How IT has coped with the pressures of the pandemic

Sascha Giese examines how IT professionals in the public sector have coped in the past 18 months and what their expectations are for the future

Managing public sector IT can be a challenge at the best of times—then add a global pandemic into the mix. It’s been a stressful year and a half for IT professionals, faced with the sudden, mass shift to remote working and the rush to adapt systems and processes to accommodate new devices and distributed teams. And with technology being so central to the government’s coronavirus response—through testing, vaccinations, and information campaigns—there’s been immense pressure to get it right.

Then there’s the ever-growing cyberthreat as malicious actors become more sophisticated and the frequency of attacks soar: according to GCHQ, the number of ransomware attacks on British institutions has doubled in the past year. Public sector organisations are particularly appealing targets due to the sensitivity of data involved and the widespread havoc an attack can wreak. Cyber criminals have also been mimicking official government communications and taking advantage of the public through false vaccination invitations.

It’s a lot for IT teams to deal with, and they’ve been doing it continuously throughout this pandemic. We surveyed IT professionals from around the world and across a range of sectors to find out more about their experiences and get their insights on how the sector is evolving.

Rising to IT challenges and sector growth
Despite the difficulties of the past year and a half, the sector has remained resilient and surprisingly optimistic. Of the 287 IT professionals we spoke to for our IT Pro Day 2021 survey, almost half (48 per cent) said they were proud of what they do, 44 per cent said they love what they do, and four in ten (41 per cent) believe this year has proven they’re more capable than they realised. There’s also a great deal of confidence in the opportunities the future holds, with an overwhelming 81 per cent of those surveyed saying they believe there will be multiple opportunities to develop and enhance their careers in the next year.

In addition, 67 per cent of respondents said they expect their level of responsibility at work to increase over the next year, demonstrating the value of career progression to IT professionals, as well as highlighting the fast growth of the sector and high demand for IT skills. And when it comes to career progression, there’s a growing awareness of the role nontechnical skills play in professional development. Collaboration skills, for example, listening to others, teamwork, and networking—are seen as the most important nontechnical skills, with 66 per cent of respondents picking these as most crucial for advancement.

IT professionals can also see how skills developed at home, or in daily life, can bring value to the workplace, with 70 per cent saying they have a hobby which helps them in their day-to-day role. Time management, communication skills, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving skills, drawn from everyday life, were all seen as important and useful to IT work.

The future of public sector IT
When it comes to looking to the future, IT professionals acknowledge the big cybersecurity challenge they face but are positive about their sector's ability to adapt. Whilst 53 per cent of those surveyed pointed to cyber threats as the biggest challenge they expect their organisation to face in the next year, tech professionals also anticipate the evolution of IT operations into the ‘next normal’ to address this issue, among others, and better prioritise investments. Specifically, 68 per cent believe they will see their organisation invest in new tools and processes to better address security, compliance, and risk; 44 per cent expect more collaborative technologies; and 40 per cent anticipate the adoption of next-generation IT operations solutions.

Coronavirus hasn’t vanished, and IT professionals are still working hard to build and maintain the infrastructure needed by public sector organisations. But the pandemic has proved the resourcefulness and resilience of the discipline and the people who are part of it. As society increasingly relies on tech to navigate new challenges and address historic issues, their skills and adaptability will only grow in importance. It’s through their expertise that we’ll build a better world.

Sascha Giese is Head Geek™ at SolarWinds.

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