Homepage Rankings and Research Companies Channelcast Marketing Matters CRNtv Events WOTC Cisco Partner Summit Digital 2020 Lenovo Tech World Newsroom HPE Zone The Business Continuity Center Masergy Zenith Partner Program Newsroom Dell Technologies Newsroom Fortinet Secure Network Hub Hitachi Vantara Digital Newsroom IBM Newsroom Juniper Newsroom The IoT Integrator Lenovo Channel-First NetApp Data Fabric Intel Tech Provider Zone

How Solution Providers Can Survive COVID-19 And Actually Thrive

Businesses go through four waves in a crisis--react, protect, optimize, and elevate--and knowing how to handle the last two of those waves will result in an IT infrastructure that will be resilient when the next crisis hits, said Connection’s Kurt Hildebrand.

Businesses don’t have to only just get by during the COVID-19 pandemic, but can actually emerge stronger.

That’s the message from Kurt Hildebrand, senior director of solution architects in the Technology Solutions Group at Connection, a Merrimack, N.H.-based nationwide solution provider.

Hildebrand, speaking to an audience of midsize enterprise executives during this week’s virtual Midsize Enterprise Summit+ 2020 conference, told businesses to take advantage of the changes their IT infrastructures are going through to build a stronger, more resilient business.

[Related: The 20 Coolest Data Protection Companies: The 2020 Storage 100]

“We can even embrace this as an opportunity to improve our IT organizations and maybe even position ourselves competitively through using business optimization strategies.”

The Midsize Enterprise Summit+ 2020 conference is a presentation of The Channel Company, CRN’s parent organization.

Hildebrand said that during his business resiliency presentation at MES 2019, he had more of a pessimistic message about how many businesses would not survive a full disaster or crisis if they had to actually test their business continuity plans.

“I certainly had no idea how prophetic my message was going to turn out to be,” he said. “Fast forward to spring of this year, and now everyone’s’ business resiliency plans are being tested and organizations themselves are being put to the test.”

Yet despite the hardships so many companies are experiencing in 2020, there is still cause for optimism, Hildebrand said.

“I think the best bet is for us actually to be realistic about what the situation really is and how we can respond to it and how we can move forward through this and... get back to business,” he said.

The key to navigating through all the instability faced by businesses in 2020 is to realize that change in IT environments seems to come in waves in response to a crisis such as the current pandemic, Hildebrand said.

“IT organizations have had to respond to each of those successive waves as they have come through,” he said. “And we’ve even started to predict, or try to predict, what those next waves will be that we haven’t faced yet.”

Businesses this year have faced three waves of instability, including the current pandemic-induced wave, and can expect to face a fourth.

The first was what Hildebrand termed the “shock wave” that hit early this year, which forced businesses to send employees to work from home, purchase a lot of new client devices to support those employees, and push their infrastructure to the cloud. That, he said, showed in the 11.2 percent year-over-year growth in global PC shipments during the second quarter, citing IDC statistics.

This first wave could also be seen as the “react phase,” Hildebrand said.

“When faced with a crisis, we went to what we know: traditional PCs,” he said. “Ultimately, that initial reaction got us through the first phase. But is it what we need for the long term?”

The second wave was a move to deal with issues related to employee safety and business security, Hildebrand said.

“We sent everybody home,” he said. “We expanded the IT security boundary out into hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of individuals’ homes. We deployed hundreds or thousands of additional devices that may or may not have been managed based on existing IT security policies and which dramatically increased the attack surface. And how are we going to audit and test all of this?”

For instance, Hildebrand, citing a report from Emeryville, Calif.-based security company Tanium, said that 85 percent of corporate-level IT leaders reported increases in cyber attacks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Malicious actors are going to find exploits and vulnerabilities,” he said. “And we have created a lot of exploits and vulnerabilities from reacting in the way that we had to.”

Hildebrand termed the second wave the “protect wave.”

“We reacted,” he said. “Now we have to go back and protect.”

Most businesses today are in the third, or optimization, wave, Hildebrand said. After reacting to the crisis and protecting businesses from the impacts, this is where remediation comes in, he said.

“What we did in the react phase was not ideal,” he said. “It was not designed or planned for. It was a panic, to be honest. We got back up and running, but at what cost, and with what level of efficiency and productivity?”

Businesses are now looking to get past those initial reactions, and will probably do so for the next six to 18 months, Hildebrand said.

“We need to figure out how to re-optimize and tighten down the bolts and screws not just on our security posture, but really tighten down the bolts and screws on our IT operations and our infrastructure in general.”

This could include making changes to infrastructure health and performance and looking at a business’ cloud posture, Hildebrand said. Citing a recent IDG study, he said businesses are predicting an average 47 percent increase in their cloud spend in 2020, which is actually well above original budgets.

“We all knew the cloud was growing, and of course everyone’s cloud posture is continuing to grow,” he said. “But not by 47 percent. That’s about 23 percent, on average, over what was budgeted for 2020. So, we need to come back around and re-optimize these things. So, optimization, this is the world we’re probably going to be living in for some time.”

The coming fourth wave is what Hildebrand termed “rebuilding better.”

“Even if we optimize what we currently have, that’s all based on legacy technology and legacy operations that were not designed for a digital, fully remote, fully virtual, hybrid, fully flexible way of doing business and working,” he said.

Once businesses feel they have stabilized and optimized their current situations, they will go back to redesign, re-evaluate, and rebuild how they do IT. and hopefully use this as an opportunity to make important changes such as simplifying security landscapes and re-evaluating business resiliency strategies, Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand, citing a recent Gartner report, said only about 12 percent of businesses were adequately prepared or structured by design or by luck of the draw to survive an event like the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. That, he said, means 88 percent were not, and for some, the result was catastrophic.

That Gartner report also looked at prior crises, including the financial crisis of 2008, and concluded that organizations with strong cost optimization and business resiliency strategies in general outperformed their peers after a crisis, he said.

“We can’t predict what the crisis will be,” he said. “But if we have those strategies in place, then we’re much more likely to not only survive but outpace and take market share from our peers in the industry.”

Hildebrand termed this the “elevate phase” because of the opportunity to take business optimization to a higher level than before.

Hildebrand said that, based on his and his colleagues’ observations and other anecdotal information, about 5 percent of midmarket businesses are still in the react phase, 35 percent in the protect phase, and 50 percent in the optimize phase, while 10 percent have already moved to the elevate phase.

Connection’s response to the four phases of business resiliency in a crisis is what it terms IT landscape optimization, which is not only a list of services Connection provides but could also be the base of an IT organization’s own strategy, Hildebrand said.

“The idea is to evaluate your current state, to take a look at your IT operations and infrastructure and your landscapes, compare that against your goals, compare that against your realistic business requirements, and compare against market indicators,” he said. “Benchmark against your peers in the industry.”

Businesses adopting this as a strategy will look at their IT health and risk, performance, cost efficiency, and strategy, and then prioritize those initiatives, he said.

On the Connection side, the solution provider has a portfolio of individual landscape optimization services based around such areas as Microsoft, Azure, security, cloud, data center, and business resiliency, Hildebrand said. Those services can be used individually or as part of a larger stack, he said.

In the end, the goal for a business is to find balance, Hildebrand said.

“Balancing between these four phases, not overreacting, not overprotecting,” he said. “You certainly can’t over-optimize, to a certain degree. But really finding balance and making sure that we are tightening the bolts and we are tightening down the screws and we are taking these opportunities to redesign and to rebuild better.”

Back to Top



trending stories

sponsored resources