COVID-19 Sparks Systems Modernization

Conventional wisdom says that it takes a crisis to show people’s true colors. Some people are helpful and compassionate, and others are selfish and mean-spirited. The same applies to companies and their digital infrastructure—there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned disaster to show an organization’s vulnerabilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought tremendous disruption in its wake, and the government and commercial sectors have taken quite a beating. Since we live in an increasingly digitized society, higher numbers of people have turned to the internet to help mitigate the effects of the crisis and try to deal with its consequences.

For instance, the shelter-in-place and social distancing orders have resulted in a skyrocketing number of people working from home. Workers unlucky enough to lose their jobs due to pandemic-inspired layoffs are overwhelming unemployment compensation systems. And let’s not forget ecommerce. More people staying at home means more people are buying goods online using modern systems.

What is the Pandemic Showing Us?

Today’s news is filled with stories about how governments are trying to deal with the pandemic while using outdated, sometimes decades-old systems and technology. If anything, COVID-19 has shown us the true impact of these legacy systems and drove home the point that too many organizations rely on antiquated hardware and software.

And it seems that the larger the organization, the slower they are to embrace change. Bureaucracies are notorious for being unwilling to change, citing such axioms like “This is the way we’ve always done it,” or “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Change comes slowly, with no sense of urgency, with everyone quietly hoping that the demands made on the infrastructure would never change dramatically.

Unfortunately, dramatic change is precisely what has happened, and now computer systems that still use the decades-old COBOL programming language (designed in 1959!) are finding themselves pushed beyond their limits. These old systems are, in effect, broken, but passively so. There is nothing actively wrong with them until asked to do more than they were designed for.

To make matters worse, the problems with these old systems trickle down to the average person. Benefits get delayed, tax refunds get held up, wait times increase to an unreasonable level, and people suffer.

Considering how cost-effective modern systems and software are, thanks to their efficiency, it’s a marvel that fiscally conscientious organizations have taken so long to come around to the idea of modernizing. Surely, even the most inexperienced business major knows that an initial investment in system improvement will yield dividends through savings for years.

But, much like the man who ignores the odd noise coming from his car because “Well, it still runs fine!”, these companies end up paying for their short-sightedness and procrastination when faced with a major breakdown.

Addressing the problem

Fortunately, all is not lost. In the spirit of “Better late than never,” many organizations, stung by the effects of COVID-19 and the havoc it’s wrought, have woken up to the idea that they need to upgrade their infrastructure. Whether it’s moving to the cloud, replacing old legacy systems, introducing new applications, facilitating wireless networking, or embracing new methodologies, some companies have learned a hard lesson.

Not all the changes involve hardware and software. There are new rules and regulations to consider, shifts in consumer habits and behavior, new popular trends, and an overall demographic shift to increased digital dependence.

Modernized Systems Means a Need for More Professionals

Let’s consider a hypothetical case. Presenting Mister A., a data center professional and veteran computer expert. He ran the big IBM 3038 machines, used a card punch reader, and handled more than his share of tapes. He can practically program in COBOL in his sleep.

Unfortunately, Mister A. now finds himself in a quandary. Thanks to some COVID-19 setbacks, Mister A.’s company has been shocked into conducting a full upgrade of their IT infrastructure, including newer servers, better software, a cloud presence, enhanced cybersecurity, and even making inroads into the Internet of Things (IoT).

Frankly, Mister A. is lost. While no one can deny his experience and dedication, he’s clearly out of his depth now. Technology has made vast leaps and left him behind. The systems he’s most familiar with now belong in a museum. While the company has no plans to let him go, it’s clear that he needs additional training to bring him up to speed, and a more extensive staff, composed of professionals who know the current technology.

The situation is analogous to a society that goes from using horses as the principal form of transportation to adopting automobiles to get around. It would help if you had fewer blacksmiths and wagon teamsters, and more mechanics and bus drivers.

That’s why COVID-19 is giving so many lagging companies a couple of rude shocks. The first shock comes from realizing that their current infrastructure is outdated and can’t handle crisis-related demand spikes. The second shock comes from discovering that, if you are going to upgrade your IT systems, you’re going to need qualified people to run them.

What Does the Future Hold?

George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Fortunately, it appears that many businesses are open to taking the COVID-19 lessons to heart. If enough of them do, we can expect to see:

  • A more expanded role for cloud computing, including increased adoption and boosts to its capacity
  • A greater emphasis placed on the importance of bandwidth, including limiting video content streaming and online traffic prioritization
  • Fewer desktop units, more mobile devices (smartphones, tablets)
  • Finally saying “goodbye” to legacy technology

With experts predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic will be around for at least another year, it’s clear that individuals and organizations alike must adapt to the “new normal.” But even when restrictions ease and the infection retreats, don’t be surprised if many lockdown-inspired habits and procedures linger. More employees may choose to work from home (and more companies may let them). Consumers accustomed to online shopping may not be so quick to return to the old brick and mortar model.

While it’s difficult to forecast exactly what society will look like in the post-pandemic days, it is clear that IT will play a more significant role in our lives and how we work, play, or conduct commerce. Consumers and organizations alike will seek out any resource that can help make the change smoother. Fortunately, you don’t have to look far.

Presenting a Valuable Partner for the Future

Simplilearn offers a versatile and varied catalog of IT-related classes and programs, ideal for bringing any individual or organization into the 21st century. Whether it’s learning about cloud architecture, cyber-security, the latest developments in business analysis, or any other relevant skills and topics, Simplilearn has the right course for you.

Whether you want to learn marketable skills to help you get a job in this new world, or train your staff to transition to the latest in IT, Simplilearn can be your greatest asset and partner. Check them out today!

About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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