John Murphy, Senior Vice President, Products, EDB reflects on the impact of COVID-19, including the shift in business practices and the renewed attention to what is really important
In a time of lockdowns and quarantines, technology is playing a crucial role in keeping our society functional. And it may have a long-lasting impact beyond COVID-19.
When looking at how the pandemic has affected organisations and how they can adapt to change, there has been a shift in business practices and a renewed attention to the key trends which can be expected to continue post-COVID. Organisations will have to be laser-focused on two key areas in order to remain viable. These include the need for flexible technology infrastructure, together with a sharp focus on containing costs.
Flexible technology infrastructure
A huge number of employees have suddenly been forced to work from home to stay safe. Unfortunately, many businesses did not have the technology in place to cope with the immediate shift. To tackle this challenge and maintain continuity, IT decision-making has had to undergo rapid changes. As such, business leaders are now investing in tools that make their modern workforce much more agile.
It’s clear the pandemic has exposed a huge divide between those that modernised their infrastructures before lockdown and those that didn’t. For organisations that were already using modern tools and practices – such as video conferencing systems like Zoom, or online collaboration tools like Slack – and had moved critical business applications to the cloud, it was a relatively easy transition.
But while having the latest tech is all well and good, using it effectively requires the backing of equally flexible work culture. For instance, it’s not enough to simply deploy a best-in-class video conferencing system. There also needs to be a culture where people use it and do so appropriately, otherwise it’s no better than using a regular phone. Organisations need to implement a culture where employees are used to interacting via digital applications in order to be better positioned to take a modern business approach.
Increasingly, everyone is a technology worker whether they think so or not. If organisations invest in technology and training and build a culture where employees are comfortable using modern tools, dealing with disruptions like the surge in remote working is manageable.
Containing costs: Is there ever a good quarter to spend on tech?
At the same time that businesses are focusing on coping with the operational challenges of the crisis, their attention is also squarely on prudent IT cost management. In reviewing their budgets, companies need to assess their strategic context to understand where cuts and investments are needed.
Modern flexible technologies and tools, such as open-source software, video conferencing, cloud or even email, have been around for a while – some for more than 20 years. Despite this, many businesses have fallen foul of putting off key technology purchases due to a perceived notion that they weren’t essential to business operations or to keep quarterly finances in check.
Based on their adoption of these technologies, organisations can be divided into three groups: those that deployed flexible technologies and took advantage of them years ago; those that have deployed tech tools but are still running as though they haven’t, therefore gaining no benefits; and finally those that haven’t deployed these new technologies at all.
The first group are agile tech natives that can respond to change and did so in light of COVID. Responding to the pandemic was harder for the second group because they had to fast track a cultural shift, but at least they had a foundation in place from where to kickstart change. The third group of organisations hadn’t even deployed modern technologies, so it was impossible for them to react quickly because there was just too much to do in too short a time.
It’s vital that the hard lessons organisations learn from the pandemic are put into practice, whereby they structure their investments for the future, which helps to ensure that they implement and make use of technologies that scale up and down. Such technologies enable companies to flex according to a wider context. For example, when coping with the demands of a workforce returning to the office, as well as with another surge in remote working, should a second peak occur.
COVID-19 has obviously created a significant business disruption, but some organisations will find a way to leverage this crisis to modernise their tools and process, and they will benefit from doing so long after the crisis has passed.
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