Recognized as the lifeblood of digitalization, IT professionals may soon have a greater say at the C-level, according to one study.

If a recent small survey is anything to go by, the role of IT departments will be up-leveled due to the vast upskilling that more than a quarter (26%) of IT pros underwent during this pandemic. With 31% admitting there was a need to rethink internal processes to boost adjustments to the rapid change of pace required post-COVID, it is highly likely that a focus on IT pros’ upskilling will continue into the future, according to the report. 

The survey in July 2020 polled 122 technology professionals from public- and private-sector small, mid-size, and enterprise companies, to shine a light on how their roles, responsibilities, and day-to-day experiences were shaped amidst the ongoing global pandemic. 

IT pros in the survey said they have gained an “increased sense of confidence” in their expanded roles, responsibilities, and ability to adapt to unexpected change in the future, despite contending with more challenging working conditions over the course of the pandemic. 

  • Respondents said longer work hours due to stretched teams (29%), more responsibility (28%) and decision-making requirements (28%), and a general increase in job-related stress (22%) were the leading ways in which day-to-day roles evolved in response to the impact of COVID-19. 
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) agreed this experience—including changes to their day-to-day tasks—has given them a new sense of confidence in managing unprecedented change.
    • 46% said the work they accomplished has empowered them to bring new ideas to the table 
    • 58% said they now feel more prepared to succeed in any similar unprecedented situations in the future, while another 29% reported feeling prepared to manage change but will require additional resources, training, and support.   
  • Given the achievements of IT pros during this period, 40% of respondents said they believed IT will be included in more business-level meetings and decision-making moving forward. 

The implications of COVID-19 accelerated IT pros’ ongoing efforts to upskill in critical competencies, such as systems management, network management, and security policy and compliance.  

  • Over a quarter (26%) of IT pros said it was necessary to learn new skills to support their organizations’ transitions to a remote workforce.  
  • The top skills IT pros reported as the most important for development: 

·        Systems management (55%)
·        Network management (50%)
·        Security policy and compliance (43%) 
·        Hybrid IT monitoring/management tools and metrics (28%) 

  • 47% said they received the training they needed to learn these new skills; however, a quarter (25%) were still waiting for those training resources to be made available.  
  • The breadth of skills IT pros needed during this time shows how silos are disappearing, as roles start to blur together. In fact, as explored in the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT, today there is more crossover between traditional roles than there has ever been before and we will continue to see these lines blur until most silos are completely gone.

In the coming months, IT organizations must undergo technology, process, and team transformations to accommodate the new IT requirements associated with extended remote-work scenarios post-pandemic.  

  • Over two-thirds of respondents (71%) felt supporting a remote workforce struck a balance in which certain aspects of day-to-day management were better, while others were more challenging.
    • 31% agreed there is a need to rethink internal processes to better accommodate the more rapid pace of change required post-COVID. 
    • 18% of respondents reported their toolsets and technologies fell short in addressing the unique challenges of remote workforces. Nearly one-third (28%) of IT pros flagged a need to consolidate existing solution suites (and their vendors) to simplify management, maintenance, and cost of upkeep.
  • Although the majority of IT organizations successfully managed the transition to remote-working and played a critical role in ensuring business continuity, IT pros expected several trends to shape the future of their respective IT organizations:
    • Greater cross-team collaboration (53%)
    • More responsibility (46%)
    • IT inclusion in more business-level meetings and decision-making (41%)
    • Tighter budgets (even post-economic recovery) (26%) 
    • More opportunities to upskill/attend trainings (25%)

According to Rani Johnson, Chief Information Officer, SolarWinds, the firm that conducted the survey: “The success of organizations during this unique time is due in large part to IT pros’ preparedness and inherent ability to adapt and manage through substantial change. 2020 … is proof positive IT pros are built for moments like these. What’s particularly encouraging is IT pros’ perception and expectation IT will be included in more business-level decision-making moving forward. The dedication of IT pros around the world to ensuring business resiliency and continuity over the past several months serves to elevate and empower the IT community to work alongside business leaders to meet bigger organizational goals.” 

Johnson added that, with new responsibilities come the need for new skills. While almost half of survey respondents felt they received the training required to adapt to changing IT requirements, nearly one-third experienced the opposite, and were at risk of being left behind as IT teams continue to grapple with how best to support the new normal.

“For IT pros to reach their potential requires sufficient tools, resources, training, and budget. We aim to provide IT pros with what they need to tackle the challenges in front of them head-on. We hope this new normal will see IT departments align more closely with the C-suite, bring with it even more support for IT pros, and make their jobs easier as they continue on their journey to supporting business continuity,” he said.