A wave of change has come over sooner where companies have learned exactly how important their technology infrastructure is to ensure business continuity.
When asked whether their IT infrastructure was ready to handle a pandemic and most of their staff working from home, a vast majority of the seventy IT leaders I interviewed responded, in hindsight, with a resounding ‘yes’. That is, not without rapid transformation and unprecedented collaboration.
Up until now, many would only work-from-home on an ad-hoc basis, if at all. With in excess of 80% of employees now working from home, delivering a solution as quickly as possible was the largest challenge that most faced. This included rolling out laptops, monitors, keyboards, portable 4G solutions, headsets and even desk chairs within the space of a week – a logistical (and procurement) nightmare!
How do I log-on?
Whether companies were aware of it or not, the past decade has been a transformative journey to get towards a state that would allow us to work-from-home.
A combination of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and Cloud-based applications, such as the Microsoft Office suite, have been the defining trait enabling most to work-from-home just as they would in the office. In many cases, the only additional investment required was to increase load capacities for VPN’s and purchase more licenses for applications.
Board rooms are out, videoconferencing is in. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype for Business take the lion’s share of the market and are one of very few new ways of working that many have had to adapt to in this ‘new norm’. These tools have proven crucial to keeping connected and engaged as constant communication is critical.
While few could label the transition to working from home as absolutely ‘seamless’, experiencing complications in areas such as connectivity, bandwidth, and VPN capacity; all can agree that digital transformation has been the defining factor enabling us to work-from-home.
Project pipelines & re-forecasting
So, what does this mean for pipelines of technology and transformation projects? A reprioritisation of project pipelines saw companies focus on business continuity projects that would enable working from home and enhanced IT security addressing issues such as hacking, phishing and data breaches.
The good news is that despite this reprioritisation of projects, it seems as though the projects that were put on hold in March will be going ahead as we approach the second half of 2020. While priorities have changed, funding for core projects that make companies more competitive and enhance capabilities remain the same. Some IT Leaders are even sensing an opportunity to ramp up faster than their competitors to obtain an advantage and gain market share.
This begs the question; could we be in for a post-Covid-19 technology arms race?
These are incredibly encouraging signs as companies begin to strategise their ‘exit strategies’, particularly for many IT professionals who have unfortunately had employment contracts cut short as the jobs market rebounds.
Business as not-so-usual
A key commonality between the IT Leaders I interviewed was the belief that the epidemic will change the future of work.
It’s all about (IT) confidence!
Many leaders recounted stories of staff willing to change their behaviours and “give technology a go”, presumably because we’re all exercising a lot more resourcefulness in isolation. As staff have undeniably become more comfortable and confident with technology on their own, leaders believe this will help with the adoption of new technologies in the future. If we’re able to reduce the stress and anxiety around learning new applications and software, a major barrier to transformation will be removed. Technology will cause less friction and create more opportunities for staff to enhance their own process capabilities.
Do you trust me yet?
As we’ve grown accustomed to working from home and making the most of technologies, particularly those that allow us to collaborate from a distance, why shouldn’t more remote working be the ‘new norm’?
Not only have people proven to their managers that they can be more productive and effective in their day-to-day activities, we have proven it to ourselves. We’ve learned that working from home requires a higher degree of technological proficiency and communication; no longer will we have one eye on our computer screens and the other on Netflix. With output increasing for many in this time, work will become more flexible as companies accept new ways of working.
Executive Technology & Transformation Strategy
The unexpected work-from-home experiment has proven to business leaders that IT is a core operational enabler and if IT systems go down, companies cannot function. For this reason, IT must be represented at an executive level to participate in strategic conversations to help roadmap, and form thinking, years in advance to support business growth and achieve more.
As IT facilitates business processes and operations, Digital Transformation will continue to play a pivotal enabling role. In the wake of the pandemic, business leaders will undoubtedly consider projects and solutions that will further enhance their capabilities to embrace new ways of working. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity that will unfold over the coming months and years.
The new norm
As technology continues to allow for more flexibility, people will be more productive and ultimately happier; the opportunities are endless. The current crisis will eventually pass and a ‘new norm’ will emerge – there is plenty of upside to believe the future is bright.