VIAVI Solutions has released the results of its 14th annual State of the network global study of enterprise networking and security challenges. As the Covid-19 pandemic forces a global reset of how we gather and work, the survey provides key insights into how organisations are adapting. 60 per cent of respondents are looking forward to increased spending in 2021 to deploy new technologies, including SD-WAN (62 per cent), private 5G (52 per cent) and AI operations (45 per cent) – while supporting a surge in use of unified communications and collaboration tools, spending more time in security threat detection and remediation, and reckoning with a skills gap.

Despite the disruptive challenges of 2020, the survey reveals that IT teams have adapted to managing end-user experience in today’s work-from-home paradigm. Survey respondents now report spending at least 10 hours per week addressing issues related to UC and collaboration tools such as WebEx, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. The importance of network and application access has never been more critical, particularly as some organisations look to extend remote work indefinitely.

The challenge of troubleshooting UC and other applications also was compounded by a growing skills gap. In fact, respondents’ top application troubleshooting challenge was the lack of requisite talent to solve performance issues. This gap was most acute among organizations with less than $2 billion in revenue, with more than 90 per cent of mid-size companies citing difficulty in attracting candidates to help them keep up with the breakneck speed of technological innovation.

“The past year has been transformative for enterprises, as IT teams adapted to the task of maintaining smooth service delivery and optimal end-user experience in spite of pandemic-related disruptions,” said Charles Thompson, Vice President and General Manager, Enterprise and Cloud, VIAVI. “The challenges have not gone away, however, as this year’s State of the Network study demonstrates. A widening skills gap is creating a troubleshooting hurdle more difficult than any technical issue, even as NetOps teams are spending more time than ever dealing with heightened security concerns.”

“Our research has shown that the skills gap is real, whether network teams are working with legacy technology or next-generation solutions,” said Shamus McGillicuddy, Vice President of Research, Network Management, Enterprise Management Associates. “There are ways to mitigate the gap. IT organizations can adopt network management tools with role-based workflows that are aimed at empowering lower-level admins to take on tasks usually reserved for power users. Another option is to embrace network automation tools that can either shorten workflows for skilled engineers, or allow them to delegate more tasks to admins.”