TEMPE, Ariz.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– According to a new survey of IT professionals at local, state and federal government agencies from Insight Enterprises (NASDAQ: NSIT), the global integrator of Insight Intelligent Technology Solutions™ for organizations of all sizes, nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents said they felt their organization was very or extremely prepared to handle COVID-19’s IT business challenges – yet 53% said their organization experienced three or more weeks of downtime for some or all of their workforce.
Nevertheless, a majority of respondents to the 2020 Insight Public Sector Pulse: The Impact of COVID-19 on Organizational Readiness reported success in implementing a wide range of IT changes – from device procurement to citizen outreach. The pandemic also may have spurred a renewed sense of innovation and a desire to minimize the impact of future disruptions, according to the report.
Of note, 27% of public sector IT professionals said that automating employee work processes and tasks was among their top 3 IT priorities in 2020 before COVID-19; after COVID-19, that number increased to 35%. This shift was especially pronounced at the state and local level, where respondents citing automation as a top 3 priority grew from 23% pre-COVID to 35% post-COVID.
“The first weeks of the pandemic were understandably chaotic for IT departments at all levels of government. But now that we’ve had time to settle into a ‘new normal,’ IT professionals have a real opportunity to re-evaluate their priorities and fortify their systems against future challenges,” said Scott Friedlander, vice president of Insight Public Sector. “Automation already was underway for many government entities before COVID-19 hit, but that trend is only likely to gain steam in the months to come as agencies seek ways to continue the business of governing while protecting the health and well-being of civil servants.”
Additional findings from Insight’s special report include:
Remote work is here to stay. The most common pivot in response to COVID-19 reflected increased investment in remote work: among the most cited changes that needed to be managed were remote worker user enablement and support (43%) and implementing collaboration tools and voice communication for remote workers (41%). Looking ahead long term, IT professionals expect remote work to persist beyond the pandemic. “Remote work is an always-on option, not a reactive solution,” said one survey respondent.
Agencies recognize the criticality of cybersecurity. With government employees adopting remote work – and often dealing with extremely sensitive data – the public sector continues to prioritize improving data and network security and recovery. However, it has become slightly less pressing in a post-COVID world: Though cybersecurity was ranked the top IT priority before the outbreak, with 39% of professionals ranking it among their top 3 pre-COVID, 34% ranked it among the top 3 post-COVID.
Despite the lower priority, among the organizations that listed securing access and data outside the perimeter of their trusted network as a key change they had to manage due to COVID-19, 60% said implementing new solutions was “very” or “extremely challenging.”
Transitioning to the cloud is a missed opportunity. According to Gartner, “By 2021, more than 85% of enterprise organizations will be using cloud services for business-critical functions.”1 However, while the cloud is a key enabler of effective remote work and organizational continuity, it decreased in priority among IT professionals at all levels of government, according to Insight’s study. Before COVID-19, 38% ranked it among their top 3 IT priorities; after, that number decreased to 26%.
IT’s role in public agencies is growing. An increase in remote work solutions and security demands has elevated IT across public sector organizations, with 85% expecting IT to take on a “somewhat” or “significantly greater” role within their organization. As one respondent described it, “Digital access is now like oxygen.” Yet IT budgets may not be increasing accordingly – 33% felt they only have enough funds to cover short-term needs caused by the pandemic, and an additional 20% said their budget was insufficient to address new IT requirements.
Agencies plan to invest in a wide range of safety devices for return-to-work. When asked which technologies they planned to implement to support employee safety in the workplace, the most frequently cited option was smart personal hygiene devices (i.e., connected hand sanitizer dispensers), followed by smartphone tracking, infrared thermometers and biometric identification systems. However, only a minority (23%) expressed interest in an IoT ecosystem to help them analyze inputs from these tools.
“It’s true that many public organizations were caught on the back foot when COVID-19 rolled around, but we are nevertheless seeing remarkable adaptability at all levels of government when it comes to their IT needs and operations. It’s possible that this crisis will propel agencies into a more innovative future that leverages cutting-edge technology to deliver better service to the public at large, regardless of the circumstances,” said Friedlander.
About The 2020 Insight Public Sector Pulse: The Impact of COVID-19 on Organizational Readiness
Insight commissioned M/A/R/C Research to conduct a poll of 301 U.S. IT professionals (CIO, CTO, IT Director or Director of Technology) at local, state or federal government agencies with 1,000+ employees. The survey was conducted between July 17 and Aug. 14, 2020.