It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has fast-tracked digital and cloud transformation as businesses adapted to new ways of working. A recent study by McKinsey revealed that, in general, companies moved 20 – 25 times faster on digital projects since the outset of the pandemic than they would have done previously. In the case of remote working, that figure was more like 40 times faster.
Working at those kinds of speeds, under such pressure, it’s no surprise that the execution of these projects may be a little, shall we say, flawed. More than a year down the road, it’s time for IT departments to reflect on what they have achieved, what needs addressing, and what lies ahead on their continued digital transformation into the future post-pandemic world.
Rapidly adapted systems
Let’s start with those IT teams that had to make significant changes to their IT to be able to adapt to new ways of working in the pandemic. This was mostly companies that needed significant digital transformation to cope with mass remote working and other pandemic requirements:
- Office-based servers were reconfigured for remote access
- Connectivity and network upgrades were needed to handle this increased traffic
- Potentially entire workloads had to be moved to the cloud
In some cases, email was also affected, where it was hosted in an on-premises server. I heard of one company that – presumably out of a lack of better options at the time – opened new cloud-based email accounts for their staff without migrating over any of their email history. A total headache for all involved.
This is not so much digital transformation as digital adaptation. And the result is often a build-up of technical debt, which is a risk that must be properly managed. Otherwise, you could see your IT system – at best – holding you back and – at worst – crippling your business.
For these organisations, it is critical to audit your software and hardware systems, to understand where they are most vulnerable and what needs fixing most urgently to keep your business ticking over. If this is you, don’t panic – and don’t panic buy. Take the time to make good choices. And remember, however bumpy the road, you have bounced your way further along the path to digitalisation. Now you just need to stop, check your map, and come up with a plan.
Systems that were stable through the pandemic
Digitally mature companies fared better when the pandemic hit. IT systems with a good network connection – like those stored in a data centre – had an easy transition to remote working. Likewise, those who were already making use of cloud-based workflows could continue to do so.
The benefits of robust IT infrastructure are felt across the board, too. An article from Deloitte Insights notes that digital maturity is associated with greater agility, better cross-functional organisation, and speedier decision-making.
This is corroborated in an EIU study for Microsoft, which notes:
‘Researchers connected the dots between organizations’ digital maturity and their ability to weather the unprecedented disruption and found a strong correlation: The more focused companies were on digital transformation, the faster they were able to recover operations and empower people to move forward.’
These companies are in a good position as we arrive at the ‘new normal’. You don’t need to make up lost ground, or fix technical debt issues, and you know what gains digital transformation has already brought you. However, this doesn’t mean there is no work for you to do, it’s not enough to be on the path – you have to keep moving. Especially as we move away from work-from-home and towards work-from-anywhere, which brings a different set of requirements. So, you should continue investing in your IT systems, both to update existing hardware and software, and to add new assets.
Digital transformation success stories from the pandemic
For some organisations, the Covid-19 pandemic was the great big shove they needed. Despite serious challenges you progressed your digital transformation, and now you have an IT system fit for the pandemic and post-pandemic world.
In particular, those companies that have taken a workload-first approach to IT infrastructure, have prospered. Rather than hurriedly dumping everything on the cloud, these organisations have taken a flexible hybrid IT approach. One that considers where each workload can be best supported, in terms of ease of use, cost-efficiency and security.
As the Deloitte piece notes, those companies that innovate through the pandemic are those most likely to survive it. Look, for example, at TUI. This holiday company saw a 98% drop in business revenue, but took the opportunity to accelerate its digital transformation program.
By increasing automation, upgrading its central VPN system, and focusing on just three core priorities, TUI reduced its net burn rate by 70% in three months. Crucially, they say,
‘None of these changes would have ever been prioritized and executed if we weren’t forced to suddenly deal with a completely remote workforce… The best time to learn about how your company functions—and to push changes through that can make a dramatic difference—is when it is put under stress.’
What’s next for digital transformation?
For those businesses whose digital adaptation was rushed, there is work to be done. The priority has to be securing the future of your digital infrastructure so that whatever the post-pandemic world looks like, you’re ready for it. Critically, it’s important to find and acknowledge any mistakes that put you at risk of cyberattack.
For those digitally mature organisations under less pressure, you can also make the most of your experience over the past year to guide your digital transformation.
- What worked?
- What fell short?
- Where can you see potential for greater efficiency and growth?
Digital transformation is not a caterpillar-to-butterfly transition. There’s no end date – which means that even the most advanced companies still have a lot of ground to cover. The good news is this time you’re not starting from scratch, you’re starting from experience. Wherever you are on your digital journey and even if you're not not sure where to begin, we’re always happy to help, if you want to talk through your ideas, needs and ambitions.