COVID-19: the greatest public health crisis in over a century. Pandemic shutdowns started rolling across the U.S. in March; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics by April nearly one third of the American workforce was working from home, stressing both families and IT infrastructures everywhere. You can probably see where this is heading: organizations with cloud-enabled infrastructure and solutions in place were quick to flex and adapt. Organizations without were caught flat-footed, their workers suddenly unable to access on-premise data centers or storage systems, their leaders forced to rapidly deploy expensive, short-term workarounds.
Eight months on, and it’s clear these workarounds mostly did what they were supposed to but won’t be enough to manage the continuing slog ahead of us. The future of work - from hybrid work schedules, to updated bring-your-own-device policies, to robust network security authentication - is upon us much sooner than anticipated. Working from anywhere, anytime, regardless of device or bandwidth needs? Table stakes.
A seat at this new table means looking at remote work in a more sophisticated way, with considerations for scalability, cybersecurity and governance. It means considering cloud-based virtual environments and cloud computing models that address issues from risk management and user policies to value planning. It means DevSecOps. And as much as we’re all dealing with uncertainty right now, it also means accounting for a knowable future that includes the mobile move to 5G, and dispensing with volatile back-end systems.
One LogicMonitor survey found that 87% of global IT decision-makers polled agree the pandemic will accelerate migration to the cloud, and that on-premises workloads will “plummet” accordingly. This gives organizations a significant – even unprecedented - opportunity to modernize their technology foundations with scalable cloud infrastructure, rethink how technology enables their workforce and consider making cloud infrastructure a competitive differentiator in their industry. Here’s one example.
From panic mode to cloud’s silver lining
As stay-at-home orders started their cascade this past spring, one of our clients - a government contractor - found themselves in panic mode. They’d been gearing up for significant cloud investments for years, but never pulled the trigger. Now, they realized their hierarchical, bureaucratic structure (and native distaste for risk) had hobbled them and had left them behind the cloud migration curve, unprepared for the challenges suddenly at their door.
So they pivoted, shifting from risk-aversion to risk-management and accelerating their cloud migration plans. By keeping their focus on long-term cloud solutions, they were able to optimize and shore up their infrastructure, create a seamless remote work environment for employees, and recover quickly. Necessity! The pandemic spurred a company reboot – a pipe dream just months before - that will pay off big in 2021.
Things to watch for: business challenges in the new age of remote
Cloud-enabled work infrastructure can help organizations tackle a variety of long-term business challenges while shattering previous assumptions about what’s possible. Challenges like:
- Trusted access and security. The very nature of these new ways of working means IT has to manage the security risks that come with distributed teams using different devices to access new systems – all in a way that ensures employees enjoy flexible, agile, seamless work experience. DevSecOps to the rescue, as a force multiplier for the automation of agile.
- Technology complexity. Physical data centers are no longer universally accessible at all times. Increased remote working is stressing traditional infrastructure. Cloud solutions - including multi-cloud options and virtualized data centers - can enable remote data access or distributed data management.
- Friction-free employee experience. Cloud-enabled work infrastructure helps boost flexibility and simplify technology access for employees be it video conferencing or cloud-based collaboration tools. The pandemic has proven that companies with the right infrastructure can support remote work and still maintain efficiency and productivity.
A whole new world of cloud-based work
I may be the only person to say this, but it’s true: while the pandemic has been devastating, impacting the lives of many across the globe, it’s fortunate that it happened in the year 2020 (Stay with me!). If the pandemic had happened even just a decade ago, organizations wouldn’t have been able to make the same kinds of transitions to cloud-based, distributed and remote work environments that they did this year, and the social and economic fallout would have been unimaginably worse. Instead, cloud solutions have at least mitigated the damage.
We’ve seen surprising increases in productivity and morale from employees, considering that remote employees don’t have to commute, and working from home allows them to experience a better quality of life. And since many businesses will almost certainly not go back to the on-premise systems that once supported these employees there are potential cost savings (including possible divestments from commercial real estate commitments).
What comes next? Playing out the opportunities the cloud can bring us post-COVID, we should be thinking about developing multi-cloud solutions that take advantage of cloud’s enormous flexibility, such as the ability to allow development teams to select best-of-breed technology. These will rely on the support of a combination of tools, solutions and technology to manage cloud services and maintain business applications.
The future of work is right now, even if still evolving and unevenly applied. And whatever new surprises 2021 has in store for us, none of us should be surprised that the path through it will be made at least somewhat less rocky by implementing a long-term cloud-based workforce infrastructure. So that no matter where we are, we can keep working - together.
- Luis Benavides, Managing Director | Hybrid Cloud & Application Transformation Lead at Deloitte.
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