Remote Work and Shift to Cloud will Drive ICT Infrastructure Trends: Report

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According to Gartner, by the end of 2023, more than 90% of infrastructure and operations (I&O) organisations will have the majority of their staff working remotely. COVID-19 may have accelerated this trend, but it’s also the result of the changing nature of ICT infrastructure led by the shift to cloud and edge.

“Trends like ‘anywhere operations’ and ‘core modernisation’ have been moving to the forefront of the I&O organisation for years, but the pandemic rapidly accelerated them to the point where they’ll have a transformational impact in the near future,” said Jeffrey Hewitt, Research VP, Gartner.

Below are the six key trends that will impact I&O in the next 12 to 18 months and the steps that ICT leaders can take to implement them:

Trend 1: Anywhere operations: The shift to remote work has forced enterprises to realise the benefits of flexibility. It has also revealed that the traditional structured processes of I&O make the enterprise fragile in the face of disruption.

I&O must be able to support the distributed enterprise’s operations while working from anywhere. In addition to providing more flexibility, anywhere operations benefits organisations by broadening the talent landscape, as I&O teams are not tied to recruiting from a certain geographic location. However, this will require a cultural change, as it challenges the traditional thinking of providing infrastructure and supporting operations from one central location.

To enable anywhere operations, I&O leaders should assess its feasibility for each business unit. Determine where remote working makes sense, and develop plans to enable these teams to dynamically work both on-site and remotely.

Trend 2: Optimal infrastructure: Optimal infrastructure shifts I&O from ‘infrastructure and operations’ to ‘integration and operations’. Different infrastructure choices, such as cloud, edge or newer technologies like computational storage, may apply to different locations and workloads. It has become a key responsibility of I&O to determine the infrastructure that is the best fit for each scenario.

This trend supports I&O and business alignment by ensuring strong returns for infrastructure investment. I&O leaders should take a business approach to optimal infrastructure, using a cost-benefit view to justify infrastructure choices and to build business cases for change. Consider risk-return ratios as part of any proposed change scenarios.

Trend 3: Operational continuity: ICT services must be continuous, regardless of external factors. This expectation changes the traditional role of ICT operations, requiring an increased dependence on automation and zero- or minimal-touch maintenance. The benefits include increased efficiency, faster workload deployment, reduced costs and consistency across processes.

However, operational continuity also presents challenges, as it requires the introduction of new tools and processes, it may increase complexity and it can be difficult to justify to the business.

To shift the ICT organisation toward operational continuity, identify continuity requirements based on business priorities and begin planning accordingly. Take contingency planning to the next level by considering the impacts of worst-case scenarios and what can be done to ensure that operations can continue in such a situation. If there are time pressures, or if the team doesn’t have the skills to implement a solution, consider service-based solutions for disaster recovery.

Trend 4: Core modernisation: Today, organisations are doing more to update and modernise their core infrastructures. This process helps minimise legacy drag, maximise efficiency and ensure resiliency as legacy infrastructure experts retire. It ensures infrastructure evolves in lockstep with emerging technologies, becoming more flexible to respond to digital business needs.

Modernisation is not only a technical decision. It requires funding, and therefore I&O professionals must have business acumen to make the case for it. Work with application leaders to identify the areas where modernisation will have the greatest impact, and ensure these areas align with business priorities. Implement a modernisation plan with realistic timelines. New skills requirements should be part of that plan.

Trend 5: Distributed cloud: Distributed cloud is the decentralisation of cloud resources. It enables flexibility in the enterprise’s physical location, while also reducing latency and shifting the burden of support to the cloud service provider. Each of the many different models of distributed cloud offer a variety of benefits. It also comes with challenges, including complex deployment models and increased risk of lock-in and high costs; and remains an immature market.

I&O professionals should watch for distributed cloud trends as it matures and emerges as a preferred infrastructure model over the coming 12-18 months. Identify potential use cases, and plan how it could be integrated into the organisation’s hybrid cloud environment.

Trend 6: Critical skills vs. critical roles: I&O organisations are shifting to a focus on critical skills rather than critical roles. This helps reduce risk and increase resiliency, as multiple people have with the skills needed for business-critical tasks. It also helps I&O teams to align budgets more closely with business needs and move away from territorial thinking to a more collaborative approach.

This trend will require a shift in recruitment tactics, forcing enterprises to have a longer-range view when hiring. Identify the skills gaps, using the aforementioned trends as a framework for the future competencies that will be needed. Train current employees in new skills where that will be sufficient, and hire new talent early when possible.