The Good and Bad of the COVID-19 Era for Tech Execs

The good news is that many IT departments made it through OK; the bad news is that budgets are tight and new services need to be bought. A pair of surveys lay out concerns for both IT and security execs.

If your association’s IT department feels like it’s having a tough time adjusting to … well, everything, there may be some slight comfort in the fact that other IT departments are very much in the same boat.

That’s a point underlined in a pair of recent studies from the tech media and data firm IDG. The company, which publishes two key trade publications for the industry—CIO and CSO, named after the chief information officer and chief security officer, respectively—analyzed both target audiences in two separate pandemic impact studies.

Some key points from the studies:

Security is more complicated when everyone works from home. Respondents to the IDG CSO Pandemic Impact Survey reported that, in January, just 16.5 percent of their employees worked from home at least 60 percent of the time; by late March, that number leaped to 77.7 percent and has stayed high fairly since. This has created concerns for security professionals, with 61 percent concerned that work-from-home attacks may be on the rise, and 26 percent actually seeing evidence of such attacks in the days after March 12.

However, the transition mostly went off without a hitch. According to IDG’s ‌CIO COVID-19 Impact Study, despite the sudden move to a WFH model, 68 percent of IT departments say that they were largely prepared for this work transition, despite only 54 percent of organizations having such a crisis in their contingency plans. Meanwhile, around 81 percent of security leaders in the CSO study say that their existing security infrastructure is well-suited to current remote work demands. And, just as in many other departments, the pandemic has created warm feelings toward remote work among IT staffers, with 71 percent saying they see such practices positively.

New tech may be necessary. While many CSOs have largely been of the opinion that their security infrastructures are mostly holding up to the crisis, more than 20 percent are on the hunt for new security solutions, though the need for such tools varies by industry. Meanwhile, 44 percent of CIOs say that the purchase of new technology solutions is needed. “No doubt, the pandemic has affected how businesses are prioritizing what they are focused on,” IDG wrote in a blog post regarding the CIO survey. “IT leaders report that their organizations are prioritizing increasing operations efficiency, transforming existing business processes, optimizing employee digital experience, improving customer experience, and increasing cybersecurity protections.” (Of course, you may need a plan for all that extra tech you end up buying right now.)

Cost is a factor, too. Despite the fact that more technology may be needed, 45 percent of CIOs say that they’re looking to limit costs and expenses. While 40 percent of CIOs say they expect their budgets to remain the same, 35 percent expect a decreased IT budget; only 25 percent expect to increase their overall IT budgets. And CSOs who aren’t investing in new tech may not be doing so by choice—just 7 percent of small businesses are looking for new security solutions, which researchers suggested indicated “either a lack of visibility into their risk environments, a lack of available budget to support new investments, or a combination of both.”

From Transformational to Tactical

Together, these data points reflect a complicated state of affairs for the average IT and security departments, which now find themselves having to move away from the business innovation initiatives that they really had hoped to work on this year.

On the other hand, in a sense, the treadmill has basically forced these changes to happen—albeit with a little less say regarding what those changes actually are. Now, instead of running on a treadmill and trying to keep up, extreme measures were taken to ensure that the treadmill didn’t leave a lot of organizations behind.

In a news release, IDG’s Anne McCrory, the group vice president for customer experience and operations in the events field, noted that the situation means that perhaps the CIO may need to think a little less big picture for a while in an effort to keep things going. Perhaps the big project can still be saved, but if you have to lower your aim, so be it.

“In order to keep moving forward, businesses are prioritizing the need to increase their operational efficiency,” McCrory stated in a news release. “With that, IT leaders continue to be tasked with leading digital business initiatives throughout their organization to ensure they come out on the other side of this pandemic as strong as possible.”

So 2020 didn’t quite turn out how anyone expected, but once your association can get back to normal—new or otherwise—the pie-in-the-sky stuff can come back. Nothing wrong with thinking tactically right now.

(Traitov/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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