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SolarWinds Study Shows Converged Roles and Contracting Budgets Increase Need for Qualified U.K. Public Sector Tech Pros Across Hybrid IT Environments

  • SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT examines the evolving role of technology in business and the breakdown of traditional IT siloes 
  • Less than 25% of budgets dedicated to emerging tech, instead prioritise cloud and hybrid IT
  • Tech pros cite need to upskill across security, APM, and non-technical and interpersonal skills 

SolarWinds (NYSE:SWI), a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, today released the findings of SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT. This year’s annual report studies how the breakdown of traditional IT siloes has affected technology professionals across on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments. While the survey data was gathered before the COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) pandemic elevated technology professionals as essential workers, the findings are underscored by this challenging period of remote work and increased burdens on the IT environments keeping global organisations operating at full capacity. The study reveals a new reality for tech pros where roles have converged yet budgets remain focused less on emerging technologies and more on infrastructure, hybrid IT, expanding their charter from operations to optimisation.

The “universal language of IT” encapsulates the evolving role of technology in business, and the tech pros’ responsibility for ensuring overall uptime, availability, and performance as well as greater partnership with leadership to drive business success. As cloud computing continues to grow, tech pros say they are increasingly prioritising areas like hybrid infrastructure management, application performance management (APM), and security management to optimise delivery for the organisations they serve. With the convergence of IT roles in response to the interconnected nature of modern IT environments—and now the need to support a new or larger remote workforce—tech pros are also setting their sights on non-technical and interpersonal skills to ensure teamwork and communication with business leaders increases their fluency in the universal language of IT. Skills development is needed across both technical and non-technical areas to remain successful in today’s environments.

“For years we’ve been talking about hybrid IT and what it means for tech pros; in our seventh year of the IT Trends Report, we see the effects of hybrid IT in breaking down traditional siloes and bringing core competencies across on-premises and cloud environments together,” said Joe Kim, executive vice president and global chief technology officer, SolarWinds. “Especially now, when organisations worldwide are facing new challenges and uncertainty, we must take this reality seriously, focusing on skills development and readiness in key areas like security, cloud infrastructure, and application monitoring. While IT continues to be a main driver of business importance, tech pros have an opportunity to help reassure the business and focus on effectively communicating performance now and into the future.”

“More than ever before, technology professionals must work alongside business leaders to meet organisational goals while also investing time and energy into cultivating the necessary skills to drive business success,” added Kim. “At SolarWinds, we focus on enabling the tech pro with easy to use, affordable products, but we also understand our customers often need more from our partnership. That’s why we also make meaningful investments in providing a wide range of training resources—many of which have been virtual since their inception—and an online user community where they can connect with their peers. We have many ways we do this: our Customer Success Center, MSP Institute, SolarWinds Academy, our THWACK® community of over 150,000 registered members and yearly virtual learning event, THWACKcamp, our bi-annual customer event SolarWinds Empower MSP, and educational digital programming like SolarWinds Lab and TechPod. Each of these avenues serves to help make life easier for tech pros so they can drive even more success for the businesses they support.”

2020 Key Findings 

SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020: The Universal Language of IT explores priority areas tech pros manage in a world where roles have converged, and how this reality is affecting skill sets across IT departments and in non-technical areas. Key findings show:

Tech pros are focusing less on emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and edge, and more on hybrid IT and security. 

  • The top three technologies influencing organisations’ staffing needs (by weighted rank) are:
  • Cloud computing (i.e., SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) (53%)
  • Security and compliance (55%)
  • Hybrid IT (37%)
  • Only a collective 18% name emerging technologies—like AI, edge, microservices, and containers—as the biggest influence on staffing needs.
  • This makes sense when you consider organisations aren’t allocating their budget to emerging technologies—particularly as this year’s budgets are reevaluated in the face of economic challenges. Nearly two-thirds (62%) indicate their organisation’s tech budgets allocate less than 25% of their spending to emerging technologies.

Today’s hybrid IT reality has created a universal language of IT where tech pro roles and siloes converge, and complexities are exacerbated by flat to shrinking budgets and a lack of qualified personnel. 

  • With the convergence of technologies and responsibilities, the top three ways tech pro roles have changed over the past three to five years are:
    • Increased work week hours (55%)
    • Added IT staff (37%)
    • Increased on-premises responsibilities (33%)
    • Assumed additional non-IT responsibilities (i.e., presentation skills, public speaking, business writing/planning, justification of time/budget) (33%)
  • At the same time, tech pros are experiencing barriers to successfully supporting their organisations, including:
    • Lack of budget/resources (37%)
    • Currently offered IT management/solutions lack features/functionality to meet my needs (27%)
    • Poor management/lack of direction (10%)
    • Unclear or shifting priorities (10%)
  • What’s more, nearly one-third (29%) of respondents believe tech pros entering the workforce today don’t have the necessary skills to manage modern, distributed IT environments.

Many personnel and skills issues relate to growing areas like APM and security and compliance. 

  • Fifty-five percent of tech pros/teams/IT departments are spending more time managing apps and services rather than infrastructure and hardware. This represents a monumental shift in the strategic importance of applications to modern organisations.
    • This trend will likely to continue to rise: according to Gartner®, by 2022, as many as 60% of organisations will use an external service provider’s cloud managed service offering, doubling the 2018 figure. Gartner also predicts the ongoing effect on skills: by 2020, 75% of enterprises will experience visible business disruptions due to infrastructure and operations (I&O) skills gaps, which is an increase from less than 20% in 2016.
    • When organisations adopt cloud and/or SaaS technologies, 66% use network traffic analysis/network app analysis, 64% use user experience monitoring, and 43% use log analysis as their top three approaches. When it comes to APM tools, 40% use a mix of native tools (provided by the cloud service provider) and third-party tools.
  • For 73% of tech pros, at least 10% of their daily responsibilities include IT security management. At the same time, the top three areas of security skills management tech pro organisations are prioritising for development include (by weighted rank):
    • Network security (49%)
    • Backup and recovery (35%)
    • Security information and event management (SIEM) (29%)
  • Similar to the way the universal language of IT has affected IT departments, compliance policies have resulted in 53% of tech pros adding additional IT staff.
  • Compliance policies with the greatest effect on IT departments include:
  • GDPR (96%)
  • PCI DSS (23%)
  • Other (13%)

Tech pros need to develop nontechnical skills to operate within the universal language of IT reality where cross-functional and business-level communication is necessary. 

  • The nontechnical skills tech pros feel are most critical to successfully manage today’s modern IT environments include:
    • Project management (69%)
    • People management (59%)
    • Budgeting/finance (55%)
    • Interpersonal communication (55%)
      • These results are echoed by CIO’s annual State of the CIO Survey, which revealed the top skills needed for digital transformation were strategy building (40%), project management (32%), and business relationship management (25%). These critical interpersonal skills become more important as tech pros increasingly communicate and collaborate across previously siloed IT functions.
      • According to the LinkedIn® 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, the demand for soft skills like communication, collaboration, and creativity will continue to rise across the SaaS industry.
  • Despite the budget and skills issues tech pros report, 86% of surveyed tech pros say they’re comfortable communicating with business leadership when requesting technology purchases, investing time/budget into team trainings, and the like.

To explore and interact with all of the 2020 findings, please visit the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, a dynamic web experience presenting the study’s findings by region and additional insights into the data, plus charts, graphs, and socially shareable elements. This year’s study features an interactive component where visitors to the web experience can see how they compare to the results.

The findings of this year’s United Kingdom National Government report are based on a survey fielded in December 2019, which yielded responses from 49 technology practitioners, managers, and directors from public-sector small, mid-size, and enterprise organisations in the United Kingdom. All regions studied in 2020, as reported on the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, were North America, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, with 983 respondents across all geographies combined.

Additional Resources

Past SolarWinds IT Trends Reports

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