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Why your IT investment should be more than a line item

(Image credit: Image Credit: thinkpublic / Flickr)

People may have been limited by quarantine during Covid-19, but innovation wasn’t — it was powering businesses all over the world. In just two months, roughly two years’ worth of tech breakthroughs occurred at many companies.

The banking industry revamped its digital portals and touchpoints to serve clients better. Grocery stores pivoted to maximize online ordering and saw a 40 percent increase in customers engaging over the internet. Physicians and hospitals put on a push for telemedicine, leading to increases of up to 175 times the virtual appointments some entities had before the pandemic. And this all happened in the relative blink of an eye from a geologic time scale.

During this period of heady modernization, business leaders came to a few conclusions that they’re still mulling over as the waves of the pandemic rise and fall. The first was that there are better tools than the ones they were using — they just needed teams willing to learn how to adopt new technology into current protocols.

Companies also began to understand that they needed to stop looking for reasons not to change, realizing that staying on that path would only make them fall behind. As an example, VPNs aren’t often suitable if everyone is working from home; moving an entire team to a VPN grinds many servers to a halt. Finding other, better alternatives only made sense.

More innovative epiphanies will come, but they all point to the same truth: Investing in technology for your business will help everyone get through this crisis and move into the future. In fact, widespread tech might be the best antidote to the effects of our current economic recession.

A snapshot of innovation and technology today

Already, governments have opened the door for IT tools, products and services to keep countries running — even during shutdowns. From putting a priority on thwarting cyberattacks with smart digital barricades to leveraging Big Data for coronavirus prediction and prevention, partnerships between tech startups, legacy organizations and public sector entities have grown exponentially. Although people are naturally hesitant to move out of their comfort zones, they’ve recognized how essential flexibility and modernization will be to our recovery.

This isn’t the first time individuals and businesses have rallied under tremendous pressure to innovate with the power of technology. During World War I and World War II, everyone’s way of life was uprooted dramatically — staying the same wasn’t an option. People had to discover new and better ways to work, cope and persevere. Plenty of modern technology was born out of those struggles, which ended up disrupting the country and world for the better.

It can be hard for companies to put money toward technological investments right now, especially those that are feeling a money crunch. But technology is critical to competing. Innovative business and workforce models can help organizations return to pre-crisis working habits that are both cost-effective and cost-efficient. Who knows? Many companies might see incredible upticks in their revenue streams if they use technology to give customers what they need now.

Remember, buying habits have changed rapidly and radically since March 2020. Consumers want more digital options, and they’re willing to switch their brand loyalty in a heartbeat. Shoppers who experienced extreme lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders are among those most willing to jump ship to new brands. This is both an opportunity for tech-forward disruptors and a threat to businesses that can’t — or won’t — shift and adapt.

Overcoming barriers to the adoption of new technology

It can be tempting for businesses to see information technology investment as nothing more than a line item on the budget sheet. Nevertheless, CIOs and IT professionals should be willing to go on the record as proponents of investing in constant innovation fueled by technology. More than any other authority, they understand best how necessary ultra-modern technology will be in the months and years to come.

They’ll have to be ready to overcome objections to tech because tech simply isn’t perfect. Even the best, most innovative technological breakthroughs can have serious issues. Think about a runaway success like Tesla. The electric vehicles are more expensive than cars with internal combustion engines, their batteries haven’t yet nailed down environmental friendliness and they get poor range in colder temperatures. But they also represent a forward movement of building a product around a technology — instead of vice versa — which is what will stabilize and propel worldwide economies in the years to come.

Build your business around technology; don’t build technology around your business.

Some businesses and leaders will find negatives in any technology, whether it’s a Tesla automobile or a new SaaS product. But the goal shouldn’t be to discredit technology or criticize ideas. It should be to envision a future that’s exponentially better than the one we have today.

In Alberta, Canada, many people become defensive about the oil and gas industry because it’s such a huge part of the local economy. Proponents claim it won’t go away for a century; critics say that petrochemicals have no place in modern society. That’s short-sighted thinking on both parts, though. A more productive approach would be to determine how various industries could work together in humanitarian, innovation-focused and ethical ways that still turn a profit.

Winning the human race with help from modern technology

Charles Darwin asserted that species that adapt best to their changing environments have the strongest chance of survival. If we don’t use the technology at hand to help us became early adopters and innovators in our changing climate, we’ll end up holding back progress.

As Simon Sinek’s book “The Infinite Game” explains, the point of business isn’t to win; it’s to stay in the game. Tech leaders must adopt a mindset of possibilities rather than scarcity if they want to keep playing. When the history books record what happened during and after Covid-19, let’s make sure they tell a story of society rising above the uncertainty to show its resilience through innovation once again.

Shawn Freeman, VP, Fully Managed (opens in new tab)

Shawn Freeman was the founder and CEO of TWT Group and is now a VP at Fully Managed, a top-50 global managed IT service provider that recently acquired TWT.