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What are the Top 5 IT Concerns for 2021?

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A person pressing a 2021 button
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Each year Nemertes conducts a study of enterprise collaboration, gathering data from over 500 end-user organizations on what apps they are using now, what they are planning to use, and how they are addressing areas like management, security, user adoption and awareness, and application integration. In preparation for the study, I spent the last several weeks chatting with our vendor and end-user clients to find out their priorities as they finish out 2020 and plan for 2021. In these conversations, several themes have emerged, and as you can imagine almost all of them pertain to the current COVID-19 pandemic. IT leaders are primarily focused on enabling a remote, virtual workforce today while trying to plan for an uncertain future.
 
Here are the five top-of-mind concerns:
 
1. What will the return to the office look like? And will there even be a return to the office? IT leaders that I spoke with are still trying to figure out if and how employees will return to the office. Data we published earlier this year noted that more than 70% of workers are now home-based, and just 12% of organizations say they planned to fully return to the office. As IT leaders think about what a return to the office could look like, they are focused on managing workspace density, ensuring that networks can support increasing video utilization, and reassessing meeting space configurations. At the same time, many organizations have seen improvements in productivity and worker satisfaction by enabling remote work, though this varies by several factors, including worker age and role. IT and business leaders are also reevaluating real estate spending with an eye toward shrinking floor space and associated costs.
 
2. What’s the right UC strategy? Individuals, workgroups, and entire companies have brought in several additional collaboration applications to better support remote work, including team collaboration and video conferencing. Our earlier research this year noted that almost half of companies we studied in April and May obtained a new meeting app to enable video conferencing. Now, the IT leaders I spoke with tell me that one of their biggest priorities for 2021 is figuring out the right mix of apps. Do they consolidate onto a single platform to potentially reduce costs and improve manageability, or do they continue to give workgroups the freedom to use the apps they prefer? And, what is the future for on-premises platforms, especially phone systems, as internal and external communications increasingly shift to meeting platforms?
 
3. Do I have the right apps? Team collaboration and video conferencing have been invaluable tools for enabling virtual work, but they aren’t the be-all/end-all of workplace collaboration. Conferencing and messaging apps are certainly useful for informal engagement and meetings, but they aren’t all that great for ideation and development. Increasingly, IT leaders are looking toward adding additional apps to the mix, such as ideation/virtual whiteboard tools like Bluescape, Klaxoon, Miro, and Mural, as well as web-based project management, task management, and workflow apps. They are also increasingly looking at ways to integrate existing enterprise apps into team workspaces through the use of custom and no-code integrations, or automation platforms such as Zapier.
 
4. How do I manage the homeworker? “Analytics” has come up in virtually every conversation I’ve had with IT leaders, vendors, and service providers. IT shops have historically not worried much about home workers, treating the home office as either outside the scope of enterprise IT or as best-effort. Now, with the home office in many cases replacing the company-owned office, IT must extend its reach. It must be able to assist homeworkers with performance issues, ensure adequate bandwidth, and even provide the right mix of physical interfaces to optimize the home work experience. Today, most IT shops lack performance and security visibility into home environments, especially for voice and video.
 
5. How do I create a sense of community? Our earlier research this year showed that the primary challenge organizations have faced when shifting to work-from-home is managing remote employees. That means ensuring that employees are engaged, that they believe their contributions are being noticed, and that they can engage with each other to both work together and build personal and social relationships. Absent hallway or break-room meetings, lunches, or other in-person activities many homeworkers feel isolated and not part of a company culture or team. From an IT perspective, companies are leveraging applications like video conferencing for non-work-related activities, such as health and wellness classes or game nights, and are investing in social collaboration tools to enable individuals to participate in communities of interest, both work and non-work related ranging from marketing and sales to cooking and fitness.
 
The communications and collaboration world of 2021 is largely still uncertain due to COVID-19 vaccine and treatment development. Despite that uncertainty, IT leaders are increasingly focusing on a dual strategy of both supporting a safe return to the office while also optimizing virtual engagement. Evaluate your own plans to ensure workplace safety and distributed, virtual collaboration.
 
Nemertes’ is now recruiting IT leaders for our 2021-22 Workplace Collaboration research study. If you are an IT professional (no vendors, integrators, consultants, or service providers please) and would like to participate, please visit here. Nemertes does not sell or share your data, and all participants will receive a copy of the study in January.

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