Coronavirus » Firms look to tech for lifeline in a crisis

As many office workers approach four months of working remotely, quick and agile tech transformation has been the key enabler to maintaining stability.

“Coronavirus has created this bolt of change that was forced on all organisations across every sector to respond incredibly quickly to enable continued business continuity”, says Mark Lillie, global technology, strategy and transformation lead at Deloitte. “Through that necessity, organisations are now exploring what they can do to ensure that they don’t go back into the old ways of working.”

Tech transformation is a balancing act between ‘control’ and ‘speed’, where businesses have been leaning towards control these past few years, Lillie says. But the crisis has provided an impetus for speed.

“What has happened is that the need for greater businesses agility has moved the pendulum more towards speed. Because of coronavirus, the attitude changed to ‘just get it done’”, he says.

“Before there would be an investment committee that would put together a business case, it would get reviewed by various groups, and in maybe three or four months, you’ve got some sort of ability to buy those new licences.”

But as the lockdowns recede and social distance measures ease, companies are now wondering how to maintain this agility. Coronavirus has made a case for agile tech transformation but it did not erase the hurdles that prevent fast adoption.

Adrian Overall, CEO of CloudStratex, an IT tech firm, says that many of the big friction points such as compliance, regulation and security remain.

“Security is a priority. When we are talking about the cloud, you automatically have to engage with a multitude of stakeholders, you start to hand over control of things to other people. Typically, in a business’s world where they run the show, the other stakeholders may not be as engaged as they would like them to be.”

Until these problems can be addressed, there will continue to be resistance to tech adoption says Overall.

“Within the tech space, we have a two or three speed workforce, different demographics of professionals thinking and behaving very differently. Certain demographics are born in the cloud era and the next generation landscape.

“But a lot of enterprise professionals that have been around for a long time are still living in a world of captive infrastructure and captive platforms. I think that transition is one that’s going to take time.”

There are issues at the top of organisations, however. Partly because of the tech-illiteracy, the CIO is often left out of strategic business decisions and their role is considered more operational in terms of making sure existing tech runs smoothly. However, what this crisis has done is quite forcibly demonstrate the transformative impact technology can have on a business.

“In the past, CIOs didn’t have to deliver business impacting kind of innovation. What they’re finding is that the landscape has changed dramatically”, says Overall.

“The CIO is going to have to become much more adept at being a ‘universal translator’ for an organisation, becoming more worldly in understanding the needs of the business and its customers. It’s about bringing some of the answers to the table and being proactive in the conversation versus merely being a recipient and a custodian.”

Vendors and buyers

The responsibility of tech transformation does not sit solely on the shoulders of businesses but include vendors as well. For their part, vendors need to be more understanding of their clients needs.

“It’s two-way street. I think the vendor community at large needs to think very hard about the challenges they are trying to solve for their clients”, says Overall. “There’s a bit of drive by selling that goes on out there. There is this lack of understanding their client’s sentiment. A lot more could be done in the context of helping their clients adopt and operationally integrate software.”

“There is a lot of marketing hype around things like ROI and TCO of tech options but that doesn’t truly reflect the genuine needs of the client. The tech companies are very focused on their technical wizardry, but they lack the intimacy with their clients to really understand how that manifests itself for a business.”

From the buyer’s perspective, they also need to view tech more holistically when looking at adopting new solutions.

“What’s happening to businesses who buy software or tech ‘lock, stock and barrel’ is they find a gap between where they wanted to go and where they ended up,” says Overall.

“The sentiment we’re beginning to pick up is that businesses need to become an educated buyer. They need to look at this differently. They need to retrain their staff. They need to teach themselves to ‘fish’ again.”

Lillie says the mantra that company directors should have is “fall in love with the problem, don’t fall in love with the technology”.

He adds that businesses don’t necessarily need to adopt cutting edge technology, there exists many mature technologies yet to be fully adopted (such as video conferencing a few months back) but figuring out how they work for your business and address your business’s problems is where many companies stumble.

“It’s not about the bright shiny objects, it’s about using and applying those technologies in a way that really solve a business problem. Technology doesn’t exist for the sake of technology. It’s not just the latest, greatest and most shiny thing, often it’s not.”

 

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