The initial shock wave of the Covid-19 crisis has passed through the U.S. economy. More than half the states in the U.S. have started to relax their shelter-at-home restrictions. Businesses are developing plans about how and when to bring employees back to work. And the U.S. stock market is already starting to pick leaders and laggards in the post-lockdown economy.
IT spending plans for most companies have been significantly, if not radically, altered by the crisis. Some companies are literally operating in survival mode. They’ve asked their IT teams to find every possible means of reducing spending by suspending current initiatives, eliminating contractors, deferring all nonessential purchases, renegotiating supplier contracts and, as a last resort, furloughing or terminating employees.
Other companies are planning to maintain their current levels of IT spending but their spending priorities have changed. In still other instances, some companies view the crisis as a strategic opportunity and are planning to increase spending on new IT capabilities that will enable them outflank or outdistance their competitors.
The crisis and Work From Home (WFH) practices that have been adopted throughout the U.S. have revealed chinks in the armor of most companies. CIOs who are not operating in survival mode should carefully examine the operational fault lines that have been exposed by the crisis and review the following issues in revising their spending plans for the remainder of this year.
Proprietary data centers and the applications they house may not have been more susceptible to disruption or failure than their cloud-based equivalents during the crisis but they certainly required more detailed and persistent management attention. IT organizations that had moved the majority of their operations to the cloud prior to the outbreak spent far less time worrying about application performance, capacity management and disaster recovery than organizations that continue to maintain on-premise applications and proprietary data centers. Every CIO should be asking themselves if they can improve the resiliency of their operations by accelerating their transition to the cloud as soon as possible.
In many cases the crisis has highlighted the shocking amount of human middleware that is still required to perform routine tasks and activities. This statement applies to both IT operations and many business processes. Process automation is always a worthwhile investment because it can improve business velocity, eliminate errors, minimize rework and reduce labor costs. IT organizations have purchased a variety of tools in the past to support automation initiatives, specifically in the areas of API integration and workflow management.
Unfortunately, many of these tools have been implemented in a piecemeal fashion by individual IT teams with little coordination and no overall strategy. Progressive CIOs will use this opportunity to establish a dedicated Center of Excellence to manage their API integration efforts on an enterprise-wide basis or a comparable CoE to optimize the use of different workflow management tools for specific processes. Truly enlightened CIOs will establish a single CoE to manage both!
Even if current predictions about the widespread adoption of WFH practices in the future are grossly exaggerated, the lockdown has irreparably altered the security attack surface of every company. Employees working from home invariably employ personal applications, devices and networks in ways that were never contemplated by most infosec controls and operational procedures. Every CIO needs to re-examine their security perimeter and determine if the tools and practices currently in use are adequate to defend this permanently expanded frontier.
Data management and predictive analytics
The information needs of many business leaders also changed dramatically during the onset of the crisis. In some cases leaders wanted the same data they had received in the past but they wanted it faster, more frequently or in greater detail. In other cases, they wanted wholly new types of information they had never requested before. Either type of request may have revealed significant deficiencies in the quality, consistency or timeliness of pre-existing data management practices.
Of even greater importance was their need to anticipate and respond to fluctuations in supplier performance and customer behavior under rapidly changing circumstances. Any CIO who had to tell one of their fellow executives that ‘I can’t give you that information’ or ‘I can’t answer that (data-based) question’ should be rapidly formulating a plan to upgrade their data management and predictive analytical capabilities. (If they don’t they’ll soon be reporting to a Chief Data Officer who will!)
Some companies were able to quickly and gracefully reconfigure their websites, mobile applications and APIs at the onset of the crisis to reflect the seismic changes in business conditions that were occurring on a daily basis. Some companies were able to implement new pricing policies, discounting practices, order tracking procedures, guaranteed delivery dates, product return policies and other new business rules within their customer-facing applications and back office systems in a matter of hours. Others took days or weeks to make such changes and frequently directed panic-stricken customers and suppliers to overworked, undermanned and sometimes uninformed call centers to answer crisis-related questions in the interim.
DevOps has been extolled as the standard operating framework of every contemporary software organization. But how many IT shops were successful in leveraging DevOps to implement significant changes to pre-existing business practices on the fly? How many software teams were truly able to alter business rules in production environments multiple times per day, which is the ultimate promise of the DevOps movement?
This is not the time to reduce IT spending
The issues referenced above are not simply technology problems that can be solved by purchasing new tools or services. They are business problems that can only be solved in partnership with business leaders. CIOs need to reflect on the ways in which their companies’ operations were disrupted by the crisis and work with their business partners in developing initiatives that can address the strategic deficiencies in operational capabilities that were revealed during the past five months. These initiatives will invariably require changes in business procedures, organizational structures, leadership assignments and a host of other business considerations to be successful. They cannot succeed solely on the basis of a CIO’s procurement decisions.
Past financial crises have demonstrated that enlightened investments during a business downturn can pay major dividends in the future. The crisis has sidetracked many IT initiatives and placed severe demands on many IT organizations. But it has also created a unique opportunity for CIOs to work more closely with their business partners in making their companies more resilient and successful in the future. No CIO should let that type of opportunity go to waste!
Article Provided By: Forbes
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