In the last year, organisations around the world have had more change thrust upon them than they’ve undergone in years. Tesco was a prime example of this, with then-CEO Dave Lewis reporting just weeks into the first UK lockdown that the organisation had changed more in that short time than it had over the preceding decade.
This was a common experience across most sectors, with the majority (77%) of IT leaders in Europe reporting that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had increased spending to rapidly transform their working practices to support employees remotely. Many of these investments were critical in supporting the immediate business continuity plans of their organisation, from the deployment of remote working tools (60%), like Teams and Zoom, to updates to the company’s SaaS solutions (34%), such as Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce.
A catalyst for transformation
However, not all change was reactive and responded to the immediate challenges the business faced. The pandemic also served as a catalyst for many organisations to investigate and accelerate their existing digital transformation programmes. In fact, of those organisations that had planned to move away from legacy infrastructure in 2020, 81% report that those plans have been accelerated as a result of the pandemic. Similarly, 78% flagged that investigations into the use of cutting-edge technology solutions (such as serverless, artificial intelligence, 5G and the IoT) had been moved forward.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is one such organisation that has taken advantage of this uncertain period to drive significant transformation in line with its goal of becoming “leaner, meaner and greener”. With the aviation industry severely hit by COVID-19, and many airlines working at just 30% of their previous capacity, IATA decided to turn the ongoing challenge into an opportunity to prepare for the future by investigating how it could reduce costs, while modernising and streamlining its technology processes.
As part of an architectural review of Amazon Web Services (AWS) that we at Rackspace Technology managed, IATA found that it was still working with many legacy applications and was not taking advantage of newer features that would support the organisation’s wider goal of doing more with less. This helped it to identify new opportunities for where it could implement leading-edge technologies, like containers and serverless, that would offer some quick wins for cost savings, simplicity and increased automation.
The opportunity to leverage more advanced, cloud-based technologies was also a motivator for the significant change that Aramex, the global logistics firm, is embarking upon. While its business had always been underpinned by dedication to innovation, it recognised a growing market threat posed by new players that were using cloud native technologies to be more agile. The company is now in the midst of a monumental digital transformation programme that includes migrating its entire technology infrastructure from its seven on-premise data centres to AWS, as well as the modernisation of its 60+ on-premise applications that are being completely rearchitected using cloud native practices.
Time to act
During the first lockdowns across Europe, we saw many companies rushing to invest in technologies that would support business continuity. Those that were not already set up to support their employees working remotely were forced to quickly implement secure solutions to avoid a significant drop in productivity. IT teams rose to the challenge and many were able to transform their organisation more in a matter of weeks than they had managed over previous years.
We entered a second period of lockdowns across Europe recently and it is important that business and IT leaders don’t just focus on the here and now. While we all have great hopes that 2021 will be a less tumultuous year, none of us can truly predict what the impact of this pandemic will be and organisations need to starting thinking about what their organisation will need in order to weather this uncertainty and the inevitable change it will bring.
Rather than having change thrust upon them, businesses must use this time to make headway against larger organisational goals that will serve them in the future. Do you want to become more agile to ward off new cloud-native players in your industry? Do you want to increase your scalability to ensure that your organisation can adapt its operations in line with vastly fluctuating demand?
While for some at times it can feel like 2020 has been a lost year with so many great plans having gone to waste, many business and IT leaders have driven significant digital transformation with new ways of engaging and delighting customers. Leading innovators used this period to think about what they want to become in the future and progressed towards those goals, organisations that focus solely on addressing the here and now will find themselves lagging when we return to business as normal – or at least business in the new normal.