Challenges facing technology and businesses today
In 2021, critical IT infrastructure and digital strategy advancements present both challenges and opportunities for businesses, including technology adoption, AI, agile IT, skills gap, outsourcing, cybersecurity, data protection, and social media strategy.
In 2021, an organisation’s IT infrastructure and digital strategy are more critical than ever. Technology has provided countless benefits to companies around the world, and it continues to revolutionise the way we work today. To maximise these benefits, it is essential for businesses to pay attention to the challenges technology presents as well as the exciting opportunities it provides. These challenges include those associated with the adoption of new technology into a company, AI in the workplace, Agile IT infrastructure, outsourcing, data protection, cybersecurity and social media.
Adopting new technology
In the shift towards remote working, the adoption of new technology among organisations to facilitate remote collaboration has soared. While many of these digital tools have provided important benefits, the onboarding and implementation processes associated with them have offered many challenges. It is essential for organisations to research the exact uses of new tools to evaluate their suitability instead of just being drawn in by the ‘new’-ness of these devices.
Further, it should be ensured that new technology is compatible with the organisation’s existing network of technology. This will help to limit potential disruption and ensure smooth integration. It is crucial for employees to understand the benefits of the new technology so that they are encouraged to use it. They will also require training to use new devices to their maximum capacity, which could be costly.
Finally, organisations need to understand how to take advantage of the data and progress monitoring functions of new technologies. While this can be a lengthy process, it ultimately provides valuable insights into the workings of a company.
AI in the workplace
The rise of digital transformation and automation has triggered a similar growth of AI devices in the workplace. This is because of the wide range of benefits AI delivers to organisations, which include improving productivity, efficiency and accuracy of organisational processes.
There are, however, challenges to implementing these types of technology. Legal and ethical issues surrounding where accountability should lie if something goes wrong remain unclear. Further, 55% of respondents to a survey conducted by the analytics company ‘SAS’ reported that their biggest concern with AI is the changing landscape of human jobs in response to the functions and capabilities delivered by AI, 41% of respondents believed that AI should have to perform for ‘the good of humanity’ instead of in the interests of a company. Uncertainty and unease among the workforce, therefore, need to be addressed before the successful implementation of AI devices in the workplace can take place.
Agile IT infrastructure
As digital transformation soars, organisations are searching for new ways to adopt more agile IT infrastructure that adapts to change quickly and seamlessly and will minimise any potential disruption caused by those changes. In the midst of uncertainty over which direction digital transformation will take, agility is crucial. It supports organisations to navigate the unpredictable and sometimes chaotic digital journey they will take. It does this by speeding up deployment, delivering the end product to the end-user stage by stage instead of waiting for a sign-off at the very last stages of a project.
These fast deployments deliver teams with constant feedback, allowing them to improve their product as they go. In doing this, teams can avoid situations where feedback is provided only when a project is finished. If any changes are therefore needed, the team has to start from scratch again.
The skills gap
CompTIA reports that 93% of employers have identified an overall skills gap among their IT employees. IT skills include programming, managing general operations and system knowledge, among other specialities. A 13% rise in jobs in IT was documented in the period between 2002 and 2013, but those graduating with IT degrees dropped by 11%. While entry-level positions can usually be filled, rapid growth in fields like Artificial Intelligence has led to a surge in demand for specialised roles. Unfortunately, there are not enough qualified candidates to take them. This is becoming an increasingly pressing concern in the context of remote working, and more organisations are developing digital transformation initiatives.
To cope with the ever-changing technology landscape, businesses are facing two options: hiring highly skilled IT professionals or outsourcing IT services. Hiring IT professionals is difficult firstly due to the skills gap already discussed and the high salaries required by many of these professionals. This simply is not a practical solution for many small and medium companies that cannot attract or retain the level of expertise needed to manage necessary IT projects. Further, workflow among in-house IT professionals will likely rise and fall drastically.
Outsourcing IT projects allows companies to pay only for the jobs they need completed, as well as access the level of skill they require. It also shifts the responsibility of ensuring systems are compliant and certified to outsourced teams instead of the business itself. Outsourcing saves companies money as they don’t have to pay for training or employee benefits, and they don’t have to enter into a long-term contract. Overall, companies receive a higher quality of service than they would otherwise have been able to afford with an in-house team.
Cybersecurity threats are one of the most pressing challenges facing technology and businesses today. The rise of remote working has led to many employees working on non-company devices that are not necessarily compliant with corporate policy and may not have the most appropriate cybersecurity programs installed. They are, therefore, more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The rise of remote devices gaining access to company networks has also led to a rise in the use of virtual private networks (VPNs). The limitations inherent in VPN networks have become a vulnerable point for cyberattacks that create disruptions and steal data.
Another driver of cybersecurity threats is problems associated with cloud-based services. Many companies relying on remote working have turned to these services to take advantage of the scalability and flexibility they provide. While these are significant benefits, the security of cloud-based services operates in different ways to on-premise services, and many companies have not grasped these differences yet. This creates cybersecurity vulnerability; Gartner estimates that 99% of cloud security incidents from 2021 to 2025 result from the fault of employees themselves.
To prepare for and mitigate the harmful effects of cybersecurity threats, it is essential that a culture of cyber security is enforced. Technological systems should be regularly tested to ensure their cybersecurity is up-to-date and fully operational. Staff should be trained in cybersecurity processes, risk assessments should be conducted, and worst-case scenarios should be planned for.
Protecting employee and customer data is important firstly because it is required by law. The Data Protection Act obligates organisations of all kinds to follow a set of rules to keep sensitive data safe and secure. This includes only using data for stated and intended purposes, only sharing data with authorised parties and destroying data after it has been used.
Data protection is also essential for building brand loyalty. An Edelman study revealed that 81% of consumers feel that they need to trust a brand before using their services. This is particularly important in the age of online and contactless transactions. Handling customer data safely and securely is therefore crucial for securing consumer trust and growing a business.
59% of the global population use the internet, many of whom also use social media. Social media platforms are, therefore, crucial for businesses of all kinds. They help organisations to connect with customers and boost brand awareness, drive revenue and increase sales. The important implications of social media are that organisations need to pay careful attention to the way they handle their presence and influence on these platforms. Firstly, a detailed and accurate social media strategy is critical for structuring a team’s efforts. This includes a summary of everything an organisation plans to achieve using social media platforms. ROIs also need to be continually tracked. This measures the impact of social media marketing on the money, time and resources of a business. Using employees as brand ambassadors is another effective social media move among businesses, as an Edelman survey found that 41% of respondents agreed that employees are the most reliable supplier of business information.
A challenging but significant balance that all businesses should strive to strike is using social media to boost sales but remain humanistic. 60% of social media users report that they find social media brand promotions annoying and off-putting. Creating narratives around core brand values and engaging in current issues helps to humanise brands, builds a personal relationship with customers and boosts brand loyalty.
In conclusion, the rise of technology, digital transformation and remote working has led to several significant changes in the way organisations are run and the factors they need to take into account. These adaptations have both benefitted and challenged businesses in several essential ways. While the constant development of technology has so far delivered companies with a range of exciting opportunities, the onboarding and implementation processes of new devices have often proved difficult.
These practices are further complicated by the skills gap among employees, which can act as an obstacle to effectively running and troubleshooting new technologies.
To overcome these problems, outsourcing and taking the time to select the proper devices to suit the specific needs of the business is essential. Implementing agile methodology is another effective way of dealing with the rapid and sometimes unpredictable journey of digital innovation. It builds resilience among organisations and allows them to seamlessly adapt to new changes instead of encountering disruptions. Other hurdles include the adoption of AI into the workplace, which presents several legal and ethical challenges for companies to navigate. Social media is another important field of work. It gives organisations the opportunity to build national and international brand awareness. Social media strategy, however, needs to be handled expertly to ensure this awareness ultimately leads to increased sales and company growth. Lastly, cybersecurity and data protection are currently two of the most pressing concerns for businesses. If they are not handled in the right way, they have the potential to trigger the collapse of a company.
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