The unprecedented economic shutdown of the past few months has made one thing crystal clear - the “new normal” is going to require even greater reliance and expansion of Information Technology across most industries and organizations. The organizations who prosper in this new era will be increasingly the ones who can harness and truly exploit the power of Information Technology to drive their business forward.
Imagine for a minute what the world would have looked like over the past few months without widespread, high speed internet access, mobile computing, video conferencing, online banking, knowledge management portals, EDI, etc. My guess is that without these technologies and many others, the shutdown would not have lasted nearly as long if it would have even been considered a viable alternative to dealing with the pandemic.
These technologies and many others are what made it even possible for organizations whose revenue model was not destroyed (e.g. airlines, cruise lines, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, etc.) to have the capability to rethink their operations and rapidly move to a high-scale, distributed workforce model that effectively maintained the business moving forward and in many cases may have improved it. These past few months have truly been a testament to the power and importance of Information Technology in the modern corporate landscape.
The shutdown also exposed operating model weaknesses and outdated business practices for many organizations. As Warren Buffet famously observed, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked”. If you have a paper intensive environment that relies on manual processes, dated software applications and an inadequate mobile computing infrastructure, then you probably struggled much more than your competitors in effectively operating your business over the past few months. If you relied on critical business services from countries with weak remote computing and poor dedicated internet access (e.g. India and the Philippines) then you learned some hard lessons that these service delivery models bring great business disruption risk and operating challenges when needing to shift to a distributed workforce model at scale.
As we now slowly move out of the shutdown stage of this crisis to a “new normal”, executive teams across the world are going to have to take a hard look at their business operating models and move quickly to determine how to best make themselves more resilient and flexible to deal with what is likely to be a very prolonged period of uncertainty. The need for agility is greater than ever. One thing that we can ensure is that the importance of Information Technology is only going to increase in the “new normal”. Many pre-existing digital trends that had already been gaining momentum will rapidly accelerate.
Hyper automation of business processes will no longer be a “nice to have”, it will be “Must Have”; not only to maintain ongoing operations, but to effectively compete and maintain revenue generating activities. This means more widespread adoption of Big Data, RPA, Machine Learning, AI, Automated Workflows, IoT, Touchless technologies, Business Process Mining, Cloud and SaaS technologies, among others. In a global environment where customers require “contact free” business transactions, many industries will either adopt new technologies to enable revenue generation or perish. Think omnichannel customer experience, digital sales, smart menu boards, online/in-app ordering, in-store kiosks, etc.
"Hyper automation of business processes will no longer be a “nice to have”, it will be a “must-have”; Not only to maintain ongoing operations, but to effectively compete and maintain revenue generating activities. This means more widespread adoption of Big Data, RPA, Machine Learning, AI, Automated Workflows,IoT, Touchless technologies, Business Process Mining, Cloud and SaaS technologies, among others."
The Distributed Workforce at Scale model has been a great success for many, but will get more challenging as time goes on. Even organizations that do not see a permanent move to this operating model will need to be ready and able to switch from onsite to remote on-demand. Maintaining operational effectiveness, efficiency, security and internal control will be critical to long term success. Even more critical and challenging will be maintaining the commonality of purpose, team bonds and culture that makes your organization unique. Technology will play a big role in making all this work for the long term. Think MS-Teams, Slack, Hosted PBX, Virtual Workstations, Work Monitoring, Bring Your Own Device, Online Storage, File Sharing etc.
Like it or not, Information Technology is going to be even more pervasive and ever present across the entire enterprise. Technology complexity and the shortage of qualified, tech savvy resources will only continue to grow. Unfortunately, as we enter this acceleration phase there are too many organizations that have been “swimming naked” and struggling to adapt to a more connected, digital business world. Per a recent study by the Standish Group, 71% of IT projects are challenged or outright failures. This is not an uncommon finding! These types of results cannot continue if you expect to succeed. Now more than ever, companies cannot afford the delays, poor business alignment and cost overruns that are so common on large IT initiatives.
Traditional corporate IT Models, which were already antiquated pre-pandemic, will now be meeting an accelerated demise. Executives need to strongly challenge many of the notions and concepts they have had around how they structure their IT teams, manage their IT operations, and view their IT spend. Too many organizations have been grossly underspending on their IT/Digital initiatives because they do not have proper alignment and perspective on how the spend is driving business capabilities, competitive relevance and overall enterprise value. IT departments will need to restructure and move from a reactive, “keeping the lights on” focus to a proactive, business enablement focus. The successful IT organizations will become “Business Enablement Powerhouses” that have a strong commercial mindset, true business insight and accelerated speed to market. These new Powerhouses will be driven by a services mindset, re-skilled workforce, strong partnerships, agile methods and a collaborative service delivery ecosystem.
The time is now to adjust to this “new normal,” because if you don’t you may succumb to a different type of malaise: obsolescence.