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U.S. Middleprise business concerns for New Year 2021

January 4, 2021 | Happy New Year! Many people will be glad to see the back of 2020.  For most businesses, 2020 presented significant challenges, least of which was the impact of COVID-19 and the resulting recession.  2021 will start with many of the same restrictions that ended 2020 still in place, which will obviously continue to impact how businesses actually do business and perform.

At the end of 2020, iGR conducted a survey of middleprise CIOs, CTOs and IT executives.  The survey was conducted online with U.S. companies that have 500 to 2,000 employees across a range of vertical industries.  The survey questions covered a variety of areas including plans for 5G adoption and deployment, edge computing, CBRS, private networks, and latency and bandwidth requirements.  The results of these questions will be presented in a series of reports in the next few months.

The survey started by asking what major business challenges the company was facing in the last month of 2020 and into 2021. (Respondents could select multiple responses.)

No surprise that the 'impact of COVID-19 on overall business operations' was the top choice, with 68 percent of respondents selecting this choice.  This was followed by 48 percent selecting the ‘impact of COVID-19 on overall financial performance.’ Remember that the survey respondents were IT executives; a survey of CFOs may have reversed these answers!

The next biggest business issue (37 percent) was hiring qualified employees, followed by ‘maintaining or growing revenues’ (35 percent).  The only other issue to break the 20 percent mark was ‘containing or reducing business expenses’ at 25 percent.

The next question asked about specific challenges faced by the IT department in the last month of 2020 and into 2021.  Two items stood out at the top of the list: ‘managing changes to IT infrastructure to enable re-opening of our facilities’ with 59 percent of respondents and ‘managing connectivity and applications for remote/work-at-home employees’ with 55 percent.  The next highest scored response was ‘upgrading or modifying connectivity and applications to enable a more flexible workforce for the future’ with 40 percent.

Obviously all three of these issues are related to the pandemic, but it is interesting that third on the list with two fifths of responses is managing a more flexible workforce in the future. This clearly indicates that these middleprise executives do not expect business to return to ’normal’ any time soon and that employee connectivity flexibility will be required long after the offices open.

The next response (37.5 percent) was also interesting: ‘deploying upgrades to customer management systems - CRM, customer contact, customer care, etc.’  This is likely linked to the need for employees to be flexible and to be able to access customer data, etc., no matter where they are located or how they are connected.  A similar response was given for accessing sales management systems (22.5 percent) and distribution and supply chain systems (20 percent).

Wireless networks and connectivity options obviously have a role to play in enabling the IT departments to address these issues.  The disruption seen to employees’ work locations will continue into 2021, meaning that mobile operators, telcos, hyperscalers, data center operators, fiber providers, and solution vendors will likely see continued demand.

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