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A Look Back at the Year That Was

Remember where your business was a year ago? Remember where you were a year ago? How could anyone forget? As the seriousness of the pandemic became apparent, nearly every business experienced chaos and confusion. What was reliable and routine suddenly became ambiguous and unsure—in literally a day. Offices, factories, retail stores, and restaurants were shut down, and employees were sent home. Over-arching business strategies and plans were quickly abandoned as businesses scrambled to figure out how to navigate the next day… only to scramble again the following day to figure out how to navigate that day.

IT Saved the Day

But in the midst of the chaos and confusion, the IT organization stepped up and provided remote working solutions that kept businesses in business. Many employees had never worked remotely. Business leaders couldn’t define any kind of longer-term plans. In the face of this uncertainty, IT organizations did what they do best—provided technology solutions. These solutions enabled people to do their same jobs—but from a different physical location. It was truly a herculean effort. In-person team meetings were replaced by collaboration platforms such as Zoom, Teams, or Slack. Organizations were able to expand use of cloud-based application and storage services simply by purchasing additional licenses or adding additional capacity. Laptop computers flew off suppliers’ shelves as IT organizations worked non-stop to configure and deploy those laptops to employees suddenly working from home. Technology solutions such as these kept the business in business. This rapid shift to working from home wasn’t without challenges. Informal collaboration had to become more formal—there were no more trips down the hall or cafeteria conversations to discuss ideas. Procedures that worked well within the office environment were suddenly less effective when impromptu face-to-face discussions were no longer possible. Service desk agents no longer had multiple phone lines, multiple monitors, or visibility to monitoring consoles and other information sources. Things taken for granted in the in-office environment simply no longer existed in the work-from-home environment. Yet, somehow, organizations found their way through the chaos and confusion. Interactions between people became more understanding and tolerant as everyone worked to make the best of a bad situation. People became focused on a single goal—“making it work”—and organizations slowly found some traction in a strange, unfamiliar scenario of working from home. IT had truly saved the day. Then the other shoe dropped.

Impact All Around

As would be expected, the abrupt interruption of business as usual had just an abrupt impact to businesses. With all but what were considered to be “essential business” shutting down, organizations quickly felt the impact of lost revenues. In the face of those lost revenues, many organizations had little choice but to lay off or furlough employees. Some capacity-related issues were quickly resolved (VPN, cloud-based collaboration tools, etc.), but other challenges weren’t as easily solved. Some employees lacked the sufficient internet to enable them to do their work from home. With other family members also at home, there simply wasn’t enough network capacity available to meet the demand. And the human factor cannot be overlooked. Employees who enjoyed the camaraderie and creativity resulting from working within teams had to learn to deal with isolation. What used to be informal conversations had to be planned, impacting creativity and innovation. For some, working from home meant they were always “at work,” as there was no longer a distinct separation of the work and home environments.

Silver Linings From the Dark Pandemic Clouds

Despite all the challenges and the negative impact, there were some silver linings from those dark clouds of the pandemic. First, organizations recognized how reliant on technology they were. There was more goodwill and tolerance from colleagues as IT worked to resolve the unique technical issues that came up in the work from home environment.

The Now Normal

It’s safe to say working from anywhere is here to stay, and the ways we work have permanently changed. Both organizations and their customers have adapted to and embraced the ability to work and interact with businesses from anywhere. But working from anywhere doesn’t just mean working from home. There will be many who want or need to work in the traditional office environment. Some business interactions are better when those interactions are done face-to-face, whether onboarding a new employee, having a critical conversation or breakthrough during a sales meeting, or conducting group training sessions. IT organizations must now be able to equally support and enable colleagues and customers to interact with their businesses—whether the interaction takes place from an office environment, a remote environment, or anywhere in between.

3 Things IT Organizations Should Review

As businesses begin to emerge from the pandemic, IT organizations have a unique opportunity to further demonstrate value to the organization. Can IT rise to the occasion? How can IT departments deal with the increased complexity resulting from a work-from-anywhere business environment, while at the same time keeping technology interactions as simple, effective, and efficient as possible? Critically review your IT organization’s response to the pandemic Review everything that was done. What did IT do well? What worked—and why did it work? What were the pleasant surprises? What didn’t go well? What were the organizational learnings? How can your organization leverage this new-found knowledge? Your customer’s journey has changed—do you know how? The way customers and businesses interact has changed. Now is the time to revisit your organization’s customer journey maps—and if you haven’t done customer journey maps, now’s the time. Working from anywhere (and this includes your customers, partners, and suppliers) is part of the now normal, and technology—and IT—has a new, critical role in the customer journey. Move IT from a “support organization” to “business partner” How can those unplanned technology expenses from a year ago now be leveraged for new business opportunities? What new technology features, bypassed in the rush to keep the lights on for the business, could be used to enable improved or new value for employees and business customers Identifying how the organization can now take advantage of new technology can set up the IT organization to become the business partner they need.
Doug Tedder
Doug is a recognized thought leader who is equally adept in interactions from senior leadership to day-to-day practitioners. His passion is helping and inspiring IT…
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