The move to hybrid working is introducing new headaches for IT workers, who are struggling to get a handle on increasingly complex company networks.
A report by enterprise software company SolarWinds identified "a concerning lack of confidence" among IT professionals in their ability to manage hybrid IT environments, which have grown rapidly in recent years.
SolarWinds said that the "dramatically accelerated" rate at which companies had moved to the cloud and adopted new apps and services – coupled with a more distributed workforce – had made it more difficult for IT teams to know the tools and technologies being used by employees, and to identify and solve issues.
Hybrid work environments have also resulted in fragmentation in corporate IT networks, SolarWinds said, because new technologies are not always able to interface with companies' 'legacy' IT systems and also because different departments are using different apps and services.
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The report warned that, unless IT complexity is addressed, companies would experience delays, find progress more difficult, and see their return on investments (ROI) slow.
"Running workloads and applications across both cloud and on-premises infrastructure is challenging, and many organizations are increasingly experiencing – and ultimately hindered by – these pain points," SolarWinds 2022 IT Trends Report read.
"In short, the job of IT teams has become much harder thanks to the new realities of hybrid IT."
Hybrid working has been steadily gaining popularity as the new default mode of working amongst knowledge workers.
While employees have largely welcomed the opportunity to split their work schedules between an office and their own homes, it has also made the job of overseeing, managing and securing company networks more of a challenge.
Of the 237 tech workers surveyed by SolarWinds, 49% said the acceleration of hybrid IT had increased the complexity of their organization's IT management. And yet, just 41% of respondents said they were confident in their company's ability to manage this complexity.
A lack of visibility into the tools and technologies being used was a frequently identified challenge by IT workers trying to manage hybrid networks. When asked about their company's IT monitoring and management strategies, 54% of respondents said that visibility into half or less of the apps and infrastructure used within the organization.
This introduces its own problems, with IT workers saying that anomaly detection (53%), identifying the root cause of problems (51%), and the ability to gather data from disparate systems (47%) were the biggest challenges stemming from this lack of visibility.
Growing hybrid IT networks are also slowing down projects and delaying ROI, SolarWinds found. Three-quarters (75%) of respondents said the returns on a project they'd overseen had been delayed in the past 12 to 18 months, as a result of growing network complexity.
Thirty percent of respondents said these IT projects took an additional four to seven months or more to complete, while 42% said the project had been extended by up to three months.
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Sudhakar Ramakrishna, president and CEO of SolarWinds, urged organizations to re-examine the investments they had made since the start of the pandemic so that their services could continue to benefit end-users. "Part of that requires organizations to have visibility into their IT environments to understand what's working and not working, and where to prioritize their efforts to achieve the ROI targeted in their planned projects," Ramakrishna said.
Companies should also set aside time and resources to train their staff so they are better equipped to manage hybrid networks, Ramakrishna added. Time constraints and a lack of resources were the two biggest barriers to overcoming IT obstacles reported by IT professionals, cited by 43% and 38% of respondents respectively.
As such, 46% of respondents said training staff and upskilling was important in helping their organization manage complexity, while 44% cited adopting IT monitoring and management tools and 43% suggested investment in automation technologies.
Ramakrishna said: "Organizations must set aside time and resources to upskill and train tech pros to help them properly implement observability strategies and manage hybrid IT realities more effectively – and set up their teams and business for success in the long run."