The Covid-19 pandemic has forced companies to adopt digital technologies in order to carry on working and remain operational.
No longer just an option for flexible working, the adoption of these technologies and the move to remote working has been pulled away from IT and into the boardroom.
As many companies begin rebuilding their business strategies for the new normal, I have been startled at how many of my peers were surprised themselves that the digital technologies along with the benefits their CIOs have been shouting about have actually worked.
Not only have staff been able to keep working from home, but business leaders have witnessed considerable productivity gains and staff wellbeing benefits.
The fact that the adoption of digital technology worked at scale and that the benefits are so evident raises the question as to why this had not already been adopted. Whether it was a hesitancy to go all-in, a lack of company vision or even an aversion to risk, businesses and their employees and in some cases their customers will not want to forgo the newfound benefits of a digitised business going forward.
Two distinct business strategies
In many ways, the pandemic lockdown has caused business leaders to expedite their digital transformation roadmap, having realised there is no going back. Because of this, you’ll begin to see two distinct business strategies. First, the more transformational CIOs and business leaders will begin harnessing the leap into the future, rethinking their value propositions and business models. Second, operationally-focussed CIOs and business leaders will look to save costs, tighten budgets and pull back on investments. The danger is they will find no competitive advantage here.
It seems to me that this is an opportunity for both business and IT leaders to be bold and reimagine their future.
This, I believe, has immensely exciting implications for the economy and society as a whole, and we know the economy will need all the help it can get over the coming years.
At a more practical level, there will be 3 core enablers of this accelerated digital adoption. These are:
- People - those who might have been reluctant before, have learned to embrace new digital ways of working
- Migration to remote working - the technology already exists and has proven itself to be resilient enough to overcome any perceived risks to business operation
- Migration to cloud technology - this underpins point 1 and 2 as well as providing businesses with the ability to rapidly deploy new products, services and generate new revenue streams.
Given that digital transformation is accelerating and most businesses, according to McKinsey, want their organisations to be digitally converted or fully digital, but less than one-fifth are there now, there is a different sort of transformation at hand for CIOs.
The need to scale and adapt quickly
Having been the driving force to digitally enable their business from tens or hundreds of corporate offices and a handful of corporate data centres, CIOs must now incorporate tens of thousands of home offices and numerous cloud services in their strategy and operations.
Most CIOs will have already done some of this, but the pendulum is about to swing massively and quickly from managing business-owned infrastructure (private office networks, private wide-area networks, private data centres, private applications) to managing unowned infrastructure (third-party cloud services, the internet, home offices, fixed and mobile broadband providers).
To manage, control and optimise this swing in the pendulum successfully, CIOs will need to rely on new practices, processes and tools. What exists today, built around owned infrastructure, will not provide enough insight and clarity in decision making, whether in server rooms or the boardroom, to enable an accelerated digital transformation.
That is why I’m fully supportive of the new Technology transformation and readiness assessment, the second white paper released by Verizon Business and Boston Consulting Group in their 'Return to Business as Unusual' series, where it is observed that "Monitoring is important for the IT side of the organization; for the business side, it is all about staff morale and productivity, and for this you need visibility. Ultimately, the human experience of working with critical business applications is the most important element. The goal is to be able to understand what is causing productivity loss and take action, even when you don’t own the internet/network your applications are being delivered across and have limited ability to instrument the “as a Service” platforms from which your applications are being delivered".