A report from Forrester predicts up to 20% of Fortune 500 companies will not make it through 2021 intact. “[For] some, their assets will be dissolved or purchased; others will just go out of business.” One possible cause of this is a lack of strategy when investing in and utilizing technology. “The pandemic revealed the flaws in many companies’ technology…and their tech leaders were found mired in Band-Aids like tech modernization, simplification, and consolidation.”
These predictions highlight the importance of strategic investment in technology. While technology can provide a range of capabilities that make a business more resilient and adaptable, effectively harnessing that potential requires a holistic approach.
Moving into another year of the pandemic, it is imperative that technology companies look back on the successes and the failures, and learn how to better prepare businesses for the future. The following are the top three tech priorities for organizations to tackle the challenges of the pandemic in real time.
1. Agents of Transformation
Agents of transformation refers to a new generation of technologists who possess all the personal and professional skills required to build resiliency throughout their organizations. Their primary objective is to enable digital transformation and deliver positive business outcomes such as nurturing a culture of innovation, effectively leveraging tools and technologies, and providing excellent leadership.
In a survey conducted by Appdynamics, nearly 64% of technologists claim they’re “being asked to perform tasks and activities that they have never done before” in their careers, while 81% claim that COVID-19 is putting unprecedented “technology pressure” on their organizations: from extending networks and enabling rapid shifts to remote work, to ensuring cybersecurity while keeping up with evolving protocols.
To successfully navigate the uncertainty of this moment, businesses need to encourage agents of transformation throughout their organizations and invest in their initiatives. Transparency is a great place to start: 92% of technologists in the Appdynamics survey cited “visibility and insight into the performance of the technology stack and its impact on customers and the business” as the primary enabler for agents of transformation at this time.
2. Workforce Transformation
The events of 2020 made every organization re-evaluate their operating models irrespective of the industry domain, organization size, and location. According to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey, workforce enablement has jumped from CIOs’ eighth priority to among the top three. They have realized that thriving in 2021 will require operating models that keep teams engaged, productive and adaptable to ever-changing circumstances.
Looking ahead, there are three essential components to effective workforce transformation: enabling remote work, closing the skills gap, and increasing agility.
- Enabling remote work for the long-term
We are at a turning point in the history of work. Like the Industrial Revolution, which moved us from fields to factories, the Information Revolution has been fundamentally changing work and life. The pandemic is further accelerating these changes, particularly how we work and from where.
Working from home was once an exception, but as the pandemic spread organizations were forced to rapidly shift to remote work. Now, many organizations are functioning in a completely virtual environment, and this change may not end with the pandemic. A report by Forrester suggests that nearly one third of Europe’s white collar workers are expected to work remotely full time in 2021. Employers are being encouraged to embrace remote working as a long-term solution, and to learn from their experiences with it over the past several months.
For example, the pandemic has shown how important it is for businesses (especially global ones) to invest in tools that will help their teams connect and collaborate effectively. Data management is also essential here, as data plays a crucial role in monitoring and maintaining the team’s efficiency across various workflows. Providing visibility into the data behind their work is crucial to understanding working patterns and will ultimately help empower, energize, and engage the team to continue succeeding remotely.
- Closing the skills gap: Developing a tech skill strategy
Before the pandemic, self-development and upskilling may have been encouraged in employees. Now, that choice has become a necessity. To keep up with the unpredictability of the current market conditions, every member of an organization must enhance their competencies and start developing new skills.
A tech skill strategy is key to organization-wide upskilling. Leadership must invest the time and resources into developing and accelerating it. Part of this responsibility is communicating the company’s commitment to the workforce, and demonstrating how upskilling will strengthen employee as well as business performance. The next focus should be on creating a risk-free environment where the workforce feels comfortable learning (and failing) to accelerate their skill mastery.
Upskilling teams needs to happen at a rapid pace to keep up with business demands. Data suggests that an employee needs an average of 70 days to climb up the ladder from one skill level to the other. By 2022, IDC FutureScape predicts “40% of the Fortune 500 will reengineer culture and collaborative practices—shifting from authorized to empowered teams, to enable upskilling to the highest level possible.”
- Increasing agility: Embracing Agile models
Forward-thinking companies will take full advantage of the current climate of change ushered in by the pandemic. Change agility — the willingness and ability to alter and improve processes — is at an all-time high. Now more than ever, people understand that change happens whether they are ready or not. It’s best to start adapting and adopting new ways of working as soon as possible to reap the maximum benefits.
Software development leaders who had previously thought about switching to agile models should pull the trigger now — but they have to be prepared for this change. Leaders still need to build awareness and sell the idea to their development teams, then invest the right amount of resources to ensure everyone is properly trained.
Resistance to the change, however, should be a lot easier to overcome, thanks to 2020 chipping away at perceived notions about what is and is not likely to succeed. A recent report by Accelerated Strategies reveals that COVID-19 conditions have raised a sense of importance in DevOps and agile initiatives. The data shows a 52% surge in migration to cloud service providers like AWS, Google, and Azure. If a team can survive — even thrive — more than a year of nothing going as planned, they can adopt agile models successfully.
3. Digital Acceleration
Without a doubt, 2020 was the year of digital transformation and acceleration. Many organizations re-evaluated their digital strategies to transform their approaches from end to end.
“Hyperautomation,” according to Gartner, “is the idea that anything that can be automated in an organization should be automated.” This idea has paved the way for CIOs to implement new-age technologies, including robotic process automation, business process management, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to deliver outstanding customer experience. This will ring a bell for companies that implemented point solutions to survive in 2020. Those companies should automate their repeatable processes for their survival.
As per the Forrester Predictions 2021, “more than a third of developers will use machine learning in 2021 to automate development activities.” By 2024, IDC FutureScape Developer and DevOps 2021 Predictions estimates that “nearly 60% of new applications will be built and managed using microservices and containers as foundations for stronger and higher-performing automation.” The demand for digital customer experiences is at its peak. Along with enabling the workforce and developing a tech skill strategy, it is one of the top three most important investments for CxOs in 2021.
A big takeaway from 2020 and 2021 is that digitally mature organizations focus on technological investments that improve the digital experience and create revenue (AI/ML, big data and data analytics, and other emerging technologies such as 5G) while less mature organizations are held back by legacy systems, limiting their ability to enhance customer offerings. Looking ahead, organizations should strategize their investments in technology and look for holistic solutions that strengthen their operations and build resiliency.