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Leading from the top to create a resilient organization

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(Image credit: Image Credit: Wright Studio / Shutterstock)

Historically, connecting people to the data and applications they needed to do their jobs was the main aim of most IT systems. Doing so was relatively simple. The central data source was physically there, in offices, and the connectivity to different devices was straightforward. Backing-up that data, ensuring adequate cyber security processes and remaining resilient was clear and relatively simple to achieve. With employees in one centralized location, controlling the entire business IT infrastructure was much easier. 

With the boom in devices and changing working environments catalyzed by the pandemic, the challenge facing organizations is that while the basic premise of enterprise network and landscaping is still the same, there is a new expectation that solutions can be made quickly, even when data is geographically dispersed. The infrastructure now finds itself having to work across multiple locations, serving multiple business areas.

In many cases, and with the pandemic deprioritizing IT spend and instead prioritizing keeping businesses operating, organizations have struggled to remain resilient. According to a recent report from Globalscape, a third of organizations say they deal with downtime issues at least once every month, highlighting a continued lack of resilience in organizations tackling pandemic challenges.  

Organizations now need to look at their IT operations, how resilient they are, and how adaptable they are if disruption or disaster occurs, and services go down or are targeted. A resilient business needs resilient leadership, so the buck stops with them.

Recognizing the cost of a resilient IT infrastructure

Cost will always play a role in the decision-making process, particularly at senior leadership level. Dismissing high-cost solutions in favor of a cheaper option is by no means uncommon. Equally, neither is an unnecessary overspend on legacy systems that are no longer fit for purpose. 

Before the pandemic, IT strategies looked at which applications and services will give a competitive advantage, how much of the budget has been allocated to this particular task and where savings can be made. This strategy has to change, and businesses need to reflect on their ability to support any strategy they put in place. 

If you look at budgets generally, both occupancy and budgetary viewpoints are intrinsically linked and feed each other. For example,  IDC estimates that 25-30 percent of employees will move to working solely from home, so organizations needs to consider if the budget on physical IT software for the office is as necessary as spending on cybersecurity software that covers devices in multiple geographies. Or on a hybrid-cloud infrastructure that ensures data can be accessed from anywhere and is able to retain regularly updated back-ups. Ensuring there is someone from the leadership that is invested in this strategy, and that is capable of making timely decisions that not only add, but remove software, will be key.

Accommodating for a hybrid business

Employees want greater flexibility, and businesses want to cut costs on unnecessary rented spaces. But how do you support a hybrid working model with an adequate secure and resilient IT infrastructure? 

In the rush to keep operations going, many businesses made quick decisions and often, adopted the wrong services for their organization. Our own research found that over half (53 percent) of UK IT decision-makers believe they made unnecessary tech investments during the Covid-19 pandemic, and by speeding up or ignoring their original strategy, have hindered their long-term resilience. 

One thing almost all businesses have recognized throughout the pandemic, is that their people are the most critical and limiting factor to their business. Employee time is valuable and by not having technology that supports them in their role, productivity will drop, and employees may become an internal threat in terms of cyber security. If businesses acknowledge that hybrid is the new normal, and their people should be the priority, they can go some way to understand how IT moves from an expense to adding value. Although most of this has stemmed from a pandemic no one could have predicted, businesses and their leaders must now make sure they haven’t created the perfect storm of a distributed, disconnected workforce that is at risk of service outages. 

How to lead from the top

Leaders have had to adapt to a whole new style of management, ensuring individuals continue to feel valued, on task and connected whilst they work across various locations. They have also had to make some big decisions about how to cut costs that won’t impact operations. When talking about enterprise resilience, the technology isn’t enough. The whole organization has to be resilient, and the leadership team will play a large role in ensuring this. If leaders are going to succeed in their new strategies, they must: 

  1. Make decisions in an environment of imperfect information where compromise is inevitable and necessary. Avoid decision paralysis and no decisions being made. 
  2. Deliver a sense of purpose which provides focus. Leadership is all about people. In times of trouble leaders must be calm and collected. You need to know and understand your team, recognizing anxieties. 
  3. Trust employees to do the right thing and in return they will trust leadership decisions. Culture beats strategy every time. 
  4. Have clear, consistent, open and transparent communication across the whole company. Developing a shared understanding is key. 

Moving in to 2022

Before the pandemic, leadership teams would often pass their IT strategies to dedicated teams, or even outsource it, but they have been forced to take greater interest in the strategies that are going to change the way they operate. In order to deliver resilience in their organization, leaders need to continue this strategy, making decisions on the technology being used and clearly communicating these messages to their teams. All too often leaders seem distant figures, who aren’t in regular contact with their employees and don’t make the day-to-day decisions. But, as we emerge from a time where resilience has been key, leaders have realized the only way to lead is from the very top. 

Chris Huggett, SVP of EMEA, Sungard Availability Services

Chris has 20 years of leadership experience, having worked with leading technology firms including HP, Vodafone and Dell. He leads the European team covering UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Poland.