Opportunities for Business and IT Collaboration in Managing Enterprise Risk


SolarWinds (NYSE:SWI) has released the findings of its eighth annual IT Trends Report. This year’s report, SolarWinds® IT Trends Report 2021: Building a Secure Future, released eight months after the broad and highly sophisticated SUNBURST cyberattack, is part of the company’s commitment to leading industry collaboration and transparency to prevent future cyberattacks and help technology professionals navigate the new threat landscape. It examines how technology professionals perceive their organisations’ risk management and mitigation readiness after a year of rapid transformation fuelled by the global pandemic. The study analyses the state of risk within the IT industry today and provides guidance on workplace strategy, tool sets, preparedness, and leadership for companies as they work to construct an organisation built to withstand risk.

Over the past year, tech pros were tasked with enabling a distributed global workforce and managing the adoption of public cloud services, as organisations quickly pivoted to implement a range of technologies to keep their businesses up and running during the pandemic. Against this backdrop, nearly every industry was confronted with the acceleration of high-level cybersecurity breaches, which highlighted the potential risk of incomplete security policies and procedures across the industry. This unprecedented upheaval has served as a critical catalyst for a broader exploration of organisations’ exposure to enterprise IT risk of all kinds—including risk introduced by the implications of remote, distributed work—and the degree to which organisations are prepared to manage, mitigate, and prevent risk in the future.

The findings of the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2021 uncover a reality in which exposure to enterprise IT risk is common across organisations but perceptions of apathy and complacency surrounding risk preparedness are high as businesses exit a year of pandemic-driven “crisis mode.” Tech pros have outlined key areas of technology investment and upskilling to prioritise cloud computing, network infrastructure solutions, and security/compliance—demonstrating an inherent awareness that falling behind is potentially the greatest risk of all. This year’s study reveals the immense opportunity ahead for tech pros and IT leadership to align and collaborate on priorities and policies to best position not only individual organisations but the industry at large to succeed with a future built for risk preparedness.

“Technology professionals today are under even greater pressure to ensure optimised, secure performance for remote workforces while facing limited time and resources for personnel training. When it comes to risk management and mitigation, prioritising intentional investments in technology solutions that meet business needs is critical,” said Sudhakar Ramakrishna, President and CEO, SolarWinds. “More than ever before, tech pros must partner closely with business leaders to ensure they have the resources and headcount necessary to proactively address security risks. And more importantly, tech pros should constantly assess their risk management, mitigation, and protocols to avoid falling into complacency and being ‘blind’ to risk.”

2021 Key Australian Findings

SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2021: Building a Secure Future explores how tech pros perceive the state of risk in today’s business environment, and how the global pandemic impacted technology investments across IT teams. Key findings show:

Security threats associated with external breaches and the internal impact of COVID-19 IT policies emerged as the leading macro trends influencing enterprise IT risk today.

  • 36% of overall tech pro respondents state their organisation have had medium exposure to enterprise IT risk over the past 12 months.
    • The level of perceived risk exposure differs by size of organisation. A sense of high-risk or extremely high-risk exposure is perceived more acutely by tech pros at enterprise organisations (24%) as compared to their small business (8%) and mid-size (9%) counterparts.
  • Security breaches are perceived to be the biggest external factors influencing an organisation’s risk, with 67% of respondents citing external security threats – like cyberattacks – as the top macro trend influencing their organisations’ risk exposure.
  • However, COVID-19 had an equally critical impact on organisations’ risk exposure, with tech pros flagging these top associated risk-inducing factors:
    • Remote work policies (67%)
    • Accelerated digital transformation initiatives (40%)
    • Exponential growth of data as a result of new WFH needs (33%)
  • Likewise, 46% of tech pros surveyed said the accelerated shift to remote working was the number-one aspect of current IT environments considered to increase an organisation’s risk exposure.
    • 62% of respondents say security and compliance ranked in the top three technologies most critical to managing/mitigating risk within their organisations, followed by network infrastructure (43%) and cloud computing (30%).
  • Although external security threats are the primary risk factor, internal vulnerabilities as a result of remote/distributed environments cannot be overlooked in today’s work landscape.

Surveyed tech pros are confident in their risk management and mitigation preparedness strategies although enterprise IT risk exists within their organisations.

  •      85% of tech pros surveyed “agree” or “strongly agree” their IT organisations are prepared to manage, mitigate, and resolve risk factor-related issues due to the policies and/or procedures they already have in place.
    • This finding is echoed by organisations’ careful approach to technology adoption and implementations in response to shifting demands of COVID-19 distributed work environments: despite the accelerated timeline, nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents said standard or heightened risk management protocols were followed.
  • That said, as detailed in a recent McKinsey report, tech pros and their IT organisations must be careful to avoid complacency in today’s ever-evolving risk landscape and be sure to refresh and strengthen their approach to risk management for the future.

While tech pros prioritise investments in security and compliance, network infrastructure, and cloud computing as core technologies to help manage risk, implementation is hampered by dwindling resources and access to personnel training. 

  • 83% of tech pros surveyed “agreed” or “strongly agreed” technology is the best way for organisations to manage, mitigate, and resolve issues related to risk.
    • IT teams prioritised investment in security and compliance (49%), followed by network infrastructure (41%) and cloud computing (41%) to accommodate the unprecedented demands of COVID-19 and the shift to remote work.
  • However, despite understanding technology can play a critical role in enterprise IT risk management, barriers to its adoption and implementation exist. The top three challenges to utilising technology to mitigate and/or manage risk reported by surveyed tech pros are:
    • Lack of budget/resources (47%)
    • Lack of training for personnel (47%)
    • Unclear or shifting priorities (38%)
  • Implementation is further hampered by 41% of surveyed tech pros admitting that while some of their monitoring/management tools are integrated to enhance visibility across their IT environment(s)—whether on-premises, cloud-based, or hybrid—other tools are still siloed.
  • Tech pros are overcoming these barriers by:
    • Prioritising the introduction of new technologies to the environment (such as multi-factor authentication and/or additional/new monitoring) (45%)
    • Developing policies and processes (43%)

Tech pros are capitalising on an opportunity to foster greater alignment and collaboration with senior leaders who will best position their organisations to manage and mitigate risks in the future.

  • 68% of respondents are confident or extremely confident their IT organisations will continue to invest in risk management/mitigation technologies over the next three years.
  • 67% perceive their organisation’s senior leaders or decision-makers to have a heightened awareness of risk exposure, believing it’s not “if” but “when” they will be impacted by a risk factor. But while 39% of those respondents believe their organisation is prepared to mitigate and manage potential risk, 28% said their senior leaders have difficulty convincing other leaders of this reality, ultimately limiting resources to address risk.
    • This reinforces how nearly two-fifths (39%) of tech pros surveyed state their IT organisations are improving alignment between IT business goals and corporate leadership in response to other tech adoption barriers like a lack of skilled IT staff triggered by cost-cutting, consolidation, or outdated skillsets, and decreased staff size.

The findings of this year’s Australia report are based on a survey fielded in March/April 2021, which yielded responses from 162 technology practitioners, managers, directors, and senior executives from public- and private-sector small, mid-size, and enterprise organisations. All regions studied in 2021, as reported on the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, were North America, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, with 967 respondents across all geographies combined.