Celebrated annually, IT Pro Day, which this year is on 15 September, honours the exceptional work of IT professionals, who dedicate themselves to keeping the cogs turning all year round.
Despite their efforts, the reality is that it’s easy to overlook the importance of IT pros, as many of us only encounter their services when something goes wrong. However, not only do IT pros work tirelessly in the background to protect infrastructure, limit downtime, and drive new and efficient ways of working; this year, they have also navigated the additional complexities of scaling remote capabilities in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
For this IT Pro Day, Business Reporter spoke to industry experts to discover more about IT professionals, and what we can do to support them, just as they support businesses 24/7.
Keeping operations running smoothly
While it may be a cliché, IT pros are the unsung heroes of a business, countering the inevitable challenges head on, ensuring that downtime is avoided and that issues are dealt with as efficiently as possible.
“This year, it’s more important than ever to recognise the vital role that these employees play, particularly with the rollercoaster of a year we’ve all had,” explains Gregg Mearing, Director of Operations at Node4.
“In Managed Service Providers especially, their knowledge and expertise of the company’s IT infrastructure is invaluable, and has been the key driver that has helped many businesses cope with the move to remote working. They have helped ensure that the equipment and technology runs efficiently, which is a major responsibility to hold.”
“The IT pro does this with skill and confidence, so that everyone else does not need to worry. It’s this on-going problem-solving ability that we should all appreciate, knowing that our IT pros are the ones that have been bearing the full-force of the IT business challenges this year has presented.
“Managing and maintaining data ecosystems that are becoming progressively complex, along with increasingly sophisticated business requirements falls to IT professionals,”adds Simon Spring, Account Director EMEA, at WhereScape. “IT pros are at the forefront of ensuring the company’s data infrastructure is equipped and ready to rapidly deliver critical business insights.
Chris Hornung, Chief Operating Officer at Totalmobile, agrees: “If any systems were to suffer from downtime, employees would likely struggle to know where to go and what tasks to do, meaning that important appointments or time slots could be missed.
“The IT pros working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep these monitoring systems up and running 24/7 should be appreciated for their efforts, and businesses can often do more to show their thanks.”
Ensuring cyber defences remain robust
The main peak of the pandemic may be behind us, but as organisations look at preparing for further waves of the virus, it’s the IT pros who carry the responsibility for ensuring technology systems are up to the task.
“Businesses in every industry have found a new need for devices such as laptops that are secure enough to be used outside of the traditional office environment,” highlights John Day, Sales Engineering Leader for UK&I and Nordics at Commvault.
“As a result, these businesses have needed to quickly find ways to protect data and maintain regulatory compliance – with information today now being more remote and distributed, it is less secure and comes with an increased risk of privacy and compliance breaches.
“All of this has meant that the IT professionals in these businesses have been tested more than ever before, and these staff behind the systems have been working around the clock to ensure that devices and networks are secure. In the event that increasingly prevalent ransomware attacks do succeed, these are also the professionals ensuring that regular backups are taken, and made available and ready to recover data as quickly as possible.”
“They’ve had to ensure their cyber defences remained robust and capable of dealing with the increased attack vector the overnight BYOD / WFH model has created,” agrees Stephen Roostan, VP EMEA at Kenna Security.
“The volume of alerts they will have had to deal with will have sky-rocketed, that’s for sure. And with limited visibility outside their own remit, many will have had heated debates with their colleagues over where best to focus their time-stretched energies.
“The IT pros that will have coped best will be those that have adopted a collaborative and efficient approach that taps into modern, cloud-native intelligence-based tools. These tools not only prioritise what needs doing first, but they keep teams efficiently focused on reducing the biggest risks to each business through cross-team collaboration and visibility, regardless of location.”
Supporting IT professionals
All organisations, big and small, are now realising they must prioritise both protection and availability – 24/7/365 – regardless of their perceived level of risk.
Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn, Director Technical Marketing at Zerto, warns: “This can put enormous pressure on IT professionals, whose responsibility it is to ensure the business maintains IT resilience in the wake of any disruption. A huge task, but perhaps even bigger now as many of our IT professionals are doing this job remotely while supporting a growing remote workforce.
“The best thing a company can do this year to support IT pros is to invest in tools that can help them enable IT resilience – combatting downtime once and for all. Ultimately, IT pros need tools that are easy and simple to use, multi-purpose, work across all types of infrastructure, and are ready to adapt to the ever evolving innovation needs of an organisation. This is critical to ensuring IT pros can focus on adding value – ensuring IT is running smoothly, rather than spending precious time recovering from downtime that could have been prevented.”
Investing in the skills of tomorrow
“IT pros are constantly at work behind the scenes, upholding the quality and functionality of IT in all organisations and striving to avoid system downtime. For the public sector during a pandemic, this could mean the difference between life and death,” stresses Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds.
“Interestingly, a recent survey of the SolarWinds IT user community found 64% of the respondents felt experiencing the pandemic has given them a new sense of confidence in managing unprecedented change, reinforcing the importance of continually advancing employee skill sets to cope with the unexpected.
“To build on this, organisation leaders should work with IT pros to address the need to upskill. To do so, they can invest in the relevant training and resources, thereby helping them gain confidence to take on current and future tech demands.”
Agata Nowakowska, AVP at Skillsoft, agrees that it is crucial that businesses invest in their IT professionals’ training and development. She explains:
“By its very nature, the IT professional role is complex with the specific requirements for technical fluency varying greatly from one company to another. Therefore, IT pros need to continually upskill to keep up with the constant evolution of technology, either on the job, or by studying for an official IT certification.
“This year we should celebrate IT Pro Day by giving recognition to IT professionals for all their hard work to ensure businesses keep going, and by increasing the ongoing support and training we offer people in this essential role. Providing valuable support to IT pros, means they can continue providing valuable support to their organisation in return.”
Retaining top IT talent
Investing in the development of IT professionals has the additional benefit of retaining valuable tech talent, concludes Richard Cassidy, Senior Director of Security Strategy at Exabeam:
“Year after year, hiring and retaining strong IT professionals continues to be a challenge. According to the latest SOC Report, an undefined career path (64%), high stress (45%) and poor leadership (27%) are among the top reasons why we lose good frontline employees.
“With these statistics and the widening technology talent gap in mind, cybersecurity leaders need to recognise the value in their teams, working harder to retain their talent in the fight against cybercrime. Particularly now, after contending with the giant shift in operations for remote working, and the dramatic increase in the number of cyber attacks, IT pros deserve huge thanks and appreciation for all that they do in keeping modern businesses up and running.”
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com