Last year’s overnight shift to remote work drove rapid changes in security and IT priorities — ushering in more IT complexity than ever before.
In fact, according to data from our latest report, 72% of organizations reported increased complexity within their IT environment over the past two years.
“Things have gotten more complex for most organizations — and I don't think that's much of a surprise to anyone,” our CMO Nathan Burke said. “Everything that we do has changed.”
So, what’s driving this ever-growing IT complexity?
Axonius partnered with Enterprise Strategy Group to find out. For the second year in a row, we surveyed more than 500 IT and security professionals across the globe to get a better understanding of how the pandemic-induced shift to remote work drove IT complexity and reshaped security priorities for the future.
Respondents cited the move to remote work as the No. 1 driver of increased complexity, followed by data privacy and security regulations, increased device diversity, and increased adoption of public cloud services.
1. Increased Number of Remote Workers
The number of remote workers have more than doubled since the pandemic. In fact, respondents said 58% of their workforce are currently remote, compared to only 23% prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
And that number isn’t expected to snap back to pre-pandemic levels any time soon: respondents expect 40% of their workforce to continue to work remotely post-pandemic.
“Not surprisingly, respondents cited this increase in remote workers as the biggest driver of increased IT complexity,” Nathan said. “Fifty-five percent of organizations reported the pandemic-induced shift to remote work drove complexity, compared to only 27% last year.”
While companies shifted to remote work to ensure business continuity, IT dropped everything to enable their remote workforces. This included implementing new processes, tools, and technologies to ensure employees have secure access to the apps, systems, and data they needed from any device.
With so many employees working outside the normal perimeter, managing device sprawl, updating, patching, and securing myriad endpoints are also adding to the remote work-induced IT complexity.
2. Privacy and Security Regulations
In fact, 51% of respondents cited change to technology infrastructure necessitated by privacy regulations as a key driver for IT complexity, compared to 41% last year.
As more GDPR and CCPA-like data protection regulations come into being, the pressure on businesses to comply will only add to the complexity of their technology environment, especially their cloud initiatives. Regulations will also require organizations to do additional scrutiny when selecting cloud vendors.
“If you have an increase in the number of remote workers and you're in a regulated environment, that means you're going to need new applications to secure remote workers and to let them do their jobs,” Nathan said. “And adoption of public cloud infrastructure is a key part of that shift.”
3. Increase in Device Diversity and Complexity
The rapid move to remote work resulted in significant changes in BYOD policies for many organizations.
Pre-pandemic, almost half of organizations surveyed (49%) prohibited the use of personal devices for corporate activities. Post-pandemic, this number fell to 29%, adding new management and security woes for IT and security teams.
While relaxed BYOD practices allow for greater flexibility to remote work, it also poses unique challenges for IT and security teams — especially when it comes to securing corporate data.
Increase in device diversity has also led IT and security teams to put more focus on identity and access management solutions, with 65% reporting IAM is more challenging as a result of supporting remote workers.
“You've got to let workers do their jobs no matter where they are,” Nathan said. “But that results in a big shift between having IT be responsible for the applications per organizational unit to now locking down permissions based on users.”
“IT teams need to know exactly who needs access to what and have to make sure that multifactor authentication is enabled. Plus, there's onboarding and offboarding,” he added.
4. Increased Use of Public Cloud Infrastructure
The pandemic required organizations to secure and support their remote workforce and ensure business continuity. Increased investment in cloud services helped them get the job done.
In fact, 87% of respondents say the pandemic has accelerated public cloud adoption.
“It seems like everyone now is just by definition, in a multicloud environment,” Nathan said. “Part of that is because of work-from-home and having to support this remote workforce.”
But this acceleration of cloud adoption has also added to IT complexity: 48% of respondents cited increased use of public cloud infrastructure as a key driver of IT complexity — up from 42% last year.
With cloud applications and services allowing organizations to support a remote workforce, managing and securing these applications have become more important than ever. However, ensuring cloud visibility, managing multiple clouds, and protecting against cloud security threats still remain top cloud computing challenges.