IT professionals face an imperative mandate: Find ways to cut, align, reallocate, and manage network and telecom costs to help the organization thrive during one of the most economically challenging times in modern history.
Such efforts will boost the business’s day-to-day functionality as it supports newly remote staff; they also will generate tangible, positive financial results that underscore the IT department’s value, from money saved to another employee saved (every $100,000-$200,000 in eliminated waste translates into another role, a critical contribution as the number of jobless claims in the United States recently passed the 40 million mark).
Remote work will remain the new normal for the foreseeable future and IT must proceed with that expectation. Even so, Amalgam Insights predicts networking and telecom spend to remain flat in 2020, contrary to pre-COVID-19 expectations of a 3-4% increase. Yet of that spend, 5-10% likely is a candidate for immediate reallocation. Tackling this challenge, as well as the rest of the recommendations in this blog, will showcase IT as the business steward it is.
To achieve those outcomes, though, IT must undergo some intensive assessments and processes. Amalgam Insights provides that guidance in this blog, in its ongoing webinar series and at its upcoming virtual TEM Expo.
Tips for Making the Most of Networking and Telecom in the Time of Corona
Amalgam has identified six stages inherent to making IT as efficient as possible in the time of COVID-19. For the purposes of better understanding how to optimize networking and telecom amid the pandemic, Stages 1-3 will prove most valuable.
Stage 1: Survivor: Shadow IT Edition
Enterprises around the world now accommodate, if not require, remote work to a heretofore unprecedented degree. The risks of working in enclosed spaces with multiple people now outweighs the risks of letting employees work with more autonomy. This has changed the game for IT. Experts now are working with four new realities:
- Consumer-grade equipment and security now are normal;
- Wired and wireless connections are interchangeable;
- New apps are increasingly important to supporting remote work; and
- Corporate bandwidth investments may be lying fallow.
Let’s break down each of these areas, which IT needs to address and account for right away if it hasn’t already.
The New Normal of Consumer-Grade Equipment and Security: Much of the work IT did in the months and years prior to the coronavirus’s arrival has become, in many ways, moot. High-performing, well-governed, secure networks no longer apply as employees connect to the organization over home broadband, often with their own devices. IT still must ensure data stays safe and confined within the organization.
Connectivity Interchangeability: IT faces the challenge of discovering if a work-from-home employee is using cable, DSL, fiber, 4G, LTE, Wi-Fi, and so on. Without this information, there is no insight into that connection’s origination or security. Nonetheless, IT has to put measures in place to protect the networks and the enterprise’s information to the greatest extent possible.
New Apps: By using conferencing and other voice- and video-heavy apps, employees may be putting more traffic on their bandwidth channels than they can reasonably withstand. That results in garbled, delayed signals and other constraints on the connection itself. IT may need to adjust traffic prioritization on its end, and educate staff about reconfiguring settings and/or using other, or additional, means of communication to relieve congestion.
Evaluating Corporate Bandwidth. With so many workers no longer in the office, IT must perform some cleanup. After all, why pay for unused resources? Operate from the assumption that you need to reconfigure the enterprise’s network strategy. To do that, follow these steps, knowing that the answers to each section will pave the way for action in Stages 2 and 3:
- Understand employees’ primary method of connecting to the enterprise. Pinpoint how staff use bandwidth; the results will play into the next step.
- Modify network access management to make sure bandwidth is going to the right places. This is most easily accomplished with modern technologies such as SD-WAN.
- Determine what security – type and level – is needed. The goal is to deter hackers and ensure staff are using bandwidth for work purposes.
- Learn the latest on employee technology-reimbursement laws. The enterprise very likely will need to compensate remote workers for bringing their own broadband, laptops and/or mobile phones to the job.
- Find out which apps are in place. This will take longer and require more footwork in a remote world with everyone dispersed.
- Learn what the organization is competing against. For example, employees’ children are using the home network for school, video games, Netflix, etc. Spouses and partners, too, consuming bandwidth for their work. Having an accurate picture of what your IT department faces will be vital in right-sizing network elements and gauging whether to buy more equipment and/or bandwidth.
Stage 2: Secure Your Business
In the second stage of controlling networks and telecom in the time of corona, shoring up security is essential. Once again, employees’ consumer-grade equipment could pose a significant risk if overlooked. IT must be able to view and prioritize traffic. Remember, too, that other people in the employee’s home, depending on the devices they use and the content they access, could breach your IT protocols if they rely on the same network. Finally, consider how or whether corporate assets may be in peril because of the remote nature of work. This could range from physical danger, wherein a laptop containing private information is lost or stolen, to virtual, such as a staff connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi.
Stage 3: Audit Your Environment
The outcomes revealed from following the recommendations in this section will be indispensable to bringing together Stages 1 and 2, and to solidifying a waste-eliminating approach to networking and telecom for months and years to come.
Above all, begin by benchmarking March, April, and May 2020 spend. These three months represented the critical turning point when remote work habits were established. IT likely will discover a number of new accounts, expenses, and services for which the organization is now paying. Much of that will have happened through shadow IT – employees procuring assets and services outside of formal processes. Work hand in hand (not literally, of course!) with the corporate expense team to identify all IT spend. Let me make this clear.
To Effectively Cut IT Costs in 2020, You Must Identify ALL IT Spend That Emerged During Quarantine.
That advice holds for uncovering all vendors, too; in fact, the results here will highlight redundancies that can be corrected, as well as opportunities to bid for better pricing and contracts.
Knowing what the organization spent in March and April will give the IT team a deep understanding of the networking, applications, and equipment capabilities it needs to provide to remote workers for the rest of the year, and maybe longer. It also will serve as the starting point for eliminating waste as IT reins in shadow IT, reallocates resources (say, away from the once-crowded headquarters office to various, spread-out employee locations), and consolidates vendors.
Failing to benchmark March-May spend now will put your IT planning behind for the remainder of 2020 and probably beyond.
Once IT completes Stages 1-3, it then can move on to more of a strategic enabler role. Reaching that point, however, will only come after pouring some blood, sweat, and tears into the areas discussed here. Celebration and employee education will be hard-earned, but they come later, after IT has built a stable, secure, remote-friendly, and well-managed networking and telecom environment.
For in-depth guidance into COVID IT Strategy, schedule a consultation with us.
To get more guidance on cutting IT costs, join us July 14th for our Technology Expense Management Expo: free for all IT, Finance, and Procurement professionals and with some great gifts and charity opportunities to boot.
And to learn more right now, check out our webinar on this topic.