The global pandemic we find ourselves navigating has created new challenges for the IT world. As we settle in for the long haul, many organizations and IT pros are asking: which changes from COVID-19 are here to stay? CompTIA Chief Technology Evangelist James Stanger shared his thoughts about what we can expect to see in the near future.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
As many offices shut down to encourage social distancing and limit exposure, organizations are realizing the advantages of remote work. In many ways, the advent of COVID-19 and our reactions to it have helped us better understand the true nature of work and the technologies we’re using. It has been a catalyst for us to re-think our approach and recognize a few things that have been staring us in the face for some time.
Many businesses are indefinitely operating on a remote basis or plan to only return with a smaller brick-and-mortar capacity, with staggered work schedules. With this, many organizations have realized that the traditional philosophy of “You’re not working unless you’re at work” has fundamentally changed.
“We’ve seen a lot of organizations go with remote work first and coming into the office as a second option,” Stanger said. “I don’t think we’ll see as many folks going back into physical workspaces after this. That’s something that’s long overdue.” He encourages savvy IT pros to position themselves for long-term support of remote work.
Tech Support to Aim for Quality Over Quantity
The richness of remote support is now an important metric. In the past, tech support often focused on how much support teams were able to quickly accomplish – an efficiency mindset of quantity over quality. As offices remain empty and organizations seek ways to provide a sense of normalcy, they’re looking to tech support to provide quality assistance as a way to maintain that vision.
“We might see a shift to more of a qualitative support model,” Stanger said. “IT workers are the major fabric of a company, more so than ever before, and they’re being leaned on to form some kind of normalcy.”
IT is uniquely suited to interact with all players in a company, so they are being recruited to help keep users connected and engaged. Companies are turning to a customer-service approach, where users can expect more quality interactions from IT support personnel.
6 Recommended IT Skills for a Post-COVID World
While there is no guidebook to lead the way for IT pros, we can anticipate some things that are expected to stay after the COVID-19 waters have cleared.
1. Device Diversity
One realization is that we are no longer living in a singular technological world. The unexpected shift to large-scale remote work has left many tech teams supporting personal devices that require a breadth of knowledge.
IT pros who aren’t supporting a bring-your-own-device workplace should still have a working knowledge of multiple platforms and devices.
2. More Authentication and Identity Management
As more organizations continue down the remote-work path, IT pros are expected to know how to manage identification technologies.
“More and more IT pros are going to be asked to learn [single sign on (SSO)] and authentication tools to help manage identities,” Stanger warned.
Granting access and managing user identity is going to become a top priority as organizations downsize their physical space and scale up the digital user presence.
3. Supporting Collaboration and Online Meeting Tools
If the memes and GIFs have taught us anything, it’s that online meetings are now a staple of the modern workforce. It’s also become apparent that business users aren’t all that great at using them, whether it’s positioning the camera properly or engaging in conversational banter in online meetings.
This illustrates a need to support technology that enables users to meet and collaborate outside of the physical workplace.
“Now that they’re getting over the shock, organizations are going to realize that there are a lot of silos that get generated,” Stanger noted. “We’re going to need tools and platforms that help workers replace the typical water cooler conversation.”
4. Cybersecurity Remains a Constant
Large-scale remote work creates an ideal playing ground for hackers, making cybersecurity all the more important. Cyber-attacks are on the rise and increasingly varied and Stanger urged IT pros to better “understand security controls and different types of attacks.”
5. Lay the Foundation for Growth
To those beginning their IT career, Stanger recommended this: “Make sure you get a good understanding in foundational protocols and technologies.”
IT workers will be expected to support more advanced demands, and Stanger warned that a foundational knowledge is absolutely necessary as a jumping-off point for future technology needs. Training for and earning IT certifications such as CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ can help you learn and validate the skills you’ll use throughout your IT career.
6. Back It Up with a Unique Skill
After you’ve developed a firm foundation, Stanger suggested differentiating yourself with a unique skillset.
“If your task is truly repetitive, they’ll find a way to replace you with technology,” Stanger warned. Keep your skills fresh and hone the ones that can’t be automated.
Get It While It’s Hot: Key Technologies with Post-COVID Potential
As we transition to a new way of working, some technologies that are expected to play a primary role in tackling future business problems:
Artificial Intelligence: CompTIA research shows that AI is now, for the first time, the most often-requested business tool. AI holds significant business potential, and Stanger believes we will see artificial intelligence play a more prominent role as we move forward. IT workers will increasingly use AI to support conversations with customers, make recommendations, and help with anomaly and fraud detection.
“There are a ton of artificial intelligence services available right now on whatever cloud platform you want to use,” he said. “Get curious about what those are and gain a basic understanding of these types of offerings.”
- 5G: “5G allows devices to scale down significantly with increased power,” Stanger said. “We need workers who can understand that technology because it will enable future tech, such as autonomous robots and self-driving cars.”
- Automation: Automation is another tech area that is expected to grow. If a task is repetitive, it can be automated, and organizations will look to leverage that where possible. Stanger encouraged IT pros to “gain a good understanding of automation and where you sit in that.” Develop skills that supplement those redundant tasks, including an understanding of container applications such as Docker and orchestration services such as Kubernetes.
- Cloud Computing: It’s become apparent that cloud technologies have helped businesses be more flexible. But we’re now in a hybrid world.
“You’re going to have to be able to support data going in and out of the cloud,” Stanger said. “Cloud services will allow organizations to be more nimble and address future needs. And, we’ll need to support traditional and newer technology stacks.”
Whatever may come after the COVID dust settles, IT pros will be needed to help pave the way into the future.
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