Global efforts to contain and treat COVID-19 have sent shockwaves through capital markets and created turbulence in the economy. The pandemic is causing widespread operational disruption for corporations of all sizes, with impacts on business continuity and the ways in which supply chains, employees, and contractors work together. The crisis has placed greater-than-ever-before emphasis on capable, seamless remote technology.
The appropriate focus for IT leaders is on immediate short-term needs like business continuity and quick fixes. There is also an opportunity for IT to address longer-term digital transformation, technology resiliency, and productivity priorities that may have been overlooked in a typical, business-as-usual environment.
There are short-term and long-term considerations that every IT department in every business must consider today to persevere through the global market shocks caused by coronavirus and come out stronger on the other side.
The ability to operate as an adaptive digital workplace is an imminent need. For the first time in history, we are seeing a massive operational remote workforce — and it’s imperative to have the right software tools, policies, and effective management in place so that employees at all levels can be maximally productive. Technology executives should produce an adaptive digital workplace response activation plan to guide their organizations through a rapid transition with as little business disruption as possible. A good plan will address six key dimensions: Digital culture, remote work environment, employee collaboration, security, business continuity/resilience and successful support. Speed is essential to produce and circulate this plan, so hit the ground running by asking your technology teams five key questions on operating as a digital workplace.
Over the next few months, organizations will confront increased volume of customer inquiries, order changes, and cancellations. It will be crucial to augment customer service capabilities by leveraging digital technologies such as self-service web, email, mobile apps, and chatbots to handle routine scenarios to free-up help-desk time for more complex customer service needs.
The unusually large scale of remote collaboration – both internal and external – including customers and vendors located across geographies may put existing infrastructure security to the test. IT executives should proactively assess infrastructure security, especially focusing on the non-standard hardware (BYOD) and public network scenarios. Access to business applications, data, and other technology assets should also be evaluated to remove potential access challenges and block potential security risks as applicable.
Review and update IT policies, making them easily accessible by remote staff. Send company-wide communications often and generate awareness for important changes as well as regular reminders and training around the key security components that must be followed. This is especially important for employees who handle business-sensitive data and documents or who are under regulatory oversight.
Corporate finance chiefs are boosting cash holdings, slashing costs, and collecting outstanding payments to ensure their companies remain sufficiently capitalized to withstand financial hits from the coronavirus epidemic. Technology executives should proactively consider optimizing IT costs to avoid cost takeout pressures. Collaborate with business colleagues to understand expected transaction volume over the next few months and assess how IT operations can reduce financial impact in the new reality.
Consider evaluating the following: Look to eliminate unused or underutilized resources (e.g., on-premises and cloud-based compute and storage, end-user devices, software licenses, underutilized contracting FTEs), negotiate better terms and conditions with vendor partners on equipment and services contracts, work with corporate finance to update hardware lease to take benefit of reduced interest rates, set up an IT and Cloud economics function, and migrate to scale-up and down cloud-based Opex operating model.
Technology executives who struggled to effectively support their remote workforce as soon as the coronavirus outbreak escalated should develop a holistic digital workplace strategy that includes collaboration platforms, security controls, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs and network support. In addition to these technology considerations, the digital workplace strategy should also consider virtual collaboration ways of working and associated policies to enable workforce agility across IT processes.
Technology executives should not limit their post-mortem analysis and future scenario training to a similar type of pandemic event. This should be used as an opportunity to conceive additional crisis scenarios and stress-test existing disaster recovery and business continuity plans against the broad set of hypothetical scenarios. If updating the business continuity and DR plans is not given an immediate priority, there is a high likelihood that gradually over time this activity will become deprioritized and may result in a similar reactionary crisis to the next future disaster.
When a crisis evolves quickly, with such staggering potential impact, your ability to make informed decisions can be a game changer. The coronavirus pandemic has been a painful reminder to many that the lack of accessible and trustworthy data on customers, vendor partners, employees, and technology resources can significantly slow down decision-making, can result in unreliable decisions, and in many cases can block decision-making altogether. Technology executives should reassess crisis response data needs (both internal and external data), identify key gaps, and strategically plan to address these gaps to proactively plan for the future.
Refactor existing applications to run more efficiently in cloud environments. This will allow for quicker scale-up and scale-down of cloud services as well as access to cloud-native database services to drive down costs and increase operational efficiency through IT automation.
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