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MIT Technology Review, VMWare study finds businesses shift plans after pandemic hit

A new survey by MIT Technology Review Insights, in association with VMware, finds the COVID-19 pandemic has changed — and accelerated — the IT plans of most organizations. The survey also shows companies that are best positioned for success are ones that have modernized their organizational processes and business strategies.

“2020 was a difficult year for many companies, but those that were already on the path to modernization are pressuring competitors to speed up digital transformation efforts,” said Nicola Crepaldi, head of MIT Technology Review Insights.

One dramatic change resulting from the crisis was the unprecedented shift to remote work. Before COVID-19, on average only 8% of workforces regularly worked remotely. During the pandemic, this increased to an average of 27%. Organizations cite employee experience, security, and efficiency as top demands for remote work.

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“Even before the pandemic, organizations had to be agile and nimble,” said Sanjay Poonen, chief operating officer, VMware. “Today, this is even more essential, and organizations across all industries are adapting with new technologies to thrive in this unpredictable world.”

The research is based on a multi-industry survey of more than 600 technology decision-makers across six global industries (financial services, health care, manufacturing, retail, government, and telecommunications). It includes in-depth interviews from public- and private-sector organizations in three regions, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America. Three resulting reports have been published: “Digital acceleration in the time of coronavirus: Outlook North America,” “Outlook Europe,” and “Outlook Asia-Pacific.”

Global industry priorities

Across industries, IT teams are addressing issues exposed during the pandemic by finding ways to modernize apps and infrastructure, adopt cloud, and boost cybersecurity.

The pandemic accelerated digital transformation. Seventy-five percent (75%) of those surveyed believe the pandemic accelerated their digital transformation. One-third anticipate budget increases. Healthcare, government and telecommunications providers are most likely to maintain or increase their digital investments.

“We thought we were being pretty bold with our 10-year plan, and what we’ve realized is we probably weren’t bold enough—that we actually do need to accelerate this even more. Our 10-year plan was now a two-year plan,” said Mark Wehde, chair of engineering at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Disaster recovery does not equal business continuity. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) say they had business continuity plans in place prior to the crisis.

“We had the right strategy foundations in place, so the crisis meant that we did not have to massively change how we operate. We just needed to selectively accelerate ongoing execution and delivery in our ongoing cloud journey,” says Mike Dargan, chief information officer at Zurich-based investment bank UBS.

App modernization and customer experience rise in priority. Almost two-thirds of financial services organizations (65%) are expanding their Agile practices and continuous delivery methods to meet new business demands. More than half (51%) of healthcare organizations are increasing patient experience investments, especially telehealth services, worldwide.

Protecting against cyberattacks and securing data remains a top priority and challenge. Global organizations are addressing new risks. Nearly half of respondents (46%) say they are allocating a “significant” share (defined as more than 25%) of their IT budgets to security and threat management.