The COVID-19 crisis has not radically changed the future of technology. It has accelerated our path towards it. Conversations regarding digital transformation, moving to the cloud or using distributed architectures have been resonating in the market since the dot-com bubble. What this crisis has underlined is two realizations: those who had already made the digital transition were best equipped to deal with ambiguity, and that technology-enabled responsiveness trumped preparedness. The chasm between strategic planning and operational execution was a short leap for those who had the right vision and operating model in place. Tempo is now the currency of relevance and reputation.
As businesses come out of the current pandemic, we can see a wave of new demands. Responding to these will require CIOs to create strategies based on two fundamental principles: understanding what customers need in a changing landscape and leveraging technology to respond to these demands in ways that respect cost, scope and scale objectives.
As confinement measures were put into place, communication and collaboration virtually became a necessity as a means to continue working. Businesses that had invested in public cloud delivery models and remote working capabilities found it far easier to enable their staff to work from home. Those organizations that hadn’t invested in these models were fraught with constraints to remote working. Even businesses that used open platforms, such as Zoom or Teams, ensured that productivity was maintained.
Having a robust, modular, and distributed architecture in place allowed organizations to rapidly adapt to surges and dips in demand. It also showed that no company exists in a vacuum, and sometimes being able to partner with appropriate actors in a larger ecosystem is key to ensuring speed and scalability.
As we continue to embrace remote work, CIOs will need to ensure their IT systems can leverage this new working paradigm in the long-term.
The crisis has been an optimal time to reassess operations and learn from mistakes of the past. Below are recommended steps for CIOs to adapt and thrive in this new era:
1. Establish the role IT infrastructure will play to deliver business results. This discussion needs to happen with executives across the board – the entire leadership team must be aligned on the actions you will be taking to help the business through this tumultuous period and into the future.
2. Continue the shift towards a leaner IT governance. This can be achieved in two ways: through optimized commitment and validation processes, and by focusing on the things that act as tradable commodities in the ecosystem like the technology stack, algorithms or platforms. Look at the wider portfolio and re-evaluate – now is the time to purge unnecessary project work and focus on rapid gains and maximum benefit in the shortest timespan.
3. Evolve with simplicity. If this crisis has proved anything, it’s that businesses are only ever as good as the sum of their collective technology parts. There needs to be one technology function serving all the digital needs of the business and its customers. A data-centric delivery model where all your eligible applications are developed in a cloud native/API-first architecture that fully leverages DevOps and DataOps capabilities is vital to accelerating deployment without impacting quality and security mandates.
Work alongside the business to deploy these agile practices and approaches to generate much needed short-term results. Then, adjust them dynamically to focus on what works and what doesn’t, hence rethinking your operating model to achieve business and IT teams’ hybridization. These actions provide the guidelines to building your technology partners’ ecosystem. It is this mixing of both business and technology skills that ensure the organization is prepared for the future.
4. Off-load anything non-mission critical. Start planning – seriously – to cut and sell parts of your non-critical assets and operations to an IT company willing to partner and invest in order to help you be more successful. This is a hard step but a necessary one.
5. Scan the horizon for emerging technologies. While the immediate need will be to retrench and focus on the short-term, it’s just as important that CIO’s pave the way for successful adoption of new technologies. You also need to be meaningful discussions with the executive board on where to invest next. CIOs can and must help institutionalize technological innovation within their business, going far beyond immediate tactical necessity. Make plans for how the trio of IOT, 5G and edge computing will transform your operations and supply chains. This ‘new stuff’ isn’t going away, and it may be key for the existence of the business in the future.
Irrespective of the actions you take, your first and foremost task as a CIO is to communicate and lead. How you engage with your ecosystem (i.e. your people, your stakeholders, your peers, and your partners) makes the difference between success or failure. Many businesses will see the same opportunities you are seeing and will mobilize their people, leverage technology, and attempt to thrive in the post-COVID-19 world.
Digital technology is now intimately entwined with business change, and to that extent digital transformation has become imperative. As all businesses have become technology businesses, your ability to truly promote creativity, institutionalize innovation, embrace technology in all its forms, and allow people to flourish is what will give your firm a competitive advantage. Be inventive, grow through the challenges this crisis has thrown, make the right impact, and seek out the opportunities that come along in all times of great change.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, Cyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.