COVID-19 Outbreak: A Wake-Up Call for business fraternity to Adapt a Digital-First Strategy and Innovate the IT Infrastructure

COVID-19 has brought most business operators, IT & ITES service providers, and employees to the reality that IT system investments have been ignored for a long time. It's not that real-time collaboration with rich media, remote working, and productivity-enhancing tools, along with the necessary IT infrastructure were not available all this while. The inactivity on this front was because – the legacy systems were working 'just fine'; so, there was no 'apparent logic' for the operators and IT service providers to spend money and update the technology.
Better IT offerings would have helped the businesses get more efficient, the vendors in offering better product suites, and the customers in getting a seamless experience from the businesses. The inertia and joy of saying 'it's working fine' kept us all from taking the right steps in the right direction at the right time. And now, the threats standing in front of us are bigger than we expected:
  1. The first wake-up call is going to the businesses. Their legacy IT systems, which were working 'just fine' some weeks ago, are now proving to be a major liability. Ill-equipped to handle larger traffic driven by remote working, unable to provide features with real-time applicability and accessibility issues are making businesses see failing customer interfaces. The cash crunch, paired with these issues, is causing a decline in revenues and constant demand to rework and update old systems, which calls for an extraneous cost that could have gone into development.
  2. IT Teams inside the companies and IT/ITES vendors who were not championing innovation are taking the heat as well. Constantly bombarded with requests and nearly 24 x 7 crash reports are causing thin-resourced teams sweating out for fixing issues. Recommending third party products and their expensive yet loose integration for quick turnarounds is becoming a norm for teams that are unable to contain these problems.
  3. IT/ITES Consumers and Network Solution Innovators are the next in line. They have to get acquainted with the ‘New Normal’. Many companies will reopen into their traditional practice. But most of them have plans to keep remote working extended for a long time – after all, it cuts rental fixed costs and make employees feel safe working from home. So, network solution architects and consumers will have to understand that high-traffic networks are new normal now. Consumers will have to get patient, while the innovators will have to get to work and find solutions to trace and solve the most prominent problems.
Eventually, customers are the ones paying the major price. These are uncertain times, and most people are just clueless and looking for a quick solution. When they get disappointed not getting even these answers from the businesses they have transacted with for so long, their trust factor goes for a toss.

First Step Towards the Solution: Assessing What Does the Situation Demand.

Before resolving any problem, it is necessary to identify the key indicators, actors, and affected elements in the system. The pandemic has pushed all of us into working from our homes. Companies have been cornered to cut down inefficiencies and focus on only the value-generating activities. COVID-19 has brought the harshest scenario testing conditions to reality, and that is why systems are being pushed to perform way beyond their threshold.
Here is a brutally honest assessment of the demands of this situation
  1. Internal Teams: These are the most affected people in the ecosystem. They are trying to cope with the challenges of COVID-19, and lagging systems are failing them. What they need, are seamless remote working product suites, which help them be productive and collaborative without making geography a considerable hurdle.
  2. IT Teams and Network Specialists: Instead of thinking what went historically wrong, these teams have to scramble towards the solutions. Deploying updates and new technology at scale is the primary challenge they have to solve. This is to ensure that everyone gets access to all the tech she/he needs, including corporate IT systems and even remote access for getting the necessary data. Next, they have to address the vulnerabilities in the entire network. The networks are scaling and more active between each node, making them more vulnerable with each passing day. Network safety has never been this important.
  3. External Stakeholders: These are frontline workers and government bodies who are using IT systems to communicate and face COVID-19 head-on. They are looking for seamless experience round the clock, whether it comes to video communication, data sharing, telecommunication & internet access, or real-time collaboration features. The more we empower them, the more we will strengthen our side in the fight against COVID-19.

Charting The Solution: What Will the Ideal Solution Look Like?

Instead of thinking in abstract terms of futuristic technologies, we have to frame the problems we face from an IT/ITES standpoint and do what we do the best – device solutions that solve these problems. What could be achieved earlier with a simple visit to your colleague’s desk will now require efficient platform to enable. While there many IT tools are used by Enterprises and Services providers, but our view is that need of the hour is effective monitoring of the IT infrastructure and making remote management effective.
Here is what our solution approach should look like:
  1. Unified Monitoring of your IT infrastructure : When IT team are working remotely they need effective Monitoring tools that help them remotely identify the issues to fix, system that help them to carry out Root cause analysis, capacity analysis, Flow analysis and reduce network downtime. Monitoring platforms too have been around for long time but most organization have disjointed siloed platform making it impossible for the IT team to correlate multiple metrics, get a single pane dashboard for their complete IT infrastructure or even automate issue identification to ticket generation. A nuanced approach to solving of these problems would be – simplifying the approach. Start with reducing the number of tools and disjointed platforms that make your IT system more complex. Use this as an opportunity to determine what truly is valuable to your IT systems and adopt a Unified approach to Monitoring.
  2. Effective use of tools such as ITSM or Service Desk – to improve User-Experience: ITSM tools enable make IT more efficient while improve user experience. An effective and simple to use ITSM with ‘out of box’ features such service catalogue for service delivery across business functions, Self service App, Multilevel configurable workflows, Change management, approvals, remote desktop and inbuilt Knowledge base for self help can go a long way to make IT more efficient in organisations
  3. Make Automation a Central Strategy: Map your entire set of work processes and find redundancies or repetitive tasks. These may include daily network health checks, system error reports or minor issue resolutions. If you look deep enough, you can use a simple rule-based approach to automate most of these tasks. Since IT resources are running thin, it makes sense to focus manpower on issues that matter the most and automate the rest.

In Conclusion

IT has often been considered an overhead. Most companies, even beyond the accounting treatment, did not consider their IT investments a big deal. That, paired with the lack of innovation, has brought us to this point. From a business standpoint, I believe all operators, managers and vendors will see Digital-First as a tangible, applied and value-generating strategy with real benefits.
I have had the opportunity to objectively assess the IT space for a long period now. With my own experiences, understanding and analysis, I have observed that IT’s consideration as a cost center needs to shift now to a profit center. The COVID-19 is serving as a wakeup call to all of us, that IT can truly contribute to efficient operations in challenging times. For that, we have to let go of the legacy systems, stay lean & focused, have a user-centric approach and be ready to innovate for the hour. As far as people are able to get their work done without any hassles, we would have succeeded as IT teams driving business growth and continuity for our business and community at large. 

Chief Operating Officer at Mindarray Systems (Motadata)