What you already know

Restrictions imposed by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will necessitate long-lasting change to businesses’ digital and IT strategy.

What was first considered an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ for change has evolved into a ‘burning platform’ whereby the success of companies across all industries is contingent on high-cadence adaptability and considerate business and digital transformation.

Prior to COVID-19, companies struggled to keep up with increased demand for complex technology and digital infrastructure. Companies failed to match digital capability with business need, be it heightened cyber resilience, GDPR compliance or data accessibility. In March 2020 alone, ITGovernance.co.uk recognised 67 different cyber-attacks and data breach incidents[1]. A data security issue unearthed by Tesco in March 2020 resulted in new cards being issued to 600,000 Clubcard account holders[2].

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent mass migration from centralised offices to remote working has magnified the shortcomings of technologically ill-equipped companies. Guardum, a provider of data subject access request (DSAR) solutions, state that 75% of data protection officers polled have struggled to meet data compliance obligations while working remotely. Difficulties faced in fulfilling DSARs include poor archiving and lack of access to paper files.

In some cases, technology has denied companies the privilege of choice with regards to adopting new ways of working. The Department for Work & Pensions faced scrutiny after refusing to allow many of its staff to work from home[3]. A source at the Department for Work & Pensions cites under-investment in IT systems as an influential factor in the delayed move to remote working.

In 2020 and beyond, C-suite executives may no longer determine the timelines associated with accelerated digitalisation, IT transformation and technological innovation. Previous roadmaps constructed by business leaders in response to revised business needs should be accelerated to meet the technological requirements of the new ways of working.

If transformative measures are carried out correctly, with sufficient forethought, expertise and with the aid of robust and proven frameworks, the new ways of working borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic should be embraced to yield net-improvement to business models and processes. “68% of CFOs say crisis-driven transitions to remote work will make their company better in the long run.”[4]

What businesses must consider

For several months, society has been deprived of many freedoms that we have come to take for granted, including mobility, culture and community. Employees (and employers) should re-evaluate how these freedoms are prioritised and adapt to meet the new priorities of society. In doing so, companies must ask themselves the following questions:

  • How can new and innovative technological capability be leveraged to maximise the efficacy of new ways of working?
  • How can IT strategy enable companies to meet the changing business need after the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Does remote working make companies more resilient to revised employee priorities such as addressing well being and work-life balance?
  • Can agile methodologies and frameworks be used to optimise business efficiency?

A burning platform for change

The correct IT strategy, digital infrastructure and technology implementation will enable companies to adapt to irrevocable changes to the ways of working. If companies can guarantee improved business efficiency, irrespective of the geography of their employees, executives will be enabled to explore the following opportunities, and in doing so, further maximise the satisfaction of their clients and their workforce.

  • Your job is no longer defined by where you go to work, it is defined by the value you deliver.
  • Overheads incurred by building, renting, staffing and maintaining large office spaces demand critical review. Centralised offices will continue to serve a purpose, but the reliance on offices to facilitate access to technology will rapidly diminish. Expensive offices must be justified by other means, be it community, culture, collaboration or client meet-and-greet[5]. The correct IT strategy must be realised to liberate real estate for these new value-added activities[6].
  • Clients and services become location agnostic. Businesses must leverage alternate delivery methods to exploit value-for-money services which were previously off-limits according to geographical location.
    • Alternate delivery methods will have immediate implications for a business’ bottom-line. Clients may no longer value, nor recognise whether contracts are fulfilled by a workforce stationed in the City of London. Barclays CEO, Jes Stayley concedes that expensive city offices “may be a thing of the past” during an interview with the BBC in April 2020[7]. Fujitsu have followed by stating that they will reduce their office footprint by 50% before 2022[8]. Moving forwards, Fujistu will favour satellite offices situated in areas that better serve their clients.
    • For multi-national companies, localised skillsets and capabilities can be extended across all regions. Region specific offerings can now be delivered to clients irrespective of their location.

Technology is paramount in maximising the opportunities identified during this global pandemic.

Closing comments

New ways of working have made technologically inferior companies acutely aware of the issues they must resolve. COVID-19 must act as a call to arms for these companies to revisit their IT strategy and pursue credible assessment of their digital maturity. In a time of extraordinary change, the cadence of a company’s IT strategy is the most influential lever with regards to a company’s ability to adapt to the new normal.

 

[1] Different types of incident included in the list provided by ITGovernance.co.uk include cyber-attacks, ransomware, data breaches, financial information theft and malicious insiders. Source: https://www.itgovernance.co.uk/blog/list-of-data-breaches-and-cyber-attacks-in-march-2020-832-million-records-breached

[2] Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-51710687

[3] Source: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/15802-2/

[4] When asked ‘What about the current situation will make your company better in the long run? (Select all that apply.)’, the third most popular option selected was ‘Technology investments’ (49%). ‘Better resilience and agility’ and ‘work flexibility’ where first and second most popular answers with 72% and 68% of votes, respectively. Source: https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/pwc-covid-19-cfo-pulse-survey.html Accessed 26/05/2020.

[5] Businesses must take inspiration from the transformation witnessed across high-street banks in the last decade. Retail banks have acknowledged the demand for face-to-face consultation in their branches. BearingPoint explore this subject in the following article: https://www.bearingpoint.com/en-gb/our-success/insights/how-to-optimise-retail-bank-branches-to-remain-competitive-in-an-increasingly-digital-landscape/

[7] Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52467965

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