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Getting Ahead of the Next Wave: Modernization in a Time of Pandemic

Samta Bansal Samta Bansal
Head of Global Marketing, Hitachi Digital Services

July 20, 2021

COVID-19 has left indelible changes on society, not the least of which is the impact it’s had on the modern workplace.

The sudden emergence of a global pandemic in 2020 forced enterprises to scramble to devise new ways to operate that would both protect their employees’ health and help them engage with customers in very different and demanding ways. Enterprises sped up existing digital transformation plans to meet a new constellation of challenges as IT organizations responded with the deployment of technology to become more agile and more productive.

It was a remarkable pivot. Still, the sudden load placed on digital infrastructures also spotlights unanticipated shortcomings as increased remote work added not just more layers but also more potential points of failure. In a bid to deliver “anywhere, anytime” experiences for customers, partners and employees, organizations added tools, features, applications and capabilities at an unprecedented pace. With end users spending more time with their help desks than ever before, IT personnel were stretched to the limit.

So, how do we keep up with a rapidly changing world?

Patching a few things and adding a couple of features won’t cut it. IT departments need to step back and think strategically to make sure they are in step with their business’ larger needs.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider what’s next in your modernization journey toward building a resilient and adaptable digital core.

Managing Your People

Any major transformation needs the support of the top management. Leadership buy-in and all-around alignment with required stakeholders is critical. If you’re contemplating a major shift, make sure you have the ear of your senior executives. Everyone needs to be on board.

The process of change management requires careful attention to planning and communication. Major IT changes often demand major culture changes to succeed. Management needs to think carefully how to balance in-office versus remote work — a key corporate culture issue that will play out in coming months as the pandemic recedes. Also, it needs to consider the implications that different apps and platforms will have for workflow and communications.

Communicate Frequently

Communicate frequently — up, down sideways and across. I can’t underscore this enough. Think about what gets shared and how. This makes a huge difference in how employees view the organization and one another; more than a few Silicon Valley companies found that out the hard way when social activism spilled over into employee forums in recent years. Your communications engine needs to hum in harmony so that everyone recognizes what’s needed for the long journey ahead. In the meantime, make sure to stop and celebrate small wins and recognize the achievements of your people along the way.

Plan for Change

Studies show roughly half of major modernizations fail, so careful planning is a must. Management needs to ask itself who will be using which apps, which systems and why. According to IDC, 30% of the executives it polled in 2014 said that apps were a high or very high priority. Nowadays, that percentage is 70%. That sends a clear message: Lots of change is coming.

Whatever the move, modernization means the target organization will need a thorough audit of all IT systems and a strategy that allows for future growth. In many cases, even the org chart gets rejiggered as workflows change and different teams end up taking on new responsibilities. Think about what this will require in terms of governance and process management planning.

There are companies with the resources to do all this on their own, but they are the exceptions. There’s still a skill scarcity in the market, and that makes it hard to navigate what’s a complex landscape. An estimated 90% of companies believe they have a digital strategy in place, but only 14% have the technology and skills needed to deliver that strategy. So, in the end, many enterprises will likely need to hire outside consultants to help them through the process of integrating technologies from different vendors.

Play Well With Others

Organizations looking at major transformation should look for several things. First and usually most important is the question of cultural fit. Do the contractors have the needed experience, and will they communicate well with your team? Previous experience is crucial to making the engagement work.

Scope and scale of work is as important here as anywhere else. Both providers and clients need to be extremely thorough in specifying what they need, when and how to avoid surprises. Clients need to know that the new capabilities will actually work with their existing systems, while providers need assurance that they’ll get the cooperation they need to execute fully on the contract.

Whose Computer Is It, Anyway?

One common quandary is selecting the architecture that will work best for your modernization strategy. Maybe the contractor can containerize the app. Perhaps they’re looking at making a native-cloud service for what you want. Maybe you want them to create a microservice or reactive architecture and drop it into a cloud. Maybe you need certain applications to be on premises. There are many decisions to be made, so make certain you’re all on the same page regarding architectural approach towards your application portfolio.

Organizations in transition need to pay careful attention to their future data centers which may very well be “floating data centers.” In the meantime, current data centers should be able to seamlessly navigate between edge to core and to multiple clouds to meet your needs. Do you want to tap a hyperscaler or software-as-a-service (SaaS) company for what you need? Whatever the choice, there are real advantages to being able to move services at will. At the same time, one thing companies don’t always consider is these architectures can become complicated quickly, even as they improve availability.

Make Haste Slowly

In the end, IT comes down to the same things that move the rest of the organization. The right people have to be at the table — and come to an agreement — for any of it to work in the long run. Numerous organizations are trying to rethink how they’ll operate in what may prove to be an era of pandemic and supply chain shocks. Plan around strategy, process and people. Those who succeed will be the ones who took the time to plan.

Samta Bansal

Samta Bansal

Samta joined Hitachi Digital Services from Hitachi Vantara where she led global consulting strategy and marketing. She has deep expertise in digital transformations, AI, big data and IoT, and experience spanning marketing, sales enablement, business development and more.