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Pandemic and Shift to Remote Work Sets New Standards for IT

Tim Langley-Hawthorne Tim Langley-Hawthorne
Chief Information Officer, Hitachi Vantara

November 09, 2020

How Hitachi Vantara’s global IT team is enabling the “new normal” and delivering at speeds previously thought impossible.

In the post-COVID business world, IT departments are being asked to make radical leaps in speed and productivity – all in the name of empowering a workforce that is now predominantly remote and fast tracking digital transformation initiatives that are critical to the survival of so many businesses. In part one of this blog, I shared how Hitachi Vantara and many of our customers have responded to the overnight shift to predominantly remote work by duplicating the office environment in the home and enabling federated collaboration.

What are some of the other implications for IT teams that not only need to empower their own organizations to work effectively – and securely – in a new environment, but that also need to accelerate digital transformation efforts?

ITSM On Steroids. The shift to remote work puts a lot more responsibility on the shoulders of the ITSM (IT Service Management) team. Many IT organizations have responded by doubling or tripling service desk support. System resilience and application performance are now just as important as availability – i.e., a remote worker may not need sub-second response time, but they do need their applications available if they are working at midnight. With less time for backups and other batch-related activities, the most effective IT shops have rebalanced everything accordingly. (A related effect: in some organizations, ITSM leaders are being elevated in the ranks and reporting directly to the CIO.)

Outsmarting the bad guys. Interpol recently reported a significant shift in cybercrime targets from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure. Phishing emails are up more than 600% as the bad guys try to ensnare workers into giving up sensitive company information or log-in credentials. At Hitachi Vantara, we took several proactive steps to mitigate these risks. First, we deployed additional mock phishing emails as a test and educational tool to help employees recognize the bad guys ever-sneakier methods. We secured our most sensitive information – e.g., product launch details, R&D projects – with HCP Anywhere. Even before the pandemic, we had turned on multi-factor authentication for every employee and got religious about remediation and patching to ensure that every laptop, server and network device has the latest updates installed. As a result, we’ve seen continued ongoing improvement in our information security posture.

Making the digital transformation pivot. Different industries face very different circumstances as a result of the pandemic. Retailers, for example, have had to reduce workforces and shutter brick-and-mortar stores, yet are experiencing an order of magnitude increase in online orders. Bank branches are closing and the shift to call center, online and mobile is accelerating.

Regardless of industry, the IT shops that have been able to radically accelerate transformation efforts have a few fundamental things in common:

  • Highly agile infrastructure that enables the rapid development of new digital products and experiences. This means shifting dramatically to the cloud, where it’s economically and architecturally possible to consume SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) versions of products they might normally install inside the organization.
  • Automated and agile DevOps/DataOps that reduce the time and involvement of IT Operations. What’s more, the organizations who are succeeding have been able to take the quick-sprint model of agile application development and apply it across the entire IT workforce, including infrastructure teams.
  • Consuming IT differently, moving from project acquisition to project allocation. Successful organizations have shifted away from capital purchases to utility pricing, capacity on demand, and fully custom, managed services. The old way – sourcing, installing and configuring servers – is simply no longer viable in the post-COVID world.

My organization has performed some amazing feats by employing many of these best practices. We recently planned and completed a significant data center consolidation project, almost entirely remotely, in under three months. We’ll soon launch a new, state-of-the art partner portal – designed and developed entirely by a remote cross-function business and IT team ­– that digitizes a critical part of our business for more than 2,000 partner companies around the world.

Bottom line, many IT organizations – Hitachi Vantara’s amongst them – are making radical leaps in speed and productivity by embracing flexibility and agility, in both their IT infrastructure and in their cultures. They are moving rapidly to the cloud. They are simplifying decision-making, eliminating bureaucracy, and accelerating decision making by empowering lower levels in the organization. Collectively, we are demonstrating that in tough circumstances, we are capable of radical leaps in speed and productivity.

Tim Langley-Hawthorne

Tim Langley-Hawthorne

Tim is responsible for global IT supporting Hitachi Vantara employees and portfolio of edge-to-core-to-cloud digital infrastructure and solutions. His background includes deep cross-functional experience in customer service, strategic sourcing and financial management.