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Post-COVID IT: Adapt fast or fall behind

New mindsets, the ability to change and constant upskilling on emerging technologies have become critical for individuals and businesses in the rapidly evolving post-COVID world, says David Fourie, National Operations Manager at CTU Training Solutions.

Fourie says that while the crisis phase of the COVID-19 pandemic may have passed, ‘normal’ is not quite what it was two years ago. “As regulations are relaxed, we can see more cars on the road and it feels like hard lockdowns and work-from-home mandates are nothing more than a distant memory. It’s undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world forever, especially in the working world,” he says. Some emerging technologies went mainstream, some older IT technologies and approaches are being phased out and workplaces are changing, Fourie notes.

“It’s important to stay abreast of the changes and be ready for what’s next. Change is the only constant – it’s inevitable and it’s happening faster all the time. There’s a lot of new tech available now, and you need to understand it and know what it can offer your business.

“To avoid becoming a ‘dinosaur’ in the new normal, people have to adapt fast. Forward-thinking professionals and organisations have recognised this and therefore we’re seeing a significant increase in the number of people signing up for CTU training on newer and emerging technologies,” Fourie says.

What’s changed

The pandemic accelerated change that was already in the pipeline, Fourie says. “During the pandemic, we didn’t have the luxury of easing into using the new technologies.”

A key move was to virtual communication and collaboration. “At CTU, we had been trialling digital innovation in the classroom and online classes, so we were able to switch over to online classes as soon as the lockdown started. However, most companies weren’t that lucky. Many businesses were forced into a direction where they weren’t sure what technologies were available, and what the costs would be. They didn’t have time to do their homework and many settled on solutions that didn’t suit them or proved too costly,” Fourie says.

“Some expensive lessons were learned and a period of re-evaluation followed. Key changes are the normalising of hybrid work and a resulting reduction in office space needed. More companies have reduced their costs by introducing shared office space and hot-desking,” he says.

“Cloud services have become a lot cheaper, as have data costs, so cloud services are here to stay, particularly those that enable hybrid and remote workers to share information, store files and access applications. As the cloud comes in, on-premises servers will be phased out, along with all the associated cooling and maintenance costs,” Fourie says.

He adds that hybrid work models are saving on commute time and fuel, but also have a downside in that employees may need to be available for work for longer hours than they were before.

One thing that has remained the same is people’s need to communicate and engage with each other in realistic ways. “For our students, that means seeing each other on campus at least some of the time, for the full experience of social student life. For employees, it means seeing each other face to face to connect on a personal level, or to support training and demonstrations. We see the emergence of augmented and virtual reality technologies to support that realistic face-to-face engagement,” Fourie says. He notes that CTU is already successfully using AR and VR headsets to make learning more engaging.

Adapting to incoming technologies

Fourie expects to see rapid change in the technologies in use in daily work. “Artificial intelligence, robotics, AR and VR are just some of the technologies changing the workplace. Some of them will make current jobs obsolete and most will create future jobs,” he says.

“The challenge amid all this change is not the technology itself, but people’s ability to adapt and adopt it. It starts with education because we need to train specialists to drive it for the new workforce. Education itself will need to evolve beyond the traditional four years of learning, to an ongoing series of shorter courses as new technologies emerge. Crucially, all IT professionals and many other professionals will need to track what is happening in technology and keep learning new skills to stay relevant,” Fourie says.

Fourie notes that it is easier than ever to get the skills and knowledge to stay relevant, with numerous online courses available. Businesses can upskill their employees by providing corporate training on new technologies and products to help them stay abreast of emerging trends and changes in the industry. We are seeing more interest from older professionals now – particularly in the cloud computing fields, around networking relating to hybrid workplaces, project management and AR and VR,” he says.

This article was published in partnership with ITWeb.