Mar 24, 2020
The Conona Virus is having many different effects on the world, most are negative, but there are some that may actually be positive. For example, with workers being asked to work from home at an unprecedented rate, and that will no doubt go higher, one major point of failure will be on-premise based solutions. Let's unpack this.
Looking from the balcony of my downtown apartment, my view is dominated by office buildings. They are full of financial services firms, law firms... professional services firms of all kinds. Most of these office spaces consist of executive offices, conference rooms, kitchens and cubicle farms. With the exception of decor choices, they are all very similar. Recent events have lead many of these firms to voluntarily, yet reluctantly, allow many of the people who work in these spaces to work from home... "temporarily". It does seem like an unnecessary risk to pack all of those people in elevators a few times a day, just so they can sit in their cubes. In many places this has already been mandated, and the list of those places will continue to grow. I see a couple of eventual outcomes from this. First, many companies who believed that virtual workers was not an option for their business, will realize that they were wrong. Over time, they will adapt to remote workers and become efficient out of necessity. In the meantime, they will continue making expensive office lease payments for unused space, shining a bright light on that recurring cost. When current events pass, I foresee many companies will continue with the remote worker concept. Now is probably not a good time to invest in Class-A Office Space.
For those companies who had previously transitioned to cloud based productivity and business solutions, this move to a remote workforce will be much simpler. But for those companies with on-premise infrastructure, there will be challenges. Even those who had VPN solutions in-place, for occasional remote access, will find their systems woefully inadequate for full time use by the majority of their people. In addition, their IT staff will be overwhelmed by the new demands. I expect there to be shortages of VPN related hardware and equipment as companies frantically try to upfit to meet these new requirements. In addition, security and compliance requirements are not going to be waived. This will be particularly acute for those whose on-premise systems are actually on their premises. What happens when their physical access to their server rooms becomes limited? Their peers who previously made the transition to cloud are going to look as smart, as they are going to look stupid. There will be some Monday-morning quarterbacking going on. The credibility of IT will be in question, as their past reluctance to move to the cloud, will suddenly become a huge issue for their business. In some cases, some may be unable to even work properly and compete, in a time when it is the most important to be able to do so.
We are already seeing the wave. Every customer who had been talking to us about moving to the cloud, is now wanting to execute on that immediately. Some out of necessity because of reasons I explained above, and others who are seeing this as a good time to make a disruptive move, like migrations, and be prepared when current events pass. In addition to the move to a remote workforce, few businesses will avoid a general slowdown. For those who had been hesitant to move to the cloud while their businesses were operating at full capacity, some are seeing this as as good a time as there has ever been, and hopefully ever will be again, to make that kind of transition. All cloud providers and their dependent service companies are going to be very busy for a while. Capacity is going to be an issue. Not for the cloud services, they were built for future scale and are licking their chops at what is about to happen. But the capacity of the supporting companies, who do the actual migrations and implementations for end customers to utilize these cloud services, will be strained. The backlog is growing and is about to become very long.
I have been talking to IT about cloud for almost two decades now. In the early days their fears were quite legitimate. But today, I find a few common reasons for not wanting to make the move. Number one is unspoken: job preservation. Many in IT have no concept of the cloud, had they moved earlier they could have been cloud experts, but they didn't, and now there are many cloud experts. They could rightly lose their job in a move to the cloud and be replaced by a "cloud expert". They missed that window. This "Number One" reason, has lead to many other supporting excuses. Compliance, Security, etc., all of which had been overcome for quite a while now. Cost is another one. If they have not realized their full ROI on previous hardware and software expenses, there's a financially legit reason. Of course it ignores the benefits of cloud over on-premise, and focuses solely on capturing their investment in outdated technology, something that I don't think is even possible. I don't really feel bad for these people. they intentionally held their organizations back for their own selfish reasons... they should have been fired. However, there are many IT pros that have been proponents of a move to the cloud, but were over-ruled by management or bean-counters. Now they, as well as I, get to say "We told you so!"
My first thought is that it will never be to late, but I could be wrong. The situation is fluid and changing rapidly, what comes after mandating that your workforce has to work from home? Maybe padlocks on the doors, maybe shutting power to unoccupied floors. where your servers may sit. Who knows? Am I being alarmist or opportunist? Maybe, but it does not mean I'm wrong. I'm just making an observation based on observed activity of our own. Regardless, moving to the cloud was a good idea before this, so it still is, and possibly a hugely good idea now. Microsoft and it's partners are in a unique position given today's issues, based on decisions that had been made before this situation was even contemplated. The phrase "Right place - right time" feels appropriate. Over recent years the partners who specialize in Office 365, have gotten migration down to a pretty painless process. The partners who specialize in Azure, move on-premise servers to VMs in their sleep. The partners like us, who specialize in Business Applications like Dynamics 365, have also done our share of migrations. We even offer a free On-premise to Online Migration Briefing to explain the process. Go to appsource.com and search "forceworks".
I am sure that there will be some that may feel that my pointing all this out, at a time of tragedy for many, is insensitive. But the reality is that business must continue, or what will be left on the other side?