In response to the pandemic, IT leaders in EMEA are now investing more in cloud-based and AI-powered networking technologies as business recovery plans take shape, according to research from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.
The findings in a new global report ‘ Preparing for the post-pandemic workplace’ suggested that IT leaders are responding to the challenges associated with enabling a highly distributed workforce and the emergence of the hybrid workplace – with people needing to move seamlessly between working on campus, at home and on the road – and as such are looking to evolve their network infrastructure and shift away from CapEx investments towards solutions consumed ‘as a service’.
The average proportion of IT services consumed via subscription in the UAE will accelerate by 49% in the next two years, from 39% of the total today to 58% in 2022, and the share of organizations that consume a majority (over 50%) of their IT solutions ‘as a service’ will increase by approximately 56% in that time.
“The emergence of the hybrid workplace is pushing IT leaders to deliver a delicate balance between flexibility, security and affordability at the edge,” said Jacob Chacko, Regional Business Head – Middle East, Saudi & South Africa (MESA) at HPE Aruba. “The workplace as we knew it has significantly changed and to support new norms such as social distancing and contactless experiences, office locations need to have the right technology in place to offer enterprise-level connectivity, security and support. All this must be done in an increasingly challenging financial environment which is spurring the trend for IT decision-makers to opt for the reduced risk and cost advantages offered by a subscription model.”
The report, which surveyed 2400 ITDMs in over 20 countries including the UAE and eight key industries, looked at how they have responded to IT and business demands in the wake of COVID-19, what investment decisions are being made as a result, and the consumption models now being considered. A number of key findings stood out:
IMPACT OF COVID-19 HAS SIGNIFICANT IMPLICATIONS
ITDMs report that the impact of COVID-19 has been significant both on their employees and short-term network investments:
- In the UAE, 25% describing the impact on their employees as ‘significant’ (widespread furlough or layoffs), while 43% considered it ‘moderate’ (temporary reductions in some functions), and 23% ‘low’ (very few jobs impacted).
- In EMEA, Russia (27%), UAE (25%), Sweden and France (both 24%) ranked highest in terms of ‘significant’ impact with Spain (13%) and The Netherlands (15%) significantly lower.
- 86% of organizations in the UAE said that investments in networking projects had been postponed or delayed since the onset of COVID-19, and 31% indicated that projects had been cancelled altogether.
- Project cancellations were highest in Sweden (59%) and lowest in Italy (11%), project showing there are also significant disparities between countries within the same region, while 37% of ITDMs in education and 35% in hotels and hospitality globally said they have had to cancel network investments.
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK: INVESTING FOR EMERGING NEEDS
By contrast, future plans are aggressive, with the vast majority of ITDMs planning to maintain or increase their networking investments in light of COVID-19, as they work to support the new needs of employees and customers.
- 38% of ITDM’s globally plan to increase their investment in cloud-based networking, with 45% maintaining the same level and 15% scaling back. The APAC region was the global leader with 45% stating increased investment in cloud-based networking compared to 32% in EMEA, and 38% in UAE and rising to 59% among ITDMs in India. With cloud solutions allowing for remote network management at large scale, these capabilities are particularly enticing for IT teams when being on-premises is not possible or challenging.
- ITDMs are also seeking improved tools for network monitoring and insight, with 34% globally planning to increase their investment in analytics and assurance, 48% indicating that they will maintain their level of investment and 15% reducing it. This allows IT organizations to troubleshoot and fine-tune the network more efficiently, as demands on it are augmented by a distributed workforce.
- There is also an emphasis on innovative technologies that simplify the lives of IT teams by automating repetitive tasks. We found 35% of ITDMs globally are planning to increase their investment in AI-based networking technologies, with the APAC region leading the charge at 44% and EMEA and the Americas both on 30%.
ADOPTION OF NEW CONSUMPTION MODELS IS ACCELERATING
As ITDMs shape their investment plans, they are looking at alternative modes of consumption to achieve the best balance of value and flexibility.
- 62% in UAE say they will explore new subscription models for hardware and/or software, 58% managed services for turnkey hardware/software and 41% financial leasing – all as a result of the impact of COVID-19. This reflects the increased need for more financially flexible models in a challenging environment.
- Networking subscription models are more popular in APAC (61%) than in the Americas (52%) or EMEA (50%), and at a country level the highest demands are in Turkey (73%), India (70%) and China (65%).
- The global industries most likely to be considering the subscription model are hotels/hospitality (66%), IT, technology, and telecom (58%) and education (57%). The impact of COVID-19 on IT behavior has made the desire for flexibility and predictability in spending, while reducing risk from initial capital costs, greater than before.
- In stark contrast, just 8% globally plan to continue with only CapEx investments, though the proportion is higher in the Netherlands (20%), US (17%), Spain (16%) and France (15%). Across industries, 15% in retail, distribution and transport will continue to focus solely on CapEx investments, versus just 5% in education and IT, tech, and telecoms, and 2% in hotels and hospitality.
“Customers and employee needs have changed so comprehensively in recent months, it’s no surprise to see IT leaders seeking more flexible solutions,” says Chacko. “The need for agility and flexibility in network management is greater than ever and it is now mission critical to ensure that businesses reduce complexity in the network to ensure the secure and seamless experience that users demand.”
“The pandemic has caused many organisations to rethink their IT infrastructure investment to build business models that are agile, adaptable and fit for purpose. While there may have been an initial negative impact on ongoing projects, it is encouraging to see that there are firm medium term plans in place to invest in advancing network technologies enabled by more flexible models of consumption that limit up-front capital demands,” he said.