I work in the IT services business and we’ve been helping some of our customers make some rapid shifts to their End User Computing (EUC) strategy to accommodate what has quickly become a permanent “work from home for everyone” policy (for those who can, of course). Many of these customers thankfully had a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in place pre-Covid, and so this shift was less disruptive than for those who were less well prepared. However, if all we can take away from this is that we should have “bigger” VDI or EUC infrastructure in place for the next wave or future pandemics or if we simply fall into the buzzword trap of enforcing our talk about being more “agile and flexible”, we may actually be missing the point – quite badly at that.
I think we’re at a “Henry Ford moment*” right now, just like a century ago when people were asked the question, “what do you want (from your current means of transport)?” they instinctively answered “we want faster horses”. We all know now (with the wonderful benefit of hindsight) that what was actually needed was a complete rethink of contemporary approaches to transportation (it seems obvious now, but think of how disruptive a move from organically-powered to mechanically-powered transport was back then – on every level of society and business). In other words, the real issue with Covid is not how it’s causing a radical change to home working policies and business operations as a result, but how it is forcing a fundamental re-think of why certain businesses exist and how they generate their revenue. And rather soberingly this applies even to those who were market disruptors just a few months ago.
While online businesses have obviously boomed, some local shops and services in my area (those not forced to close because of government restrictions) have oddly been absolutely inundated with orders/work. This doesn’t correlate well with the media narrative, but it has made me ask the question “why”? Surely it’s not because people suddenly have found more money to spend in the midst of a global pandemic. I’m not going to try and assess the myriad reasons why this might be (of course, I have my thoughts), but this has to be a signal to companies everywhere that Covid has introduced changes to human behaviour and thus spending patterns and consequently business revenues that we would be short-sighted to ignore. But even more pertinent (and dangerous/risky to business models) is that these changes will become permanent and ultimately decoupled from the cause (Covid) because they have gained a life of their own. Put another way, a Black Swan event is not inherently dangerous because it disrupts Business-as-Usual for a while, it’s dangerous because it disrupts our established thinking and forever changes all the assumptions we’ve take for granted.
So, what is the existential question for IT organisations and leaders today? It’s certainly not going to be about faster horses (and don’t even get me started about the old goats already in the stable, they were in trouble long before Covid 😊). It’s not even whether we (IT) can adapt to change as fast as our business environment is changing and therefore meet the new demands on IT service delivery. I believe it’s whether we can climb out of the IT box for a minute and keep on climbing until we get to the top of a mountain peak that gives us enough of a view to appreciate what’s coming next and then to jump ahead of that new curve and inject solutions into the lifeblood of our businesses – which will help it not merely survive 2020 but to thrive through the chaos. Yes, that’s a bit of a cliché but it’s also a truism in business and it demands that we pause and give it some thought at a strategic level. How can technology become a pro-active enabler of innovation and change in your business? How can we help your business transform before it (or circumstances) come to demand change (at which point it will probably be too little, too late)? How can we help you overcome the engineering challenges that you are facing and deliver the needed accelerated technological innovation?
If you feel a bit blindsided by Covid or just want to discuss your thoughts on the above, I’d welcome an opportunity to discuss with you some of the answers I am formulating to these big questions (I’ll give you a hint: invisible technology is key) and how I believe we can help you navigate these waters.
* I appreciate there is debate whether Henry Ford actually said these words, but it certainly captures his thinking