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IT leaders put growth over security, survey finds

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Despite the rapid shift to the distributed workforce, just 34% of IT leaders said supporting hybrid work is their top priority over the next 12 months. Instead, they’re focused on growth initiatives, according to a survey Snow Software released today.

The results reveal that enabling competitive differentiation is the top priority for 57% of IT leaders. This is followed by reducing or optimizing IT costs (55%), managing digital transformation initiatives (54%), and accelerating cloud adoption and migration (48%).

When it comes to bolstering cybersecurity management and posture, only 40% of respondents named such initiatives as the top item on their agendas. While it’s not that far behind enabling competitive differentiation, its comparative prioritization speaks to enterprises’ intense focus on the competition. And yet 2020 saw more data breaches than the last 15 years combined. The pandemic and rapid shift to remote work were major factors, but many businesses’ long histories of failing to make security a top priority contributed to the perfect storm. And the state of attacks is only projected to get worse.

In addition to IT team’s priorities, the research also digs into their budgets and challenges with regards to hybrid work. The survey is based on responses from more than 400 IT leaders from organizations with over 500 employees.

Budget impacts

Organizations are in various stages of adopting hybrid work. The research indicates 35% have already shifted to a hybrid arrangement, while 57% are planning to make the shift. And the new model is having an impact on budgets. Most respondents (84%) are expecting a budget increase to support new ways of working.

The majority of respondents (37%) want to see the funds go toward hiring additional IT staff, while others support greater investments in SaaS applications (18%), cloud infrastructure (17%), and cybersecurity tools and training (10%). Overall, just 2% of IT leaders say they’re facing budget cuts.

Challenges of hybrid work

According to the report, hybrid employees are expected to become a bigger burden on IT staff. The new work model, they say, will change employees’ technology needs and increase their use of IT resources. That’s according to 34% of those surveyed and at least partially explains the desire to allocate budgets to growing IT teams.

Another concern is shadow IT, which refers to department-led technology purchases that can disrupt systems and workflows. And while 16% of IT leaders surveyed believe hybrid work will increase the issue and cited it as their biggest challenge, they’re not alone. CIOs and other C-level executives, in particular, are also concerned about shadow IT, with 26% citing it as the biggest hurdle posed by hybrid work. Other top challenges reported include controlling and optimizing IT costs (18%) and managing cybersecurity threats (13%).

Despite these challenges, IT leaders seem to largely support the trend of organizations moving to remote work. Most (57%) said they’re excited, and 44% indicated they believe it’s a move in the right direction.

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