Author: Soubhi Chebib, General Manager
2020 saw global disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an outbreak that forced many organizations to reprioritize their digital transformation investments. Customers in an advanced stage of transformation were better prepared to deal with the immediate crisis, as well as better positioned to bounce back as markets reopened.
In the early days of the pandemic, global markets were battered by disrupted supply chains and workforces. Major companies, government departments and their extended supply chains found themselves under pressure to revise business and technology strategies, with best- and worst-case scenarios being redrawn far more frequently than ever before.
Qatar fared better than many other nations, with early crisis response mitigating the virus’s direct impact. But the pandemic’s global nature meant that many Qatari businesses were affected by disruption to supply chains, fluctuations in currency rates, adapting to a remote workforce, and cut-backs in budget allocation.
Reprioritization of transformation
Of all the ways to describe the pandemic, the most critical is “uncertainty”. The challenge of forecasting the duration and depth of the virus’s impact has forced organizations to reprioritize spend. Most CIOs have had to reprioritize Digital Transformation initiatives, which will immediately impact the organization’s resilience and ability to handle the uncertainty. Those CIOs most engaged with transformation are also well placed to take a leading role in steering the organization into the future.
Digital transformation is a journey rather than a destination.
Even if your organization was less prepared for the crisis, a lot of groundwork could be made by tackling the highest priority in DX projects, with a prudent approach to minimize any disruption on top of the already-stretched IT resources.
There are several concrete benefits from undergoing a DX process. Some of the most important are:
- Provide an improved customer experience
- Faster response to external conditions, both positive and negative, including the ability to integrate new technologies quicker and derive business value faster
- Deeper insights into the performance of the organization, areas for improvement, and the real return on investment of technology investment
- Greater value from data by unifying data streams and applying advanced analytics and machine learning
- Automating operational processes and infrastructure to drive efficiency, reduce cost, and improve resilience
DX in practice: meet uncertainty with agility
In a nutshell, the solution to uncertainty is agility; the ability to transform the business, redirect resources and reshape business practices at greater speed and with less disruption than competitors. Unlike disaster recovery, which focuses on restoring the business to its previous state, a resilient architecture must adapt to adversity, maintaining operations until new opportunities arise, and then accelerate into new markets without delay.
By deploying innovation accelerators such as automation and analytics, many existing infrastructure and business processes can be transformed and pave the way for new technologies to build on the DX foundations in the future. Automation, in particular, has been proven invaluable during COVID: automation at the infrastructure level adapts readily to remote management and realignment of applications for remote users and early remediation of faults, while business process automation provides continuity, quality assurance, and efficiency of business processes.
Modern organizations embrace cloud technologies, not only in the public cloud but in on-premise and hosted private cloud services. Managing, securing and optimizing this complex hybrid infrastructure requires tools and skills which can evolve as the customer’s cloud requirements change to accommodate more applications and deliver new business outcomes based on the convergence of technologies and business practices that drive digital transformation.
Security, in particular, is an area demanding close attention too. During the pandemic lockdowns, organizations faced the challenge of allowing remote access to entire workforces and securing applications, data and identities. Denying access was inconceivable; security teams had to adapt fast, and in many cases, learned to rely on partners who could align security capabilities to the immediate needs, as well as the infrastructure to come.
Moving applications to cloud-enabled platforms, whether on or off-premise, can be a major step forward by leveraging new capabilities offered on these platforms to scale enterprise applications and service delivery, open options for integration with new capabilities such as AI and edge computing, and scale usage and cost more effectively.
In all infrastructure investment, but especially in times of crisis with budgets stretched and operational capacity under strain, the balance of risk and reward is particularly challenging. This is where digital transformation thrives, whether that is delivering agility and resilience to an organization already on a DX journey or assisting an organization that is just starting down that path to efficiently transform IT investment to reduce risk, maximize agility, and deliver resilience.
A focus on resilience in all parts of the business, from IT infrastructure to business processes and staff, is a key aspect of this process. Innovation often starts small, with transformation within a single business unit or workflow. By making best-practice decisions of platforms, data management, security, and enterprise applications, innovation and transformation will grow organically through the business.
In the long term, the pandemic will ease and markets will recover, but a new normal is established as customers are demanding smart, integrated and secured e-services providing an improved customer experience and convenience. It is essential that businesses have infrastructure and platforms in place to enable rapid changes and to accelerate digital transformation to take advantage of new opportunities. Review your infrastructure with agility and transformation in mind, and you’ll be positioned for success, with a resilient organization withstanding the impacts of COVID and its future legacy.