Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Tech Budgets 2021: A CXO's Guide

CIO Jury: 83% of tech leaders changed IT priorities this year due to the pandemic

COVID-19 and the need for employees to work remotely led to many organizations changing their IT budget priorities and plans this year.

Crisis management: 6 leadership lesssons from the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has changed how companies operate and how employees work. When COVID-19 began its march across the globe and major organizations were forced to shut their doors to protect the health of their staff, IT departments were scrambling to find ways to help employees work remotely.

Special Feature

Special Report: Tech Budgets 2021: A CXO's Guide (free PDF)

COVID-19 has accelerated trends like remote work and digital transformation, and forced IT leaders to adapt their budgets accordingly. Our Tech Budgets 2021 special feature examines how business leaders are spending their tech dollars.

Read More

When asked, "Have your IT priorities changed as a result of COVID-19?" 10 out of 12 tech leaders said 'yes', while just two said 'no'. That means a whopping 83% of tech leaders in TechRepublic's informal poll had to pivot and change their IT priorities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who said yes include Emil Sayegh, president and CEO of Ntirety. He said, "As both a managed cloud services provider and CEO of an essential business, I not only saw our IT priorities radically shift, but also saw the priorities of the customers we serve shift. Initially, our IT priorities shifted to securing remote work and collaboration solutions for our employees. The IT priorities of our customers shifted in a similar way as a result of COVID-19 pushing everyone out of the office. Demand for collaboration tools, VPNs, and virtual desktops increased initially to accommodate the shift in workforce location. However, due to the real and present risks of remote work, now we are seeing a renewed steady stream of customers shifting their attention to disaster recovery, back-up, and security. The awareness has been heightened by COVID-19, and the threat became very real. Although IT security was always a priority for most, adjusting to the new remote work environment raised the risk potential and demanded more focus and visibility into IT systems."

Jerry Justice, CIO for Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP, said that budget priorities changed slightly at the law firm where he works. They were similar, "but with a sharpened focus on remote work agility and digital alignment. We really have seen an accelerated value on our prior tech investments."

At Populous, the company is focusing "far more on collaboration," said Simon Johns, head of information technology and computational design for the company.

Sometimes, the needs were simple, but urgent. More laptops were needed for employees at Brinks Home Security, said Randy Krzyston, senior manager, IT security and compliance.

John Gracyalny, vice president of digital member services for Coast Central Credit Union, said his IT budget priorities changed "primarily in the area of supporting telecommuting. Before COVID-19, maybe 5% of our employees had the equipment to work remotely. By this fall that could be 50%."

Remote working made a big impact on the needs at Fortinet, according to CISO Phil Quade. He said, "To enable connection-agility, NAC, SASE, and SD-WAN must be in any CIOs/CISOs toolkits: Users need to connect not only from their new 'home office' in the kitchen, basement, or spare room, but from any place through any means and to anywhere. Securely."

Michael Litt, co-founder and CEO of Vidyard, said, "As a video communication platform with a partially distributed team, we're already very dependent on video and flexible work. But now, it's the entire workforce. We've had to make certain our IT infrastructure and those of our employees working at home can handle the requirements of a distributed team. It's a good investment, as flexible work and video communication may well be the norm for a long time and has proven to be productive for the team. This is likely the new reality for our team."

David Wilson, facility security officer and IT manager for VectorCSP, said priorities haven't changed at his company. "The priorities are mission-based, and so they remain the same. What has changed is strategy, management of new paradigms in communication and delivery, improved remote collaboration. New methods and practices have broadened our corporate understanding of the technology we already have in place, and what to look for in future initiatives."

Here are this month's CIO Jury participants: 

John Gracyalny, vice president of digital member services, Coast Central Credit Union
Jerry Justice, CIO, Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP
Mike Ferris, global IT director of infrastructure at Lincoln Electric
David Wilson, facility security officer and IT manager for VectorCSP
Michael Hanken, vice president of IT, Multiquip
Randy Krzyston, senior manager, IT security and compliance, Brinks Home Security
Simon Johns, head of information technology and computational design, Populous
Dan Gallivan, director of information technology, Payette
Michael Litt, co-founder and CEO of Vidyard
Michael Ringman, CIO, TELUS International
Emil Sayegh, CEO, Ntirety
Phil Quade, CISO at Fortinet