So much can change in the workplace in just a few months.
In late 2019, I was in a prolonged struggle with the higher ups at a former workplace for permission to work remotely two days a week. In spring 2020, much of the global workforce rapidly shifted to a remote model of work. That change required a Herculean effort by IT service and support to pull off, and many IT divisions were pushed past the breaking point to keep the economy afloat.
Since that time, some large corporations have tried to call back their workers to the office, with middling results. Some have succeeded, while others have faced outright rebellion from their workforces. Currently, the status quo is yet another new workplace model - a hybrid one. Now, IT service and support professionals are being asked to provide access and security both within the office and within the many decentralized workplaces around the world.
In the light of such rapid changes, many IT service and support teams are giving themselves a well deserved pat on the back for pulling off what was once thought, until recently, impossible. They deserve to take a deep breath and collect themselves, but only for a moment. That’s because the COVID-19 pandemic might one day be looked back on as a dress rehearsal for the future. It is essential for IT service and support organizations to bake resilience strategies into the very crust of their business model, as rapid change may be here to stay.
The problem of the future may be another pandemic, in which case the recent lessons learned can be employed to tackle such a challenge. Or it may be wartime disruption - the war in Ukraine has already disrupted IT teams there, and the crackdown on dissent in Russia has sent many IT service professionals in that country fleeing abroad.
Another challenge which is already upon us and will still be with us for an indefinite period of time is climate change. While the politics of climate change is still unsettled, the science of climate change really is not. There is a growing body of evidence that weather patterns are changing and creating the possibilities of more intense weather events, as well as risks of wildfires and flooding. Already, this is causing changes in human behavior on a grand scale, as some people are retreating from coastlines or drought-stricken areas. Here in the U.S., coastal communities are building resilience strategies into longterm planning. Miami has long been considered a city that is very likely to be affected by rising sea levels, and yet is also now considered a hotbed of new economic activity. Those planners are simultaneously juggling the concern that much of their city may someday soon be underwater and the need to spur economic activity to have the capital to confront such challenges.
The most successful IT service and support teams would be wise to adopt the Miami model, which both confronts what was once the unthinkable and decides what can be done about it. All must be done to build redundancy within networks and to incorporate disaster training within IT models going forward. That way, teams can be ready for whatever new challenge looms - be it disruption from weather events, war, or even new tech breakthroughs.
Luckily, IT teams have already learned how to do just that during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such lessons should not be mothballed, but adapted to the next challenge.
Craig Idlebrook is an editor for HDI and ICMI.