CIOs Shift IT Budgets Amid COVID Crisis

CIOs have shifted their budgets to fund the great migration to enable employees to work from home, even as they are rethinking investments to make going forward.

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

June 24, 2020

4 Min Read
Image: momius -

The year 2020 has been a roller coaster for everyone, whether you are an essential worker in healthcare or food supply, or you are an IT pro helping hordes of your company's workforce make the move from their offices to a work-from-home set up. At the helm of all this action are the organizational leaders -- the CEO, the CFO, and the CIO, to name a few. These leaders are the ones making both quick decisions like "do we move the workforce home right now," and longer-term strategic decisions like "how do we change our IT investments for an uncertain future for the months ahead."

The first moves were pretty drastic and quick as CIOs and other IT leaders enabled so many people to set up home offices. To prioritize the setup and success of remote work nearly 40% of companies delayed revenue-generating activities for a month or more, according to a survey of 500 IT pros commissioned by security vendor Sectigo and conducted by Wakefield Research.

But what are CIOs today thinking about now as they plan for the rest of the year ahead at this point? How do they assess the effort to move workers from an office environment to work from home? What are some of the other plans they are laying out for the rest of 2020, a year that so far includes a pandemic, civil unrest due to systemic racism, a recession, massive unemployment, and a presidential election?

Those are the answers Hitachi ID wanted to know more about, too, when it fielded a new survey of 100 CIOs in North America during the first half of May, working together with the Pulse organization. Hitachi ID Systems, which offers identity management, access governance, privileged access management and password management solutions, was looking to take the pulse of senior IT leaders to learn their plans as the company made its own plans for the rest of the year. That's according to Kevin Nix, CEO of Hitachi ID Systems, who told InformationWeek about why the organization commissioned the survey.

"Every industry is grappling with this pandemic in a different way," Nix said. For instance, higher education has had to create a completely different education model for students, and now there's the question of whether they will come back to physical classrooms or stay with remote education, or do some kind of combination of the two, he said.

"COVID-19 led to an unprecedented remote work transformation with challenges in productivity and security at scale that had never been anticipated," Nix said.

Most CIOs, 77%, said they are reducing their budgets due to the crisis, and 74% said they are prioritizing initiatives that drive operational efficiency.

If you want to know where those priorities are right now, just look at some of the challenges that CIOs say their organizations have faced due to the crisis and IT teams enabling the effort to work from home.

For instance, 71% of CIOs said that their IT administrators are experiencing more requests for sign-in assistance to their systems. The influx of requests has impacted their productivity. It follows, too, that employees who cannot sign into their systems lose productivity as well.

Another 55% of employees have had trouble accessing on-premise applications.

Other challenges CIOs cited include multifactor authentication (43%), an insecure and undersized VPN (29%), cybersecurity attacks (22%), and reliable access to on-premises servers (10%).

It's a balancing act. Of the CIOs who reported both employee password lockouts and access challenges, 82% said they were reducing IT budgets during the crisis, but 79% said they are investing in tools that boost operational efficiency.

Any way you look at it, it's hard to respond to an unexpected crisis as it is happening. But looking back at how the crisis has progressed and how they could have addressed it better, the Hitachi ID survey asked CIOs what tools they believe they should have invested in to better prepare them for the challenges that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest group (61%) said collaboration tools, and the second largest group said security awareness training (59%). Other answers were multifactor authentication (43%), SaaS-based identity and authentication management (33%), serverless architecture (24%), and single sign-on (20%).

"It's a very difficult time," Nix said. For those organizations that have transitioned to work-from-home, "the big question is how much of an impact to productivity will there be? In most cases, it will be a minimal impact."

Read all our coverage on how IT leaders are responding to the conditions caused by the pandemic.

About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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