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The ‘new normal’ – how your IT strategy can enable you to adapt and thrive in a Covid-19 world

(Image credit: Image Credit: NakoPhotography / Shutterstock)

Settling in to the ‘new normal’, as it’s now being called, is something every business is now having to think about. It’s more than just adapting to the current situation – it’s likely that circumstances will be very different for the foreseeable future as we learn to live with a pandemic that, so far, doesn’t have a cure.

Now is the time to plan ahead – not just for the next couple of months, but for the next couple of years at least. To put it simply, businesses need to change their mindset of not adapting to survive, but adapting to thrive.

Focussing on aligning the IT strategy with the ‘new normal’, while continuing to improve on the quality of service the organisation offers, should be the first goal that is worked towards. It’s important that, although precautions are taken to maintain business as usual, the usual is still exceeding customer expectations.

Improving service quality with technology

The immediate analysis has to be – ‘what has changed?’. To break it down, the business needs to look at itself and ask the following questions: Is the company delivering a different service compared to eight weeks ago? How long will that service be required? Will it return to providing the same service as it was before?

With the reduced on-site resources, has the business found it more difficult to deliver a good service and meet service level agreements (SLAs)? Has it got more resources on-site than it really should have currently? Has it found that having remote support staff is a good thing and that it should be extended?

Once the business understands the dimensions of what’s needed, the changes in support structure and the resource patterns required, it can draw up a change plan to meet the demands going forwards.

Obviously the old mantras of simplifying and rationalising the infrastructure, removing legacy, and simplification still apply, and service automation, auto-provisioning and integration with the service management platform area are also key. IT teams should look to using an automation layer to remove some of the manual intervention required in running the protection estate.

Service-orientated architecture is something that has been spoken about for over 25 years in the IT industry but only now, with the abstraction of the hardware layer that Software-defined Infrastructure provides, can it finally really deliver on the promise.

Utilising a good software-defined storage platform can aid in defining service classes of storage around performance, availability, locale and duration, independent of what platform that service resides on. This gives the freedom to move those workloads between differing hardware platforms on-premises, between multi-cloud platforms, or from hypervisor to container without impacting the application or microservice being provided.

Boosting business impact

Once the technology to improve business service has been considered, it needs to be implemented in order for the business to begin seeing a positive impact. The organisation may have been running an advanced digital transformation programme in concert prior to the pandemic. However, this will now have to be re-assessed against the backdrop of what changes the core business is undergoing in terms of the products and services it provides and how those are procured and consumed by the customer going forward.

The sharp switch of retail from high street to online drives a whole wake of impact behind it in terms of web presence, advertising, inventory management, distribution, staffing, brand awareness, manufacturing, transport – and that is just one industry.

This obviously puts a different strain on the IT function as new apps and microservices have to be rushed into production and delivered on new platforms, whilst the legacy apps either get parked in a museum corner for now or resources rapidly found and deployed to modify them.

There will need to be a big focus on agility as we enter an unknown period when the lockdown begins to loosen. Businesses will need to ask themselves: What will the new consumer buying habits be? How will businesses interact with each other? What new services will have to be rapidly developed and deployed, and on what platform? What role will data insights, analytics and IoT play in identifying these trends?

To answer these, the three key tenets of digital transformation will still apply:

  • Create a positive customer experience
  • Enable your employees to work efficiently and collaboratively
  • Streamline, automate and augment business processes

Providing the timely analytical input to all of the above will be critical, but the majority of customers do not exploit the biggest data lake in their organisation, preferring instead to create expensive new point solutions. The backup estate usually represents around 70 per cent of an organisation’s stored data, but usually sits there as a static pool of orphaned expenditure – yet covers all structured and unstructured data in an organisation.

Using a tool to open that data up and present it to your data ingestion and analytics platform, either openly or obfuscated, could massively reduce the need for additional data platforms and provide a much wider range of data to feed the analytics models. The wider the range of data going into a model, the better and more valuable the results produced.

Again, platform choice will be key, but may change over time, so choosing a platform that can span on-premises and multi-cloud will future-proof the infrastructure and allow that agility as we enter the unknown.

There is a lot for the IT leader to think about as the world begins to emerge over the peak of the curve, but at the same time there is a real opportunity to drive a faster digital transformation agenda that helps remove the legacy cost and complexity, drive innovation and efficiency, and prepare IT to step up and lead the lines of business into the new world.

The key thing is that initial assessment of the current project portfolio; focus on what needs to be done now to secure and enable the business, then build the new programme that will make life easier and more flexible. We have no idea what the future will truly look like for society or organisations – both nationally and globally –  so agility and flexibility are key to survive and thrive in the new environment.

Jeremy Atkins, UK&I Sales Director – Enterprise & Public Sector, Commvault