2021 State of the Network Study

As we emerge from the ashes of challenging times, IT embraces digital transformation to overcome the skills gap, resolve Unified Communication issues, and balance cyberattack response.

Nearly 800 IT professionals weigh in on the workloads, challenges, data sources, and team collaboration required to drive service delivery in this year of digital transformation.

The past year has proved to be challenging, yet transformative for us as individuals, businesses, and as an industry. Most of us have needed to drastically alter our methods of collaborating, using tools like Teams, WebEx, or Zoom to accomplish our daily activities. As organizations, we were challenged to maintain smooth service delivery and optimal end-user experience despite such disruption. The 2021 VIAVI State of the Network reveals that we have emerged on the other side more resilient and poised to embrace new ways of achieving operational objectives to accelerate the digital transformation.

As the Covid-19 pandemic forces a global reset of how we gather and work, the survey provides key insights into how organizations are adapting. Sixty percent of respondents are looking forward to increased spending in 2021 to deploy new technologies, including SD-WAN (62 percent), private 5G (52 percent) and AI operations (45 percent) – while supporting a surge in use of unified communications (UC) 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 organizations 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 percent of mid-size companies citing difficulty in attracting candidates to help them keep up with the breakneck speed of technological innovation.

Results were compiled from 794 respondents, including network engineers, IT directors, security engineers and CIOs worldwide. In addition to geographic diversity, the study population was distributed among networks and business verticals of different sizes. Study questions were designed based on a survey of network and security professionals. 

Study Highlights:

Skills Gap Expanding: For the first time in our annual survey, a non-technology challenge has risen to the top. Organizations have made it clear that their biggest challenge in troubleshooting applications is finding requisite talent to solve performance issues.

Day After SUNBURST: More than half (51 percent) of organizations responding were impacted by the SUNBURST hack. The network team has increased its involvement in resolving security issues from 61 percent to 87 percent, the highest in the past three years of this survey.

Budgets Grow to Keep Up with Innovation: IT budgets have doubled since last year—60 percent versus 30 percent—to keep up with technological innovation. IT teams reported at least 70 percent adoption of technologies including SASE, AIOps, SD-WAN, IoT, and Private 5G by the end of 2022.

Unified Communications (UC) Issues Consume IT Resources: At least 10 hours per week are being spent resolving UC issues – a quarter of a Full Time Employee (FTE) week. “Monitoring quality of UC and collaboration technologies like WebEx, Teams, and Zoom” was the most critical aspect of managing end-user experience.