The exigencies of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent acceleration of digitalization has put a great deal of weight on the shoulders of IT professionals, but it has also left them feeling more empowered and confident in their own ability to handle unexpected change, according to a survey by hybrid infrastructure firm SolarWinds. The survey was conducted in the run-up to IT Professionals Day, which falls on the third Tuesday of September and is meant to recognize all IT professionals for their work in a sector that seems to be changing more quickly with every day that passes.
Tougher day to day work, but more professional growth
Unsurprisingly, survey respondents said their work had become harder, with longer working hours, more responsibility and decision-making requirements, and a general increase in job stress. Some of this is probably attributable to the shift to remote work, which saw many IT personnel scrambling to overhaul their organizations' digital setup—from ensuring people had suitable equipment, to setting up remote access to work resources, to getting security in place, and then keeping everything running.
On the other hand, digitalization has placed a great deal more responsibility in the hands of the IT function, and with it, the credibility and voice that come with being a valuable specialist. 64 percent of respondents indicated that having managing the disruption and challenges of COVID-19, they have more confidence in their ability to handle unprecedented change, and 46 percent also said their accomplishments during this period have empowered them to bring new ideas to the table. 41 percent even believe that thanks to the growing importance of the IT function, IT will be involved in more business-level meetings and decision making going forward.
Calling that expectation of involvement particularly encouraging, Rani Johnson, Chief Information Officer of SolarWinds, said: "The success of organizations during this unique time is due in large part to IT pros’ preparedness and inherent ability to adapt and manage through substantial change. 2020—and the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic—is proof positive IT pros are built for moments like these."
An opportunity to upskill and move forward
In ordinary times, IT practitioners have to constantly upskill just to keep pace with the developments in their field. The COVID-driven speed of digitalization has underscored this—based on the survey findings, the top skills that IT practitioners need to improve today are systems management, network management, and security and compliance. And 47 percent of respondents did in fact indicate that they have received the training they need to improve their skills in these areas, while another 25 percent expect that they will have more opportunities to upskill in the future.
At the same time, though, 25 percent said they have yet to receive access to the training they need, although the survey did not explore why. It's also worth noting that one of the greatest barriers to upskilling today is no longer lack of resources, but lack of time, and IT practitioners have certainly been very short of time and head space to learn in recent months.
Individual skills aside, the survey shows that a fair number of practitioners also see the need—and perhaps therein the opportunity—to improve their organization's entire IT setup. Some have their eye on internal processes that lack flexibility or are simply unable to accommodate rapid change; others want to consolidate their organization's current suite of solutions to reduce the cost and complexity of managing and maintaining multiple disparate systems. And a sizeable number, 18 percent, need new toolsets and technologies because their current systems are not adequate to manage the present-day remote working situation.
Appreciate your IT professionals today!
Not all IT jobs are as high-paying and glamorous as the software development positions now being opened by tech giants like Amazon. But without systems administrators, database managers, support techs, and the other back-end roles that people seldom hear about until something goes wrong, a great number of the businesses operating today would grind to a halt or at the very least be seriously hampered.
Let's take a step back to recognize the efforts of the IT professionals, whether in-house or vendors, who directly or indirectly keep our organizations going. And to ensure the recognition is not just lip service, let's pair it with some of the things on practitioners' wish lists: a greater voice in the business, more opportunities for professional advancement, or at the very least, better tools with which to do their work.