In our last post on Catchpoint’s 2020 CIO New Normal Survey we talked about how COVID-19 is driving a “reverse industrial revolution” that is fueling a mass exodus from America’s biggest (and most expensive) cities.

This week, we focus on a more pragmatic set of findings: the IT lessons that we can learn from those American enterprises that have fared the best during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Tale of Two Enterprises

The average American enterprise has seen significant challenges due to the pandemic, including hits on its revenue, profits, and productivity. However, hidden within these statistics was an interesting finding. Not every enterprise had the same experience. In fact, some did surprisingly well during the pandemic, while others fared vastly worse.

The best way to tease out these differences was to tier our responses. Specifically, we divided the responses into three tiers, which were defined as follows:

  • The top tier performed the very best in terms of business and IT metrics.
  • The middle-tier performed in the middle in terms of business and IT metrics.
  • The bottom-tier performed the very worst in terms of business and IT metrics.

We then compared the top and bottom tiers to explore their differences and to determine what the top tier was doing differently.

It Was the Best of Times; It Was the Worst of Times

When we compared the top-tier enterprises’ results to those of the bottom tier, we saw striking differences. For example, the top tier was more than twice as likely to report that they were doing well in terms of revenue growth.

The top tier was also more than twice as likely to say that they were doing well in terms of profit and employee satisfaction.

The same results were found in terms of IT metrics, in that the top tier was 1.9 times as likely to report success in terms of app reliability and 1.6 times as likely to say that things were going well in terms of network reliability and security.

These results are interesting, but why? What is the top tier doing differently to achieve such dramatically better results during the crisis? We looked at the practices of both top-tier and bottom-tier CIOs, searching for clues as to why the top tier was doing so much better. We found four key differences.

Focus on Reliability

The top tier is fully committed to reliability. Nearly all (91 percent) of the top tier has implemented a formal site reliability engineering methodology (SRE), as opposed to just 69 percent of the bottom-tier organizations.

As part of this commitment to reliability, 98 percent of the top-tier organizations said that tools to monitor both employees’ and customers’ journeys were crucial (as opposed to 75 percent and 61 percent of the bottom-tier organizations).

This position is reflected in the use of monitoring tools. In fact, the top tier uses 2.8 times as many separate monitoring tools as the bottom tier, including:

  • Employee device monitoring (1.6 times as likely to be using).
  • Real user monitoring (1.6 times as likely to be using).
  • Synthetic/end-user proactive monitoring (1.5 times as likely to be using).

Focus on Work-From-Home Tech Stack

The top tier is committed to making work-from-home (WFH) employees as productive as possible. For example, the top tier is 33 percent more likely to train employees in work-from-home technologies.

The top tier also does a better job of equipping WFH employees. Top-tier organizations were nearly three times as likely as the bottom-tier organizations to say their employees’ collaboration tools were extremely effective.

The top-tier organizations had also selected better hybrid cloud providers and were three times as likely as the bottom-tier organizations to report that their vendors enabled them to deliver both services and apps.

General Networking Initiatives

We also found that top-tier organizations are more engaged in cutting-edge initiatives that optimize remote work:

  • 1.8 times as likely to be involved with robotic process automation.
  • 1.5 times as likely to be automating routine business tasks.
  • 1.5 times as likely to have implemented SD-WAN.
  • 1.5 times as likely to be involved with AIOps.

Security Initiatives

Finally, top-tier organizations are more engaged in cutting-edge security initiatives.

  • 1.4 times as likely to be involved with better security management
  • 1.4 times as likely to be working with software-defined perimeters
  • 1.3 times as likely to be involved with Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
  • 1.3 times as likely to be setting up VPNs
  • 1.3 times as likely to be involved with zero trust networks