Honeymoons last a couple of weeks – the same goes for any love for the IT department
Even if we kept the business moving during the pandemic, it's all forgotten by the next service ticket
Register Debate Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you the reader choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on which side you support using the poll embedded below, choosing whether you're in favour or against the motion. The final score will be announced on Friday, revealing whether the for or against argument was most popular.
It's up to our writers to convince you to vote for their side.
This week's motion is: The pandemic improved the status of IT workers … forever.
Whether tech workers saved the world during the pandemic or whether we should thank health workers and researchers is one for another day. But tech workers certainly kept business and the public sector going, helping organisations pivot to online and by allowing employees to work remotely. But a year on, has the hero effect worn off? Or can they, should they, expect a permanently elevated status? Four highly qualified observers will give their perspectives through the course of the week. But it’s you that gets to decide.
Dave Cartwright, our first contributor arguing AGAINST the motion, is based in Jersey and is a head of IT risk and security in the banking industry. A former chairman, and now treasurer, of the Jersey branch of the British Computer Society, he is also deputy chair of the Channel Islands Information Security Forum and chair of the Jersey Charitable Skills Pool, which enables local cyber professionals to offer free advice to not-for-profits and charities. Outside the day job he also chairs a youth charity.
There can be no doubt that during the pandemic, the status of the IT team raced rapidly uphill.
A small minority of companies had such comprehensive remote-working facilities that they were able to shrug and tell everyone: “Off you trot home with your laptops, everything will work as normal.”
Most organisations, of course, had at least some work to do – and next to no time to do it. Perhaps it was a few bits of tech to roll out such as adding an app that would allow PCs to be controlled from afar by the service desk, or an internet-facing anti-virus update server to support signature updates on users’ work PCs at home. For others it was almost a ground-up effort – implementing virtual (or cloud-based) desktops, perhaps, or a VPN solution. Or even trying to source five dozen laptops for staff who were previously using desktop PCs, when half the other companies in the country were trying to do precisely the same thing. On the whole, IT teams achieved some amazing results, in trying circumstances and seemingly impossible timescales.
The thing is, though, we all know what happens with IT. Look back a couple of years when we rolled out that new email system. Or the new audio-visual and conferencing kit in the meeting rooms. Or the Office 365 cloud implementation that brought the miracle of Teams to the users and multiplied everyone’s ability to communicate. Or the amazing new CRM system that could retrieve customer details in seconds rather, than as it felt on the old system, a fortnight.
In short: IT is amazing when it does something new and great, but the honeymoon period is measured in weeks or even just days. Yes, the results achieved by most IT teams at the beginning of the Pandemic were amazing, and the users realised this at the time. But more than 18 months have passed since that time, and the novelty of all that amazing work back in the spring of 2020 has long since worn off.
The irony is, of course, that the technology is still amazing. But that isn’t enough for the IT teams to retain their collective halos in the views of the users, because unless there has been an ongoing programme of innovation throughout lockdown, the perception is that what was new tech 18 months ago is now old hat and even though it’s functioning perfectly, it’s just not exciting any more. And as we know, nobody gives a stuff about IT that just works – IT is held in high regard when it’s new and shiny, but most of the time people only really notice when something doesn’t work properly.
And, of course, there is one final factor: the general malaise of lockdown. Even those who relished the novelty of home working in the beginning are largely now climbing the walls and desperate to spend at least some of their working life away from the dining table or the spare room. Even with a steady stream of amazing new IT, it will be hard to offset the general downness of the user population.
So no, the IT team won’t have elevated status forever. And worse, the reasons are largely not within their control. ®
Cast your vote below. We'll close the poll on Thursday night and publish the final result on Friday. You can track the debate's progress here.