With the autumn of 2020 approaching, individuals and organisations are starting to plan for the year ahead. And everyone is expecting a change, though the concrete shape of it is not quite clear. Since the pandemic forced the spotlight on the way we live and consume, we have seen an increased focus on well-being and ethics.
The immense creativity and innovation generated by COVID-19 will benefit us in this process. Zoom has become a byword for remote working and online social events. It has increased awareness of online security and shown us the power of having 1,000 participants as thumbnails on the screen, and its most popular features have quickly been adopted by other online meeting platforms. Also, many organisations have relegated the traditional office culture to the scrap heap by allowing unlimited home-working, taking the step to support employees with suitable office equipment like chairs and monitors.
For those of us working in technology, we have some immediate short-term digital breakage challenges we are looking to address in the coming months. We will have to play our part in building up workplaces and businesses and creating resilience through digital, to support changing and fragmenting business models and ways of working.
This can be done by enhancing collaboration with your colleagues across the business. Participating in each other’s team meetings or having dedicated short brainstorming sessions focussing on the end-to-end digital experience will improve everyone’s understanding of business priorities. Listening and being prepared to challenge the existing roadmaps and budget lines by asking “Will this retain and attract clients and talent?” and “How does this improve the end-to-end digital experience?” will also prove valuable, and so will making your conversation around digital continuous and iterative, rather than an annual planning conversation.
Speed and agility will be key in delivering value and growth in the digital world. So how can you ensure that your organisation will be resilient, adaptable and thrive through the changes ahead?
1. Incremental improvements and flexibility
Focussing on incremental improvements to your digital services and products, remediating identified digital breakages or implementing popular functionalities and innovations developed by others requires a flexible approach to planning and governance.
Start by reviewing and categorising the digital breakages your organisation encountered. There will be some quick wins to be achieved that you can mix in with the larger deliverables you identify.
Keeping an eye on the market, product providers and the feedback of Gen Z and Millennials can give you a good idea of which innovations are likely to translate into collaboration tools. Returning to the Zoom example, it took Microsoft less than 6 months to enhance Teams to offer similar capabilities. Understanding the product development path of your product provider will help you navigate the decision between adding further products to your catalogue or waiting it out.
This is also a good opportunity to reassess your governance. What worked and what didn’t? And what was essential and what was not? Very rarely do we look at reducing the governance burden instead of adding further checks and balances. Here is an opportunity to understand how to make the process more efficient without compromising transparency.
2. Understanding your technology estate
It will be crucial to understand which parts of your technology estate, processes and partnerships worked well in helping you respond, and what needs to change for your organisation to remain competitive.
Did the popularity of some of your applications and systems increase or diminish? It is worthwhile to understand how the usage changed and review the future of those systems. It is also likely that some of the technical debt became more prominent. Reliance on desktops and server rooms assumed a physical presence which is most likely gone forever. The ability to patch and secure a permanently distributed end-point estate will require a renewed emphasis on infrastructure and cloud.
Was there a process that became the unsung hero in keeping the business going? And were there processes that were not used at all? To move forward, identifying these is just as important as determining and fixing key processes and digital breakages.
And how did your partners support you? For many businesses this will have been a make-or-break period and those with supportive partners are more likely to have come out successful. Everything from sharing ideas and providing consulting support to potentially offering payment holidays or being less of a stickler for licensing rules will help frame the relationship moving forward. For many, the transactional nature of IT services will now incorporate trust in a different way.
3. Reassessing priorities and processes
Are there any initiatives in your organisation that need to stop to enable a refocus on creating digital resilience and the ability to respond at speed?
This question brings us to your plans. Take the learnings from the points above and translate them into roadmaps. Truly challenge your priorities and focus to ensure your technology supports your business in the digital world. For some, this might mean going back to the drawing board and taking the decision to refocus the effort and investment; for others, it might only be a few tweaks. Regardless of the scope of the changes, this is the moment to challenge the status quo in light of recent events and new expectations placed upon technology.
This task of challenging and reassessing existing technology and business priorities and processes also brings us back to the question of ethics, well-being and sustainability mentioned at the beginning: We need to take steps now to show how enhancing our digital offering can benefit our employees, partners and customers, helping them and us thrive in this new digital era.