IT leaders looking to maximize critical investments made in 2020

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To prepare for the future of work, teams need highly secure access and the best collaboration experiences to succeed as a hybrid workforce, new Cisco research finds.

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Image: iStockphoto/fizkes

CIOs and IT decision makers are looking to maximize investments and continue driving innovation after a difficult year that raised their profile in spearheading critical workplace innovation, according to newly released research from Cisco. Securing the expanded threat landscape created by a distributed workforce is paramount.

While a majority (61%) of CIOs and IT decision makers said they are unsure of what the future of work looks like, 89% believe that maintaining security, control and governance across user devices, networks, clouds and applications are essential, the Accelerating Digital Agility report said.

Most (86%) agreed it is important to empower a distributed workforce with seamless access to applications and high-quality collaborative experiences, the report said.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

IT sets priorities for 2021

To set up their organizations for success in 2021 and beyond, IT leaders have adapted priorities and strategies to focus on core issues. These include delivering secure collaboration tools to keep distributed workforces productive, maximizing previous tech investments, delivering the best user experience to employees and customers, embracing cloud and “as a service,” and tackling corporate and societal issues with technology, according to the report.

IT teams must create optimized end-user experiences to keep pace with IT environments that have become increasingly distributed, dynamic, and complex, the report said.

“IT leaders are at the forefront of ensuring critical success for their organizations in 2021,” said Liz Centoni, Cisco’s chief strategy officer and general manager of applications, in a statement. “Even as questions remain and new challenges will surface, CIOs and IT decision makers are telling us they need to accelerate digital agility for their teams, so they have the speed, flexibility and choice to consume services across both traditional and modern environments.”

In other key findings, 88% of respondents said they believe it is important to secure remote work tools and protect customer or employee data in the distributed work environment.

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Further, more than three-quarters of the CIOs and decision makers surveyed agreed that user experience should focus on delight versus satisfaction. To deliver a great user experience, 89% said they think it is important to ensure a consistent application performance across both the application and infrastructure, the report said.

Another 86% believe it is important to make infrastructure as dynamic as application software to meet the changing policy and optimization needs of the application and developer, according to the report.

While the user experience should aim to delight, nearly all (90%) respondents said it is important or very important to maintain application-to-infrastructure security to meet compliance without slowing down the business, the report said.

Adopting hybrid clouds, SASE platforms

The need for agility, speed, scalability and security is driving the adoption of hybrid cloud environments and secure access service edge systems, the report said. Those surveyed also said they are using cloud computing to achieve business resilience, the report said.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all cloud solution. While most executives (84%) agreed it is important to offer freedom of choice when it comes to cloud environments – whether on-premises, public cloud, private cloud or SaaS–86% said they think offering a consistent operational model across these environments is essential, according to the report.

Nearly 70% of CIOs and decision makers have adopted SASE offerings because they were investing in cloud applications that needed to be secured (61%), they like to stay up-to-date on industry best practices (56%) and/or their workforce is going to stay distributed (37%), according to the Cisco report.

Continued growth of as-a-service offerings

Customers expect a cloud-consumption experience regardless of whether their software is deployed on-prem or in the cloud, leading to widespread adoption of “as a service” platforms, the report said. Of those surveyed, 73% have adopted “as a service” solutions and 76% use flexible consumption models.

Three-fourths of those surveyed said they believe that “as a service” will help deliver a better experience for the end user and a better experience for IT teams, helping their organizations achieve operational consistency. In addition, 76% said “as a service” will provide better business outcomes, and 77% want “as a service” systems to simplify processes and remove risk, according to the report.

Tech will be a driving factor in tackling internal, societal issues

Most CIOs and decision makers (85%) said they believe the ability to attract and retain talent in the all-digital world will be critical. Nearly half of those surveyed said they are upskilling current talent (49%) and investing in talent in new areas (46%) over the next 12 months.

Additionally, an overwhelming majority (90%) of respondents plan to tackle internal initiatives in 2021, including sustainability (50%), employee mental health (50%), privacy (47%), diversity and inclusion (47%).

Another 85% said they will tackle external societal issues in 2021, including the digital divide (39%), healthcare (37%), climate change (35%), social justice (34%), human rights (33%), misinformation or “fake news” (31%), poverty, hunger and homelessness (28%).

Cisco said its Accelerating Digital Agility research was conducted in November 2020, gathering insights from more than 23,000 CIOs and ITDMs across 34 global markets.

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