How Digital Transformation Has Evolved Through COVID-19
There’s no debating the value of digital transformation when it comes to optimal business performance, but for many IT leaders, some digital initiatives are pushed to the backburner due to other priorities. Over the last few months, COVID-19 has forced a number of those initiatives to the top of the list. From businesses transitioning to remote work, to schools closing, to travel plans being canceled, no one was fully prepared for what the world would face this year. The adjustment has presented its own set of challenges for each industry, but it’s clear that technology is the backbone to how those challenges are addressed.
SolarWinds Head Geeks™ Liz Beavers, Leon Adato, and Patrick Hubbard gave some insight into what trends have emerged since the pandemic, how digital transformation has changed business operations, and what else can be expected from the shift.
New IT trends emerging
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted businesses to view IT and technology in a new lens. Technology that was rarely used, like VPN, certain teleconferencing tools, and the cloud (which we’ll touch more on later), is now necessary for remote work and business continuity.
“People are finally trusting the digital channels that have been available all along, rather than falling back on phone and email, or yelling over cube walls,” said Beavers.
While employees are beginning to take full advantage of business technology, IT is also tapping into the day-to-day tasks of employees they serve. In order to enable the business to operate in this new reality, IT has had to view business operations in the eyes of those who power them.
“Traditional IT is dead. It’s been dying for a long time but the pandemic accelerated it,” Adato said. “This is finally the opportunity for IT to engage at a business level rather than the heads-down tech-only view of the world.”
IT’s importance was shown significantly in March when many businesses unexpectedly went remote. IT departments had a responsibility to supply employees with hardware and equipment needs, but it was IT’s decision-making for the business, like budgets and talent recruitment, that really solidified its role.
A change in work and service delivery
Work and service delivery is nothing without the appropriate tools to produce them. More thought is being (and should be) put into the technology infrastructure businesses are using to get customers what they need. In other words it’s quality over quantity. Users might have infinite tools available, but if they don’t know how to use them or don’t see their value, does the amount matter?
“We will see a legitimate shift from enterprise service management to employee service management,” said Beavers. “Looking at customer satisfaction (CSAT) will be a run-of-the-mill task and IT will actually pay attention to the results and work to improve them.”
In addition to enhanced services, current circumstances have also forced IT to think critically about how they’re investing and what types of experiences those investments are driving for employees. With a number of organizations under financial constraints, IT has had to evaluate every investment for potential value and for practical user experience.
“User and consumer expectations will be what drives the platform choices and changes made,” Hubbard explained. “Businesses will need to be wise about what aligns closely with those expectations and that may mean cutting certain platforms from the budget.”
These are important decisions for IT leaders at this time, but with careful evaluation now, these technology commitments will pay dividends far beyond the current business climate. Many of these updates or new platforms may have been overdue, but with digital transformation now on an accelerated timeline, IT departments will continue to realize the benefits long after the pandemic.
How else can the industry prepare?
If there’s anything this pandemic has taught us, it’s to stay on our toes and over-prepare. As schools and businesses get ready to reopen, there’s a possibility operations may continue their virtual trend.
“There won’t be a return to the office, if schools don’t reopen,” said Adato. “But we know that work and school have to continue, even if it’s done virtually.”
So what can schools and businesses do to support remote environments? It’s not a bad idea for businesses to migrate to the cloud when possible. The cloud is elastic, allowing companies to maneuver their IT needs when the business environment calls for it, typically at minimal cost to the company itself. It allows for workforce flexibility, and user access to 24/7 support. This way employees, teachers, and students are able to access the network and all applications from wherever they are.
Meeting employee expectations should be a top priority for businesses. As digital transformation continues to evolve, businesses will need to keep up with their employees’ demands.
“People are being exposed to better,” Hubbard said. “They like the software applications available to them outside of business operations, so IT pros need to deliver that same quality for corporate work.”
A question businesses should keep in mind is “how are we pairing our digital technology with our actual needs?” By remembering this, orgs can ensure their choices are going to be viable five years out, and shrink the possibility of regret when accepting a longer implementation ramp for the right choice.
“Two years ago, there were solutions but they weren’t really tending to people’s needs,” Adato said. “Now, we’ll see features, enhancements, and new products that are more thoughtful about the problems they address.”
We’ve known for a while that digital transformation was on its way. And while it may have come fast and furious in 2020, businesses can benefit from learning new IT trends, adjusting how they deliver services and meet the needs of employees, and preparing their employees for the unexpected.