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How to plan for the unexpected in 2021

Sascha Giese
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Let’s face it, we’ve never been in this situation before. But what do post-pandemic businesses look like? While it’s impossible to predict for sure, we’re going to offer our tips on how IT pros can plan for the unexpected this year—and remain sane while doing so.

If there’s one thing 2020 taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. Okay, it also taught us to regularly wash our hands and hoarding toilet paper is despicable, but that’s less relevant here. And while we’re optimistic 2021 will eventually deliver the goods and offer a notably brighter 12 months (even if it is off to a rocky start), the learnings from 2020 very much remain relevant, especially in IT.

Because, let’s face it, we’ve never been in this situation before. The pandemic rages on, but vaccines are now being distributed and light, however faint, is breaking through the clouds. But what do post-pandemic businesses look like, and what does IT have in store for 2021, a year that’s already seen the tumult of 2020 bleed into its early months?

While it’s impossible to predict for sure, we’re going to offer our tips on how IT pros can plan for the unexpected this year—and remain sane while doing so.

SEE ALSO: How to Approach IT Operations Management Tools Consolidation

Optimize today for success tomorrow

The unpredictability of 2020 was matched by the way CIOs used their budgets. Driven by revenue uncertainty and the many disruptive factors caused by the year’s events (most notably in the huge push to support remote working), IT spending refused neat attempts to forecast it, with drastic reactive measures requiring spending that mirrored the changing of businesses’ priorities.

So, with social distancing and remote working still very much in place in 2021, would our recommendation be to tear up the rulebook and prepare for another bonkers year of IT spending? Not exactly. Acknowledging the changes demanded by the events of 2020 will remain in place, Gartner still expects a resurgence of more predictable IT spending throughout the year.

As for what this spending is expected to look like, it’s no surprise to report businesses will continue to invest in architectural agility up and down the stack—ensuring flexibility is top of mind with regards to organizational infrastructure. There will also be a shift in focus from on-prem architecture (the fiber backbone running across a campus, for example) to other, once-side-lined priorities such as client VPN connections for every employee.

This spiking of previously high priority projects began in 2020 and will continue this year. New initiatives, once the aspirational focal point of IT teams, will continue to be placed on the backburner as IT pros fight to maintain connectivity and efficiency for their distributed workforces.

With this in mind, IT pros can prepare for the uncertainty of 2021 by remembering the lessons of 2020—including that the likely continued economic downturn will require IT teams to focus on optimizing existing technologies within the business while upskilling to ensure they have the tools and abilities available to run these technologies as efficiently as possible. If 2021 remains unpredictable, at least it’s a familiar sort of unpredictability.

SEE ALSO: Out with the Old…In with Application Modernization

Embrace SD-WAN

The rumours of SD-WAN’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Yes, a great number of businesses invested in SD-WAN solutions before the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean this investment can’t help IT pros cope with a post-pandemic world and the unexpected in 2021. In fact, the new ways in which users access resources may see SD-WAN grow increasingly useful to businesses.

While many businesses primarily relied upon on-prem networks before the pandemic, remote workforces have meant more and more of organizations’ infrastructures are distributed to the cloud, with multi-cloud growing in adoption in the modern enterprise.

While multi-cloud may not offer a great deal of collaboration across different platforms, by allowing businesses to use different providers and offerings to satisfy different business needs (and also remove sensitive data from a private cloud and onto one with far greater processing power), it’s likely to become a more predictable area of growth, even in an unpredictable year. SD-WAN, which drives connectivity between the different solutions in a multi-cloud environment and its users, will have its day in the sun in 2021.

So, while the forecast for 2021 may be uncertain (to say the least), there are still opportunities to deliver stability at a time in which nothing is needed more.


Sascha Giese

Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds.

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