While the global shift to remote work in 2020 was sudden, it occurred in the midst of a longer migration to the cloud that had been taking place over the last decade or so. This meant companies were starting from many different places — some were much farther along than others in terms of cloud readiness and managing remote work.
In light of these shifts, we wanted to gauge how IT professionals were doing and how their companies were approaching top issues like security, budgeting and tooling. JumpCloud conducted a survey of over 400 IT professionals to get further insights into their experience handling remote work, cloud infrastructure, security, and other business initiatives, as well as checking in on personal factors like salary and job satisfaction. For the full breakdown, download the report.
We noticed an interesting trend in responses from IT professionals working at businesses with 51-500 employees. More than half of them felt their companies were overspending on tooling for securing and enabling remote work as well as solutions for managing user identities and devices. In this blog, we’ll dive into the reasoning for this and some potential solutions to overspending on remote work enablement and IAM solutions.
Is It a Problem of Prioritization?
Before diving into causes and solutions, it’s worth exploring whether these responses indicated that the respondents thought their companies were over-prioritizing these issues.
Throughout the survey, respondents indicated ongoing challenges and initiatives around both remote work enablement and user and device management. When asked to rank their highest priorities for the rest of the year, respondents ranked their top three priorities as follows:
Respondents working at companies with 51-100 employees:
- Making device management easier.
- Adding layered security so work-from-anywhere is truly secure.
- Making remote work easier for admins.
Respondents working at companies with 101-500 employees:
- Adding layered security so work-from-anywhere is truly secure.
- Making remote work easier for end users.
- Enabling easier management of user devices.
These top initiatives reflect a high prioritization of remote work enablement and IAM. Further, 68% of respondents at companies with 51-500 employees said they felt overwhelmed with trying to manage remote work, and they named ongoing management of remote workers, cost of solutions required to support remote work, device management, and migrating to remote work their teams’ biggest challenges since the start of the pandemic.
The majority of mid-sized respondents also said their companies were increasing their IT budgets, and remote work was named the biggest spending initiative for 2021.
If these IT professionals feel overwhelmed with remote work and highly prioritize IAM, remote work enablement, and security, why do they also say their companies are spending too much on the tools to alleviate these pain points?
Addressing the Budgeting vs. Tooling Mismatch
Most likely, the issue isn’t where companies are allocating money, since they seem to be putting budgets towards IT teams’ biggest needs; instead, it’s likely a matter of how they’re allocating that money. This brings us to the point solution problem.
The Point Solution Problem
It’s not often that companies — especially medium and large ones — get together and give the okay to do a complete IT overhaul. Often, IT admins don’t even bother proposing it and instead find a faster, more budget-friendly solution to solve problems at hand. While this sounds effective, and it can be in the short run, it creates problems over time.
Point solutions tend to cause IT infrastructures to grow laterally, spreading tools wider and creating an increasingly complex interwebbing of solutions — and then solutions to fix those solutions when they break or don’t cover a new need — and integrations holding them together at the seams. This is a common approach for working around legacy solutions that companies aren’t ready to rip and replace yet. It can also cause modernization to stagnate, which compounds problems as tools start to wear down and equipment and the infrastructure itself become obsolete.
The root problem with the point-solution approach is that its two initial benefits — cost and effectiveness — decrease over time. Eventually, getting all these interwoven solutions to work together amidst upgrades, EOLs, and new add-ons leads to breakdowns or more cover-up solutions. This, combined with the sheer number of solutions addressing a problem, ends up costing much more than one more robust solution with a perceived higher initial price tag — mostly in political capital within the organization to take the time to implement the right longer term solution.
The point solution explanation would also account for the fact that significantly fewer respondents in smaller organizations (25-50 employees) felt their companies were overspending in these areas: only 30% of this respondent group felt their companies spent too much on tooling for enabling/securing remote work and identity management. Smaller companies tend to work on tighter budgets, and their size makes it easier to pivot rather than become entrenched in legacy technology. Their size and lack of resources also tend to favor solutions that can cover multiple areas or, said another way, platforms.
Point Solutions with Active Directory
This point solution approach became extremely common with companies using Microsoft Active Directory (AD) as the business world started moving towards the cloud.
AD is an on-prem solution designed to manage Windows machines. Back when everyone was working in the office and Microsoft was the de-facto business standard for machines and applications, it was a solid investment. However, the migration towards the cloud and growth of Mac and Linux devices in the workplace has begun to challenge the business standards AD was built on.
The costs companies have spent on AD over the years and its integral role in a business’s IT infrastructure make companies reluctant to part with it. Instead, they invest in solutions piece-by-piece: a device management tool as they bring non-Microsoft devices into their organization, a multi-factor (MFA) solution to implement layered security, SAML/SCIM-based user provisioning and single sign-on (SSO) for streamlining user management, and so on.
Solving the Problem Holistically
The unfortunate part of the point-solution approach is that, despite its goal of saving money and solving the problems at hand, it ends up costing more money and creating more problems in the long run, especially when compounded with the fundamental transformation to the cloud. For this reason, new solutions are emerging to fix the problem of the on-prem, Microsoft-centric directory while combining it with other critical solutions companies need today to manage identities, devices, resources, and security in a cloud-based, work-from-anywhere world.
The key to a holistic solution is implementing a core cloud directory. JumpCloud, for example, offers a cloud directory service that comes with Zero Trust security measures like MFA, access management and SSO for cloud and on-prem resources, OS-agnostic MDM (including Windows, Mac, and Linux), and granular insights into user and device data and activity in an intuitive UI.
Organizations with an IT infrastructure built piece-by-piece would typically be paying for several solutions to address each of those needs individually. When looking at the tools many companies invest in to address today’s remote work and identity management problems, it’s no wonder IT professionals think they’re overpaying; they could be addressing more at once with a more holistic solution, cost-effectively.
What’s more, organizations with deeply ingrained legacy equipment don’t have to rip and replace their on-prem directory to take advantage of newer technology. Some cloud directory platforms, like JumpCloud, can integrate with on-prem directories like Active Directory — as well as less robust cloud-based directory-like solutions in Google Workspace and AWS — to help organizations consolidate their tooling for the rest of their remote security and IAM solutions.
Read the Full Report
Overspending on critical applications is just one area where we’ve found IT companies can improve their strategies towards remote work, security, IAM, and other critical needs. JumpCloud’s survey of 400 IT professionals delivered significant insights into everything from general demographics to security strategies, biggest challenges, and more. Download the full report for more insights from IT professionals on the state of today’s modern workplace.