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#37 2020 in Review
on Tue Feb 09 2021 16:00:00 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
with Darren W Pulsipher,
Darren Pulsipher, Chief Solution Architect, Public Sector, at Intel reflects on the disruption, changes, and adjustments the COVID-19 pandemic brought in 2020.
Pre-COVID, 2020 was looking like the year for new business models, moving toward big digital transformations. AI/ML and analytics were going to play a key role going forward. Using those tools, we were going to start using data more effectively in our organizations. It was going to be the year of 5G, with 5G making a huge splash at the Olympics.
We were also going to see a major move forward in industry for 4.0 transformations, with Internet of Things and in manufacturing all moving together toward this digital transformation.
Then, at least in California, everything came to an abrupt halt on Friday the 13th of March. Businesses, schools, conferences, meetings, travel, and social events abruptly shut down. Weeks turned into months as optimism about quickly containing the virus waned while cities such as New York City, took big hits and the medical systems were overwhelmed. Everything seemed chaotic and uncertain.
Some interesting things came out of this: Some companies thrived while others had a more difficult time, and people started working remotely.
In my house, the website with the most views was no longer Facebook, but the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, which gives statistics about the virus. We could see the effects in our own neighborhood and city and all over the world. Our whole perception of what was important and what we had planned for that year changed.
Not only were there immediate shortages of items as diverse as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and yeast, but a few weeks in, office equipment and technology became high-demand items as people quickly adjusted to distance learning and working from home. This created a shortage of integral tools such as webcams and laptops.
Wi Fi 6 routers became important all of a sudden as internet use at home increased. In our family, I moved from working at home periodically to working at home full time and added three teenagers doing distance learning and three adult college students who came home to study and work. Our internet connection was quickly overwhelmed. I had a hard time finding a Wi Fi 6 router to solve our problem, as many found themselves in similar situations.
With travel virtually halted, many people turned to home improvement projects instead. I used to be at the airport often, with travel comprising half of every week. Now, I found myself at Lowe’s or Home Depot with everyone else. The places were packed. Time that I normally spent traveling was now spent building a shed with my kids. I got to spend more quality time with my kids and improving my home.
A major shift, of course, was the cancellation of in-person conferences. Many moved online instead with great results. For example, the IBM Think conference switched their May in-person event to online instead. Over 100,000 people attended, which was the largest one they’ve ever had.
Besides increased attendance, another bonus is that attendees don’t have to make a weeklong commitment to be at a conference, but can pick and choose sessions and still be at home with family. The downside is the lack of networking and seeing people face-to-face.
Industry conferences are probably changed forever. They won’t always be completely online, but perhaps a hybrid version makes sense in the future.
Another major shift is that we are in each other’s homes virtually conducting business. There are sometimes kids, dogs, or other inevitable distractions in the background. One time, my boss needed to have his daughter sit next to him as he led a staff meeting because she needed help with something. It’s important that we are all flexible during this time.
Some employees are not working at one home, but have become nomadic since they no longer need to be near their workplace.
For example, my nephew, who has few home-based responsibilities, was paying exorbitant rent in the Bay Area. When work became remote, he and his roommates dropped their expensive apartment and traveled the world instead, spending several months at a time renting homes in interesting places.
This is a major shift in the way we think about managing our workers, assets, and data.
Remote work cranked up quickly. Many companies already had some remote work policies or plans for more remote work. But what was once perhaps an 18-month rollout plan became an 18-day rollout plan.
The major remote work that happened was VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure). People have been using VDI for decades, but all of a sudden it became a top choice, in part, because of its familiarity. It is quick, easy, and inexpensive to get people working again with access to the data they need using hardware solutions.
VPNs (virtual private networks) became quickly overloaded as everyone was working from home. We saw companies invest in expanding their VPN, either through buying more licenses or more infrastructure and upgrading as needed.
Companies also accelerated their adoption of SaaS (software as a service) tools. Office 365 rollouts, for example, happened within a few weeks rather than the planned six to nine months. Companies with SaaS offerings such as Microsoft and Google rolled up their sleeves and helped organizations get through the migration quickly. For the remote worker, unproductive time was minimized with the effort from the industry as a whole.
It was remarkable how soon remote workers were up and running. The real heroes here were the frontline IT workers such as the helpdesk, systems engineers, system administrators ect… It was really a Herculean effort.
One of the things, however, that went by the wayside a little bit with the speed of this change was cybersecurity. We’ve been feeling the ramifications of this over the last six to eight weeks with several major attacks in cybersecurity.
One of the reasons is an increased attack surface because data is spread out on laptops throughout the whole organization on unsecured networks in homes.
Some of the data is sitting in the cloud. Now, with SaaS offerings, some of it is sitting in the data center and some on computers that people brought home.
2021 will be a year that we focus on cybersecurity, taking a hard look at the way we’re managing data and securing it through the whole system.
One of the greatest advances this year is the new business dress. The best way to describe it is the business mullet: business dress on the top, pajamas or shorts on the bottom. I put on pants once in a while, but my kids are probably tired of seeing me in a button-down shirt or even a suit on top paired with shorts.
2020 was a year of change, personally and professionally, but it has led us to place in 2021 where we can move forward with lessons learned and improvements for a better future.