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The future of infrastructure: The tech tools that will be needed for IT and end users

Predicting the future is tough, but these experts agree that the cloud will play a huge part in delivering business solutions.

Cloud computing concept

Image: iStock/Melpomenem

Every new year brings with it a new round of challenges, changes and priorities for businesses to address. Tech tools and IT infrastructures are prominent in the minds of all business leaders given the past year many workers have spent working remotely due to the pandemic. With that in mind, 2021 is a unique year with a set of urgent priorities to ensure companies are focused on appropriate technology spending and direction.

SEE: Gartner’s top tech predictions for 2021 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

I spoke with three industry leaders about these challenges to get their input on where businesses should direct their focus this year; Akash Tayal, U.S. cloud strategy and operating model leader of Deloitte Consulting, a management consulting service and solution provder; Doug Hazelman, senior vice president and chief evangelist of Coreview, a SaaS and Microsoft 365 management provider; and Yash Prakash, chief strategy officer at Saviynt, an enterprise identity cloud provider.

Scott Matteson: A third of attendees of a recent Deloitte webcast indicated they will spend more money on technology in 2021, and 38.8% said they were unsure of the challenges their organization faces. How can they determine those challenges?

Akash Tayal: Most of the organizations are being very selective in where they spend their money on technology. We see technology modernization enabled by cloud as one of those key growth areas in 2021. For the organizations that are unsure of the challenges, it is best to focus your energy on your customers and employees, and understand the current pain points these two segments are facing. The technology investments should be directed toward eliminating or minimizing these pain points. As part of our engagements with clients, we help drive several surveys, focus groups and targeted interviews to capture these pain points and provide organizations with a clear sense of these challenges and their associated root causes to drive an actionable plan to address them

Doug Hazelman: I think 2020 taught us a lot about not being prepared for the unexpected, so people are naturally cautious right now. Will 2021 see people return to offices, or will remote work remain the primary way to work through 2021? There’s also the unknown security threats that may arise as very few were prepared for SolarGate and its ripple effects throughout global enterprises. It’s impossible to predict these challenges, but it is possible to prepare for them.

SEE: SolarWinds attack: Cybersecurity experts share lessons learned and how to protect your business (TechRepublic)

Yash Prakash: As organizations pivot to new business models, technology will play a key role in this transformation. Business leaders should be looking at whether the technology in place allows them to move rapidly to meet their goals and whether the technology is intrinsically secure and resilient against attacks and data breaches.

Scott Matteson: How can IT leaders ensure this value and handle the challenges presented by resource constraints, an inability to show tangible benefits, and difficulty in estimating costs?

Akash Tayal: Think big but start small. It is hard for any IT leader to take on large transformation programs and big spend commitments in this time of unpredictability. The idea is to design the North Star but execute in smaller increments to allow for a fail fast/succeed fast approach. Every program should have some clear KPIs to help measure success or course correct as things do not go as planned. In regards to estimation of costs and benefits, we help organizations drive an “Economic Architecture,” with the goal of creating complete transparency for costs at the product and services level. This way instead of measuring costs of individual departments, the entire cost profile is based on services provided to the end customer with each segment’s contribution to that cost profile clearly identified.

Doug Hazelman: Data is the key to any IT leader who wants to show benefits to the C-suite. As SaaS platforms have taken hold, especially primary platforms like Microsoft 365, and IT leaders are faced with the challenge of showing both cost and time savings. The easiest way to combat resource constraints is to delegate responsibilities closer to the business, including license assignments, teams management, and even help desk functions, to free up central IT. Being able to report on license usage and audit data in a timely and consistent manner is crucial to show tangible benefits. 

Yash Prakash: By selecting solutions that are cloud-native, embrace automation, and take a no-code approach to customization. Let’s look specifically at the Saviynt Enterprise Identity Cloud. By eliminating the high overhead costs associated with FTEs, code configuration, and automating SoD analysis, Saviynt customers see a benefits present value (BPV) of $34.4M over a three-year period. These are the types of proof-points organizations should demand from a solution before making a purchase. If these financial benefits can’t be demonstrated succinctly, chances are the technology isn’t going to overcome challenges—or has hidden costs that aren’t apparent at surface level.

SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollouts, use cases, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Scott Matteson: What is the current status of tech tools; which ones are preferred for which challenges or responsibilities, and what’s coming in 2021 on that front?

Akash Tayal: The technology tools market (IT for IT) has been evolving at a very fast pace. There is extremely high fragmentation with multiple tools available for every capability area making it very difficult for organizations to decide. We expect this fragmentation and bespoke nature of tools to continue to increase. The companies that will come out on top in 2021 and beyond will be the ones that make it easy for organizations to plug their tools in. We see SaaS-type models continuing to rise and gain market share. We also expect that tools that help organizations manage multicloud environments will continue to gain traction as well.

Doug Hazelman: 2020 showed us that SaaS works. Any tech tools that are still primarily on-prem and not integrated with SaaS platforms will be on the way out. In 2021 we’ll see more work (and acquisitions) in the area of SaaS Management Platforms (SMP) as companies realize they need a way to manage all the SaaS applications they have. Traditional Software Asset Management (SAM) systems that don’t support SaaS or have plans to support SaaS will be left out.

Yash Prakash: It’s an exciting time to be in enterprise technology. Legacy vendors that used to lead solution stacks are being passed over for more agile, less costly, and better performing products. Regardless of what kind of challenge you’re working to overcome, there are five general areas of focus a solution should encompass: 

  • Does it feature a cloud or hybrid platform? This helps drive efficiency, compliance, and business continuity. 
  • Second, does it provide 360-degree visibility into your data, applications and infrastructure? 
  • Third, does it automate workflows, helping remove resource burdens, helping lower costs? 
  • Fourth, is it fast? Evaluating how long a solution takes to implement is a good way to see how sophisticated the technology is. 
  • Fifth, does it reduce cost and lower risk? Security risk is just as valuable as cost, if not moreso. In 2021 we’re going to see more cloud options to replace legacy solutions, many offering low costs and high benefits. However, it’s important to carefully assess these tools before committing—new doesn’t always mean better.

Scott Matteson: What is the current status of IT infrastructures; which ones are preferred for which challenges or responsibilities, and what’s coming in 2021 on that front?

Akash Tayal: Organizations will continue to embrace hybrid cloud (mix of their on-prem environments—also referred to by some as private cloud) and multiple public cloud providers. Hence, we expect the need for cloud management platforms that help organizations navigate these multiple cloud environments and abstract it from the application developers will continue to rise. 

Doug Hazelman: Even before 2020, we saw the movement away from on-prem infrastructure to the cloud. If offices remain mostly closed in 2021, and people continue to work remotely, IT will be faced with moving the last remaining on-prem infrastructure to the cloud. Some applications will be replaced with SaaS alternatives while others will be re-written and migrated to cloud infrastructure. 

SEE: Want to be a cloud computing expert? Check out these training courses (TechRepublic)

Email infrastructure is already largely moved to cloud (Microsoft 365) and companies will start looking for ways to move identity, directory services, and device management to the cloud (also Microsoft 365). All of this movement to the cloud will require a new tool set, designed for the cloud. 

Yash Prakash: Hybrid IT infrastructure is the new normal, giving organizations greater strategic control of their data. But the multi-cloud future for the enterprise is driving organizations to move workloads to the cloud. However, speed of migration must be balanced with ensuring the right visibility, security, and cost management. This presents as many challenges as it does opportunities for organizations, and 2021 will see increased adoption of solutions that can support a smooth, safe, and efficient migration strategy.

Scott Matteson: How is the pandemic driving the need for certain tech tools, and what are they?

Akash Tayal: The obvious ones are collaboration and file sharing tools that facilitate the remote working environment. However, we are also seeing increased need within the IT space for tools and solutions that help organizations look into their tech performance e.g., value stream mapping tools. As you can imagine, due to fragmentation and best of breed tools emerging, most organizations have ended up with numerous tools to stitch together a DevSecOps pipeline. 

SEE: Cloud data storage policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Now, there is an increased need to help link all these into a single view to measure the effectiveness and drive standardization, while providing flexibility to each business unit. We at Deloitte have developed a solution called DevOps Cloud Platform (DCP) to solve exactly this issue to help our clients accelerate their DevOps journeys while providing business flexibility. We do see a big need in the industry for some of these solutions. The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in many organizations and hence the need for a single pane to view their progress and drive the right decisions.

Scott Matteson: What elements or processes should be de-emphasized or eliminated going forward?

Akash Tayal: Traditional data center-based processes, where everything requires a service ticket, is going out of fashion now. In order to deliver the right frictionless developer experience and improve agility, creating hundreds of tickets to solve one problem (cloud service provisioning, opening firewall port, creating the right access roles and permissions, etc.) cannot be done through manual tickets. Most organizations are trying to create rule-based codified processes that can automate their policies and guardrails and deliver these solutions in an instantaneous manner. Spending time doing manual reviews is more of an exception than a norm now.

Scott Matteson: Where should IT workers and leaders be directing their focus?

Akash Tayal: Focus should be on meeting customer and employee needs in an expedited manner and solving for zero touch as much as possible. So, IT leaders and workers should be focused on solving for issues end-to-end versus handoffs within IT.  

Scott Matteson: Where should end users be directing their focus?

Akash Tayal: Becoming tech savvy (especially for business users) and leveraging the cloud services that are increasingly becoming more business friendly through the launch of low code/no-code solutions.

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This post was written by and was first posted to TechRepublic

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