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How IT Budgets Must Adapt to Remote Work

The pandemic has brought IT to an inflection point to where there is no turning back. This will force CIOs to rethink technology and IT organizational structures, deployments -- and budget.

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.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
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John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing