2020 was, in many ways, a punishing stress test. It pushed businesses, workers, economies, and entire industries to their limits. The cascading effects of transforming into a digital-first world ultimately stress-tested IT infrastructures—and piled on the strapped IT teams who run them. 

And they delivered. When asked for agility, availability, and remote support, many IT teams navigated the limits of overly complex legacy IT to keep us online, keep us connected, and keep operations rolling. That degree of chaos and complexity isn’t sustainable. It ends up in burnout and bottlenecks, and right now we can’t afford either. 

With digital business on everyone’s mind for 2021, what can we do to give these teams the support they deserve? 

In a word: simplicity.

When Chaos Multiplies Complexity

Even before the pandemic, organizations faced major challenges with their existing IT solutions. The chaos of the pandemic only multiplied these complexities. 

You likely know these well:

  • Infrastructure complexity—with incompatible resources, siloed data, and lack of visibility that leads to waste and overspend
  • Data inaccessibility—a leading complaint that drains data of its potential across an organization
  • Legacy management—where entire roles have been dedicated to administrative and technical tasks that should be simple, automated, or eliminated altogether
  • Performance issues—leading to situations where lags and outages that have serious consequences such as poor customer experience and missed SLAs 

Zeroing in on data storage, in particular, you can see how complexity and limited access to data create real barriers to innovation. Digital transformation is topping everyone’s lists for 2021. Traditional data storage is one bottleneck that organizations can’t afford if they want to stay ahead.

Where Companies See Room to Improve

We interviewed 300+ IT decision-makers at companies with more than 100 employees, ranging from small to enterprise. In their responses, they discussed 2020’s low points, the strategies they took to navigate those challenges, and how their priorities are evolving in 2021. Many reflected on the role that simplicity plays in their success and failures. 

Organizations know that IT agility isn’t just a “nice to have” anymore. It’s a non-negotiable for digital business and competitive edge. Yet despite this, many IT departments are still living with IT complexity. The study revealed that roughly two in three respondents describe their data and storage IT operations as “average.” Those that described their operations as “complex” increased with company size.

So what does “simple” storage look like to IT practitioners? 

  • Smaller organizations are most likely to think of “simple” data storage and IT operations as “quick to install”—which makes sense for lean teams who need systems up and running fast. 
  • Medium-sized organizations described simple as “easy to plan and upgrade.”
  • Enterprise organizations described simple storage as “easy to monitor and get predictive support.” The more data you’re wrangling, the more difficult that gets. 

All told, respondents felt simple storage should include the following.


A Major (but Less Obvious) Digital Transformation Hurdle

What do companies say is holding them back from IT upgrades that could lead to innovation and transformation? When asked what obstacles were preventing them from effectively executing digital transformation, 48% of respondents cited the ability to train staff on new technology, followed by limited budget and resources. It’s another cry for simplicity from the ranks of those who need it most. But eliminating that barrier won’t just benefit stressed-out IT teams. It can benefit the entire organization.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a majority of respondents are already using or are eyeing one trend that can seamlessly address all of the above: infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). 

Storage as a service (STaaS) is one IaaS model that’s offering more simplicity. Those that have embraced STaaS are seeing immediate relief for stressed-out teams. A survey by Harvard Business Review reveals that 79% of STaaS users say subscription models make it easier for employees to do their jobs—compared with 55% of traditional storage users. Seventy-five percent cite benefits such as the freedom to focus on higher-value work, which doesn’t just reduce stress—it can also boost happiness and morale

Is as a Service the Answer?

An overwhelming majority of respondents—74% across the board—said new investments for 2021 would be in IT infrastructure and software to support programs and initiatives. But how they plan to make these investments may be most telling.

Forty-one percent said they plan to transition to buying IT equipment via utility consumption models in 2021. Meanwhile, 40% said they expect to reduce their reliance on on-premises infrastructure by moving to service-provider or cloud solutions. This is a big shift in strategy that will directly benefit stressed-out IT teams responsible for product selection and maintaining on-premises equipment. It’s scaling capabilities without scaling work for teams who have enough on their plates.

It also may help address those old challenges with maintenance extortion, performance issues, forecasting, and legacy management. And, “plugging into” as-a-service solutions can help avoid headaches with training, deployment, and ramp-up periods. Many also offer the key features organizations are looking for, including security (36%), mobility (22%), and flexibility (18%).

In the same vein, 57% of respondents said their biggest IT strategy change for 2021 is purchasing software as a service (SaaS) over buying licensed software. This may be music to your IT team’s ears—but your business and bottom line will benefit, too. As-a-service models allow you to get the most modern offerings available without expensive, inconvenient hardware upgrades. Couple this with business-driven SLAs and top-notch customer experience, and it’s looking like modern infrastructures are those IT will love, not just “live with.”

2020 shined a light on bottlenecks that have overstressed IT teams for decades and put businesses at risk. Now is the time to replace those bottlenecks with breakthroughs—and have happier, more productive IT teams. Success will hinge on the IT solutions that can address every legacy challenge and complexity with built-in simplicity. And after the last year, IT shouldn’t have to settle for less.