2021 State of IT Operations: The Rise of the Remote Workforce

Lessons learned from a survey about the effects of the rapidly growing remote workforce on the state of today’s IT operations

Doing business in 2021 looks dramatically different than in years past. Few could have imagined that within the span of a few months, the majority of organizations would have their business and technology models completely upended.

To adapt and survive in this new normal, companies took swift action in 2020 to implement and support an almost entirely remote workforce. The effort companies made to keep employees and customers safe while maintaining business operations has been truly inspirational. But that effort was rushed, leaving IT operations with the overwhelming, if not impossible, task of managing thousands of new devices, endpoints and support requests remotely.

From chaos to opportunity
We enter 2021 on much more solid footing, but also with the understanding that we will not be returning to what we once considered “business as usual.” The remote workforce is here to stay, and businesses are finding there can be tremendous upside to embracing this new way of working, including huge cost savings and happier, more productive employees. But there is also tremendous work to be done to effectively manage, maintain and support a distributed, remote workforce long term.

This report sheds light on how organizations are responding to this new normal, using data from a survey of 501 IT operations and security professionals at enterprises with between 500 and 25,000 employees, across more than 15 industries and government agencies. Our goal is to help readers benchmark the performance of their organizations against peers and develop insights into how to make improvements that will pay off.

Moving beyond physical constraints
Organizations are now moving to a position of proactive strategic decision making. It is no longer about stemming the tide but instead finding ways to operationalize and optimize the remote workforce to improve business outcomes. User experience is now essential to success — remote employees need 24x7 access across devices to the corporate information, systems and tools they need to do their jobs. But this experience is eroded due to the difficulties or burden of physically reaching a device in a remote-only world. As organizations push outside the boundaries of their traditional networks with remote workers and increased use of mobile, solutions that rely on on-premises tools will fail to keep up.

Why cloud-native is the future of IT operations
Today’s infrastructure needs to reflect the way we now work and conduct business — on-demand and without boundaries. Traditional on-premises, cloud-hosted and hybrid cloud infrastructures lack the agility and flexibility to meet the 24x7 needs of a remote workforce. In all of these approaches, companies are weighed down because at some point in their infrastructure, they will require ongoing physical maintenance, upgrades, troubleshooting and more.

Our new normal requires a new approach – automating remote IT operations capabilities using cloud-native approaches to enable real-time visibility and control over diverse, shifting IT environments.

Cloud-native is designed to meet the unique demands of today’s anytime, anywhere IT.

Cloud-native is an on-demand, elastic, multi-tenant service, accessible anywhere from any device, and with usage that is measured and monitored. An agile native-cloud approach is different from all other on-premises, hybrid and cloud approaches because it:

  • Offers quick deployment

  • Requires zero maintenance

  • Provides the scalability for organizations to evolve and grow without boundaries

  • Enables real-time visibility and control over diverse, shifting IT environments

Summary of the findings

  • Enterprises expect the remote workforce is here to stay and are making investments to optimize remote IT operations management.

  • Tools, not people, are hindering IT Operations’ ability to perform essential remote management functions.

  • Enterprises are least confident in their ability to manage IT Operations beyond the perimeter.

  • Automation is underutilized and deemed critical to enabling the remote workforce without boundaries. 

  • Enterprises are embracing cloud-native solutions to better enable and empower the remote workforce.

Figure 1: Remote Working is the New Standard
What percentage of your organization’s employees worked remotely (either part or full time) in 2020, and what percentage is expected to work remotely in the future?

Figure 2: The Impact of the Growing Remote Workforce on Managing Endpoints
Describe your agreement with the following statement: “The process of managing our endpoints (i.e., patch, re-configure, and inventory software for laptops and desktops) has become harder as a result of the shift to more employees operating remotely.”

Figure 3: Targeted Areas for Improvement and Investment in 2021
On a scale from 1-5 with 5 being the highest, rate the extent that having an increasingly remote workforce is influencing your organization to make the following changes / improvements in 2021.

Figure 4: Current Level of Automation for Managing Endpoints
Which option best describes your organization’s level of automation for endpoint management operations such as patching, changing configuration settings, and inventorying software?

Figure 5: Impediments to Performing Essential Endpoint Management Functions
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, rate how the following negatively affect the ability of your organization’s IT and Security Operations teams to perform essential endpoint management functions — such as patching, making configuration changes, and inventorying software for desktops and laptops.

A Brief Introduction to the IT Operations Cloud
Not all clouds are created equal. Cloud-native is the next evolution of cloud computing designed to deliver the performance, agility and scalability the digital world requires. True cloud-native is an on-demand, elastic, multi-tenant service, accessible anywhere from any device, and with usage that is measured and monitored. How does this differ from other types of clouds?

With traditional cloud-hosted approaches:

  • Software installation can be a lengthy and complex process.

  • The network must be configured to enable the “cloud” application.

  • Developer level resources are required to make the tool fit the specific use case.

  • The application has a subscription-licensing model but is still installed locally.

  • The cloud application is delivered via the organization’s hosted version that is different than other customer’s instances.

  • Upgrades and enhancements need to be scheduled.

  • Technical expertise or professional services are required to increase capacity or deploy new capabilities.

  • There is no inherent method to calculate individual usage of the application.

The cloud-native difference
Cloud-native is designed to meet the unique demands of today’s anytime, anywhere IT. It eliminates all of the above requirements and investments, enabling IT to automate operations management at scale. Cloud-native empowers IT Operations with continuous insight into all endpoints to automatically patch remote systems, configure every endpoint, and dynamically deploy software — all without the hassles of hardware and appliances like VPNs.

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