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The “Now Normal” — A Look Ahead

In our previous blog, we looked back at the year of transformation that was 2020. To say the last year was a bit hectic—even chaotic at times—would be an understatement. But for many organizations, IT saved the day. IT delivered and enabled technology solutions to keep the business in business.

The Challenges of the “Now Normal”

What is the “now normal?” There seems to be no definitive answer. But one thing is certain—we’re not going back to how things were before the pandemic. The pandemic provided enormous insight into how things could be—and how technology could be used. This recent McKinsey article confirms business leaders now have a better sense of what can and cannot be done outside of their companies’ traditional processes. But it doesn’t mean the way forward is clear. However, there seems to be general agreement on some things. First, organizations will continue to deal with uncertainty for the foreseeable future. While some businesses are well on their way to reopening, others continue to deal with the impact of revenue loss and reductions in staff. And while technology provided a lifeline for businesses, IT organizations weren’t immune to reductions in budgets and staffing yet are being asked to do more. Work and commerce will shift to a hybrid environment. Some will continue to work and shop from home, others will return to the office, while others will work in both environments. This means interactions with and expectations of technology will change. This hybrid environment will demand mobility and omni-channel interactions, while at the same time keeping those interactions simple and intuitive.

Boldly Moving Forward

How can organizations boldly move forward in this “now normal?” Here are a few ideas. The first step is to address the human aspect. This Forbes article suggests companies need to adopt flexible employee policies. These policies should allow employees to work remotely as much as possible. Benefits such as paid time off are more important than ever, as well as having as much flexibility in work hours as possible, as employees are juggling jobs and responsibilities. Along those same lines, companies must focus on and proactively promote the personal well-being of employees. Many employees suffer from the impact of the lack of social interactions over the last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends employees communicate with co-workers and managers about job stress and jointly identify solutions, increase a sense of control by maintaining a daily routine (including breaks and exercise), and set up times to check in with colleagues and coworkers. This HBR article[i] advises companies to rethink how work is being done. Companies need to identify key jobs and tasks, determine the drivers for productivity and performance for each, then consider what work arrangements (work from home, work from office) would work best. Engage employees in the process through surveys and interviews and consider and accommodate employees with distinct preferences or needs for where they work. The article continues by advising companies to eliminate redundancy and unproductive elements found in the current state, as well as automating work or reassigning tasks to people outside of current teams.

3 Bold Actions IT Organizations Need to Take for the Future

The now normal will continue to present organizations with challenges as things start to settle in, and new routines are established. And just as with the beginning of the pandemic, the IT organization has an opportunity to lead the way as businesses learn to navigate the now normal. Here are three bold actions IT organizations should do for the future. Revisit the enablement of the service desk—At the advent of the pandemic, new or expanded use of technology was rapidly implemented across organizations in a matter of days. As a result, the service desk inherited the tasks of not only supporting those technologies, but in many cases, acting as real-time trainers to employees. Compounding the situation was that service desk agents were also working from home, and in many cases, lacked the tools and resources to provide the level of support demanded by the organization. Ensure service desk agents who work from home have the tools and technologies they need, such as multiple monitors, soft phones, and high-speed internet. Enhance self-service options—The work-from-anywhere environment demands enhanced employee self-service options. This means further automation is needed. But before this can happen, IT must clearly define its service offerings and map the workflows that enable those offerings, removing as much human intervention as possible. This also means IT must up its game when it comes to knowledge articles. In many IT shops, knowledge articles are written in a technical tone, never intended for end users. To enhance the self-service experience, relevant, timely, and accurate knowledge articles must be developed with the consumer in mind. Audit and optimize workflows—With the evolution to working from anywhere, IT workflows could use a checkup. Fixing ineffective or inefficient workflows is the way to work smarter, not harder—and without impacting already constrained IT budgets. Despite the challenges of the last year, IT organizations provided the leadership and know-how needed to keep businesses in business. As businesses begin to emerge from the pandemic, IT once again has the opportunity to deliver impactful business value and be a steady force in the face of uncertainty; this is the time to implement cost-effective solutions to avoid expensive investments that may not cater to your organization’s needs. [i] Gratton, Lynda. (May-June 2021). How to Do Hybrid Right. HBR, Volume 99(3), pp 66-74.    
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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