Posey's Tips & Tricks
IT's Post-Pandemic Future: The Lasting Impact of the Remote Work Surge
As business restrictions slowly begin to lift, IT pros face a new landscape similar to the BYOD boom -- but instead of new devices, they'll be dealing with new logistics.
As conversations about COVID-19 increasingly focus on beginning to emerge from quarantine and reopening businesses, I can't help but think of the ways in which the events of the past few months are going to reshape IT.
We can probably all agree that the pandemic is going to change the world forever, and in ways that we have not yet even realized. As such, I think that it is time to begin thinking of how IT is about to change.
Assuming that we really do begin to recover and the world does not devolve into chaos as some are predicting, I think IT professionals will find themselves a position similar to what they faced at the beginning of the so-called BYOD (bring-your-own-device) revolution.
Before BYOD, employees had previously worked almost exclusively from domain-joined, tightly controlled corporate desktops. However, when the iPad and similar devices started becoming widely adopted, employees demanded that they be allowed to work from those devices. Since many such demands came from upper management, IT had no choice but to allow the use of personal devices.
Today, working from an iPad or other personal device probably doesn't seem like any big deal because everyone does it. Back then, though, there was no precedent for the use of personal devices. Never mind the fact that accessing corporate data from personal devices presented major security risks and challenges related to everything from infrastructure requirements to licensing.
My best guess is that IT is about to go through a similar transition -- only this time, we aren't dealing with new devices, but with new logistics.
We have already seen IT pros scrambling to put in place solutions that will allow employees to work from home. As the world gradually begins to reopen, I think that reevaluating those solutions will probably become a top priority. There are three reasons for this.
- The demand for remote work won't go away. We aren't simply going to wake up one morning and have everybody in the world go back to work as if nothing had ever happened. The transition will probably be more gradual. Initially, organizations may only ask a relatively small percentage of their employees to come into the office. Over time, the percentage of employees who come into the office will no doubt increase, but even when things get back to "normal," there will inevitably be some employees who decide to continue working from home indefinitely.
- In at least some cases, remote access solutions were hastily put into place. Businesses had little choice but to quickly implement a solution that would allow all of their employees to work remotely. There was hardly any time for planning -- and, in a lot of cases, the solutions had to be cobbled together using whatever resources the businesses had immediate access to. When the dust settles, organizations will have little choice but to reexamine their remote access solutions and possibly put something more permanent in place.
- Organizations won't want to simply abandon their investment in remote access infrastructure. In the early days of the shutdown, I heard a few different stories of organizations putting virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) in place for their remote workers to use. While I don't know exactly how much money was spent by these organizations, the amount was likely substantial. After all, VDI isn't cheap. Businesses aren't going to be inclined to spend all of that money to support a remote workforce, only to walk away from their investment when the crisis is over.
Personally, I think that even after the pandemic is over, most organizations will give their employees the option to work from home on a full-time basis. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of companies actually encouraging employees to work remotely.
For an employer, there are costs associated with employees coming into the office (power, water, etc.). Letting employees work remotely reduces utility costs. The company may even be able to lease a smaller building and reduce its insurance premiums if most employees work solely from home.
For IT, the next big challenge will be figuring out how best to support a remote workforce. Other challenges may include coming up with ways to keep data secure and making sure that regulatory compliance can be guaranteed. There are bound to be challenges associated with the transition, and some of those challenges will demand really creative solutions. But that's what makes this field so exciting.
Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.