During times of uncertainty it’s natural that companies tend to hunker down and reduce spending wherever possible. In 2020, an obvious of this can be seen in the event space; conferences and conventions have been canceled or gone virtual, while business travel has ground to a halt for many organizations. But this isn’t the only area where expenses are being slashed.
A recent Gartner report estimates that IT spending will decrease by a staggering 7.3% in 2020. In a year in which the environment for many in the workforce has radically changed, forcing most office workers to work from home for an extended period of time, it is quite remarkable that overall spending would decrease. What this trend indicates is IT and security teams are being extremely cautious with their budgets, spending only on upgrades and tools that are genuinely needed for the business.
A TechRepublic article summarized the shift in spending priorities succinctly:
“As organizations start to enter a recovery phase from the effects of the pandemic, they’ll see a backlog of IT projects waiting to be completed but less money to complete them. CIOs will have to concentrate their budgets on such items as subscription products and cloud services as a way to lower upfront costs. As such, spending on Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is expected to rise by 13.4% to $50.4 billion in 2020, while investments in cloud-based teleconferencing will jump by 46.7% this year.”– Lance Whitney, “Global IT spending forecast to drop this year but rebound in 2021” via TechRepublic
There are four key areas where IT and security spending can have the biggest impact and return on investment.
- 1. Accelerating Digital Transformation
Most companies have been aware of the benefits of digital transformation for several years. But with mounting pressure to ensure that employees remain engaged and productive from anywhere, there has been a pressing need to improve the tools that workers use. Cloud-based teleconferencing services such as Zoom are a good example of enormous growth, while established services like Webex Teams and Microsoft Teams have continued to add new features and users at an astonishing pace.
Salesforce, an absolute expert when it comes to customer insights, boils digital transformation down to four takeaways:
- Meet customers in the digital channels they already frequent
- Leverage data to better understand your customers and the marketplace as a whole
- Free your data and share intelligence across your entire business
- Encourage once-separate groups like marketing, sales, and service to collaborate
- 2. Adopting a Zero Trust Network Access architecture
Working from home is not new. Nor is it unique. But with so many employees suddenly shifting to a work-from-home (WFH) environment in 2020, IT teams faced enormous pressure just keeping them connected to the tools and services they needed. As a result, most organizations quickly discovered that their legacy VPNs were not able to scale, pushing their networks to breaking point and leaving employees frustrated with dropped or painfully slow connections.
A survey conducted by NetMotion in June this year revealed that employees working from home were not only more likely to turn to shadow IT as a way to circumvent restrictive IT policies, it clearly showed that employees working outside the safety of the office were being exposed to more risk.
The answer lies in a modern approach to the VPN. Rather than allowing any user with the correct credentials to move laterally through a network, a software defined perimeter (SDP) based on a Zero Trust methodology adds a context aware means of authenticating a user’s identity and purpose. This can be based upon location, time of day, device and OS, as well as dozens of other factors designed to prevent bad actors from accessing any data or applications. Whether employees go back to the office or remain at home, SDP-based remote access technology offers a glimpse of a much more secure future.
- 3. Using hardware longer
The same Gartner report stated that spending on devices will drop by 16.1% in 2020. This has already been playing out in the consumer space, where smartphone sales are reportedly down by approximately 20% this year. Likewise, mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tables are being expected to last longer, forcing manufacturers to ensure longer life cycles, with regular security patches on devices that may be several years old.
- 4. Continuing shift to the cloud
Again, the trend toward pushing apps and data to the cloud is nothing new, but it has accelerated in recent months. Organizations are moving away from owning and operating their own data centers and having on-premise data, and instead looking at cloud-based services such as Azure and AWS. This not only helps to reduce some cost and complexity; it also allows organizations to distribute access and scale applications far more easily than relying on their own hardware.
Whatever issues your company may be facing, there are likely some similarities with the trends mentioned here. The important thing to remember is that when budgets are squeezed, IT and security teams can find innovative ways to reduce costs while ensuring that standards are maintained. By staying focused on a few realistic, achievable goals, organizations can remain fiscally responsible without sacrificing security or the satisfaction of the employees they serve.