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Weathering the Storm: Why IT Professionals Are Unsung Public Sector Heroes

Sascha Giese, Head Geek™ at SolarWinds

By Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds

2021 has been another year of challenges for us all, and for the IT sector, the changes needed, time invested, and adjustments made to public sector systems and processes are set to shape the future for good. While private sector businesses focused on survival, the public sector had to contend with pressure not only to keep afloat, but to keep the public safe and informed, and work towards a mass vaccination operation across the country.

For IT departments, enabling staff to continue working remotely has been key, as virtual working looks to take hold well beyond the pandemic. Adapting systems and developing solutions to help prevent the continuing spread of the virus has meant IT professionals, once again, have become the real unsung heroes of the public sector.

Recognising the relentless and stoic efforts of these workers in recent months, SolarWinds sought to glean a better understanding of the IT professional’s experiences, across a range of sectors with our IT Pro Day 2021 survey: Bring IT On.

 Our annual survey questioned global technology professionals from within the SolarWinds user community and highlighted the changing face of the IT landscape in the rippling wake of the global crisis.

What the Numbers Revealed

Questioning 287 IT professionals—including IT generalists, software engineers, developers, and security professionals—across the globe, the SolarWinds IT Pro Day 2021 survey revealed several insightful findings.

Unsurprisingly, the global health crisis has led to an exponential change for IT professionals, but one of the most favourable outcomes arguably has been a change in attitude towards their discipline. Of the tech pros who responded to the survey, 48% said they were proud of what they do, 44% love what they do, and 41% claimed this year has proven they’re more capable than they realised. The survey revealed an overwhelmingly positive perception of the role of the tech professional, and many look forward to what lies ahead; a staggering 81% of respondents said they believe there will be multiple opportunities to develop and enhance their careers in the next year.

As more than two-thirds (67%) of the respondents said they expect their level of responsibility at work to increase over the next year, career progression seems to be a key focus for many. When it comes to personal development, it seems IT personnel are increasingly beginning to recognise the need for nontechnical, softer skills that can be learned in daily life. Sixty-six percent of tech pro respondents reported collaboration skills (such as teamwork, listening to others, and networking) as the most important nontechnical skills necessary for advancement. Respondents also said the following experiences at home or in general daily life are perceived as most useful at work:

  • Time management (e.g., prioritisation, organisation; 69%)
  • Communication skills (verbal and nonverbal; 67%)
  • Interpersonal skills (e.g., adaptability, flexibility, patience; 66%)
  • Problem-solving (65%)

These less technical capabilities are set to play a key role in facilitating a range of responsibilities such as project management and more senior-level decision making, which 34% claimed was their biggest opportunity in the next year.

Tech professionals are anticipating further positive change when it comes to IT operations, with a prevalent focus on cybersecurity. With 53% of respondents citing cyberthreats as the biggest challenge they expect their organisation to face in the next year, they also stated that their organisations’ IT operations will evolve into the “next normal”, with prioritised investments to address the following challenges:

  • Implementing new tools and processes to better address security, compliance, and risk (68%)
  • Adding more collaborative technologies (44%)
  • Adopting next-generation IT operations solutions (40%)

Looking to the “Next Normal”

As long as the health crisis lingers, public sector IT professionals will have their work cut out, carving a more agile, reactive infrastructure for organisations to better serve the public. Having weathered the peak of the COVID-19 storm (it’s hoped), IT professionals have been the unsung heroes, working in the background to prepare for a more virtual workplace in the future and facilitating digital transformation on an exponential scale.

Looking to the “next normal” as the public sector evolves, tech pros have rightfully become an indispensable, more highly respected part of the wider operations, finally receiving the kudos they deserve, and gaining momentum to become more central and integral to the progression and advancement of their sector.

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