
IT functions, but the good news is that working remotely isn’t a total “sea
change” from how IT has always operated.



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