Thursday, November 26, 2020

Optimizing IT for COVID-19: Why the Crisis is a Watershed Moment for Business Technology

COVID-19 has tested IT more than ever before. And with remote access and online collaboration now critical to business continuity, those organizations with digitally advanced operations have fared better than most. As we move past the initial response, technology will play an even greater role in the recovery, helping to repair the damage caused by a coronavirus.

The crisis has unleashed unprecedented levels of uncertainty into the world, and it is far from over. Just as it was difficult to predict how the initial outbreak would roll out, the recovery presents the same problem. Adapting will depend on optimization of the IT estate, building greater operational efficiency, agility, and security into systems.

What Will the World Post-Coronavirus Look Like?

As we adjust to the new reality, businesses are pivoting towards one of two approaches: suspend any technology investments with the objective of significantly saving resources, or accelerate strategic investments for its long term impact on competitiveness and innovation. With these two approaches in mind, there are several aspects to be taken into consideration in order to ensure business continuity and success.

Why making strategic investments in technology is more critical than ever

Now more than ever, investing in data should be a top priority for any business. Data should constantly be regarded as fuel for business growth, transforming every aspect of the journey. From streamlining and optimizing internal workflows to overhauling how every business develops and promotes their services, to expanding customer bases based on data insights.

Data Science – How It Is Shaping the Post-COVID Business Ecosystem

All of these elements will drive competitive advantage for companies investing in the future and having a long-term vision supported by the right IT infrastructure. In order to maximize the investment in this infrastructure, leveraging secondary data uses is also an essential element to include in the overall business strategy. Getting started on the path to collecting data, managing data, and leveraging AI for business growth will help smoothen decision-making and optimize workflows.

Role of AI in Service Automation and Management

Cash flow, cost reduction, and ROI optimization

Risk and uncertainty are given in any business environment. But the global nature of this pandemic has driven both to unsustainable levels, disrupting every organization in every sector.

Customers are putting deals on hold, suppliers are unable to fulfill orders, and business plans developed at the start of the year are now irrelevant. Adapting to this new normal means finding ways to boost business agility.

Prioritizing cash flow is one way, and will help businesses respond to the current crisis, as well as any new challenges that might arise as social distancing rules are relaxed.

The IT department has a critical part to play here and needs to ensure infrastructure is optimized to maximize cash flow. Does it support the acceleration of ROI from critical projects? Is the organization able to draw value from data quickly and from any location? A smart data management strategy – and associated investment in IT infrastructure can help identify processes and areas that yield no strategic value and will save costs. This is also valuable to identify and source talent and increase workforce productivity.

A singular focus on core business priorities

The way you build and manage the IT estate can also help. Pay-As-You-Go software contracts allow organizations to ramp capacity, and associated costs, up and down when required. And by shifting to Open Source software for critical workloads, they will significantly reduce licensing costs.

A flexible IT infrastructure is incredibly valuable at the best of times, but it can mean the difference between failure and success in the current climate, especially for smaller organizations that lack the resilience of enterprises.

Prioritizing and consolidating business-critical workloads mean companies of all sizes can continue to operate effectively while cutting costs and enriching cash flow at the same time.

On top of this, understanding market and customer data can help drive insights that create a competitive advantage, which should be regarded as a core element of any IT strategy.

Managing unpredictable client demand

In uncertain times client needs can be hard to predict. This kind of functionality can be the difference between supporting your customers when they most need it and losing them to a competitor.

IT process optimization helps manage the workloads associated with basic client demands, like data retrieval or analytics. But in times like these, it’s the ability to scale allocation of IT resources, both up and down, that makes the difference between unhappy and satisfied clients.
This is particularly relevant for small and medium-size organizations that have less flexibility in their business models and find these fluctuations difficult to respond to. Similarly, process automatization ensures the highest levels of performance, availability, and efficiency of the IT environment, while allowing for resource flexibility to troubleshoot, rethink, and innovate – at any level.

Prioritizing data and IT system security

Beyond the liquidity challenge, the security of data and infrastructure is the most important priority for IT administrators right now. Secure IT is essential for business continuity but has become even more important now as businesses rapidly adopt new ways of working. With so most staff now working remotely, and many expected to continue to do so, it’s inevitable businesses will be exposed to new threats. Online collaboration tools may be great for keeping employees connected, but they often fall short of the security functions required to meet enterprise IT standards. Ultimately, as useful as the undeniably are, these platforms represent a false economy if using those compromises data integrity or overall  security posture.

Coronavirus and WFH – Reveals Gaps in Cybersecurity Safety Net

In this ever-increasing demanding environment, the need to manage complex demands of data-intensive applications that are the basis for hybrid cloud or AI strategies needs to come at zero compromises in terms of cyber resilience. This is another step towards future proofing current technology investments. Deploying a “defense in depth” approach is an effective way of limiting exposure to these risks. By introducing multiple layers of cybersecurity defense, organizations ensure that even if one is compromised, there are additional safeguards in place to mitigate threats and thwart attacks.

Rapidly adapting IT infrastructure for new ways of working

Meeting growing client demands is one thing, but IT teams are also working hard every day to ensure consistent remote access for staff. Trying to achieve both as quickly and efficiently as possible inevitably puts staff and infrastructure under intense pressure.

Effective partnerships with IT vendors and service providers are central to success here. Ultimately, IT vendor fortunes are directly linked to their customers, so they should be going the extra mile to help adjust to the new normal and prepare for an uncertain future. This means offering things like more flexible terms, training support, and trial access to new tools. If your partner is not supportive in this way, it might be time to review the relationship.

A watershed moment

The COVID-19 crisis has turned into a watershed moment for society, demanding a reassessment of the very nature of technology and the pivotal role it plays in our lives. Demonstrating the advantage of digital maturity, technology-led innovation is already emerging as a critical factor in how we overcome the economic, social, and human impact of coronavirus.

Ivo Koerner
Ivo Koerner is Vice President of Systems Hardware, IBM Europe. Ivo is now based in Madrid and has worked at IBM for nearly 20 years in several different roles. He is an experienced IBM Sales Leader, having worked in various local and European Management positions within the Software Group. Before Ivo joined IBM in 2001, he gained several years of experience in the field of Founding, Funding and Management of Internet startups.

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