In a reimagined business world, managers are tasked with making sensible decisions in uncharted waters. Make the wrong call now, and pay for it right as the impact of the looming recession hits.
On IT leaders' to-do list, key questions call for immediate attention:
- Adopt new software tools now or halt them until conditions improve?
- To what lengths should the company go in order to supply remote workers with what they need?
- What tweaks should companies make in spending priorities?
Each decision is put into fresh context daily, one that differs wildly from last week, and even more so from last year.
The concept of a new business reality frames every business story today. Data shows the effects of the pandemic impact tech executives' assumptions about the future, their ability to access talent and supplies, spending priorities in key verticals and long-term plans.
The number of CFOs who say they plan to defer or cancel their planned investments is now at 67% — up from 32% in mid-March, according to PwC. Technology remains the key target area for cuts, alongside workforce reductions.
Though the exact scope of the pandemic's economic impact remains unclear, estimates say even in the most optimistic scenario tech budgets would drop by 5% in 2020, according to a Forrester report. Bleaker projections say tech spend could fall by as much as 9% in 2020 and an additional 5% in 2021.
Here are five more data points to understand how the pandemic is reshaping tech and business:
A disrupted supply chain brings hardware constraints
As dozens of states issued stay-at-home orders, laptops became a hot commodity for companies needing to sustain operations while their workforce was remote.
The sudden need for equipment hampered some companies' transition to the new normal: Demand spiked right as the pandemic impacted the hardware supply chain.
"The single most significant influencing factor for PC shipment decline was the coronavirus outbreak," said Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner, in an emailed statement to CIO Dive.
In late January, the lockdown in China hit PC production volume and impacted the supply chain for the following months. As work and school switched to the digital world in the U.S. and Europe, PC demand rose to a level and manufacturers could not keep up.
The switch to remote work caught many IT departments without a device stockpile large enough to fuel their entire workforce, according to Leon Adato, head geek at SolarWinds.
New priorities in cybersecurity spend
The flip to remote work increased the attack surface for malicious actors hoping to gain entry to inadvertent networks.
In response, IT leaders are shifting their cybersecurity spending priorities toward defensive measures such as multi-factor authentication or endpoint detection and response.
But government warns of a rise in phishing attacks cloaked in coronavirus outreach.
The FBI warned of an uptick in phishing schemes — specifically business email compromise — targeting municipalities purchasing protective equipment and supplies for the pandemic.
As risk increases, it's important to have visibility on each endpoint to protect company data and shield networks from malware, said Jadee Hanson, CIO and CISO at Code42.
"I 100% agree that those are the two areas that I'd be spending money on right now," said Hanson. "MFA is table stakes. It's very easy to brute force the password and get into whatever system you need to."
The pandemic brings communication challenges
The move to remote work has companies operating in uncharted context — physical and social.
With a distributed workforce, 53% of CIOs point to communication as a key hurdle, according to a survey from Adobe. A smaller group, about one in five, say they face "serious technology hurdles" in adapting to distributed work.
A combination of tightening access to hardware and slow adoption of software tools increases those barriers. Still, most CIOs say they're well equipped to weather a remote work shift.
Managers who put a sharper focus on sustaining communications in a distributed setting — by leaning into collaboration platforms or expanding opportunities for one-on-one chats — will succeed at building trust, analysts and executives say.
A long-tail of remote work awaits
CFOs predict spending will be pared back as the pandemic unfolds, mainly by halting or deferring IT and facilities costs.
For some, the way to that reduction is through a permanent shift to remote work for part of the workforce.Three-quarters of CFOs say at least part of their workforce will continue working remotely even if stay-at-home orders are rescinded, according to a Gartner survey.
"This data is an example of the lasting impact the current coronavirus crisis will have on the way companies do business,” said Alexander Bant, practice vice president, research for the Gartner Finance Practice.
More policies on WFH needed
With more of work and life shifting to digital, 87% of people working from home say their company provided them with secure devices or offered instructions on keeping devices secure while working from home, according to a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults from Percona.
But the shift to remote work caught many companies without specific policies in place to guide working from home expectations. Four in 10 of respondents said their company should provide policies to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in the next 30 days.
Despite the lack of guidance, the majority of people believe they're equipped to do their jobs effectively from home, CIO Dive's sister site HR Dive reports.