At a time when a significant percentage of businesses were still on the fence and evaluating the degree of their digital maturity and use of technology infrastructure, the sudden emergence of COVID-19 as a global threat has forced their hand and made digital transformation an overnight strategic focus. With the global pandemic spreading at an exponential rate, many companies have had to expedite the development of their business continuity plans. One of the most important aspects of this has been the implementation of remote access infrastructures, capable of supporting digital experiences and the load of an entire digital workforce.
As demonstrated over the last few weeks, unprepared businesses have been left open to catastrophe-level disruptions such as network outages, data loss, security breaches, and revenue loss. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that 40% of small businesses never recover from such losses, there is no reason to believe that larger organizations are invulnerable to disruptions against global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, either.
Therefore, in order to establish a pandemic-proof business continuity model, organizations need to focus on two key building blocks: the technology core with digitalization, and the organizational culture, with the former augmenting the latter. The only silver lining in the midst of the situation we as a race find ourselves in, is that organizations can use this as an opportunity to take solid steps and prepare their technology infrastructure and workforce for a future of extensive automation and smarter process and digital frameworks—ensuring better resiliency and greater digital maturity in case there is a repetition of the current global situation.
Fostering an adaptive, agile business culture
A powerful technology core is imperative in building a pandemic-proof business; however, the efforts would not succeed without the right organizational culture. The importance of building an adaptive organizational culture can’t be overstressed enough, and in crises and difficult situations, organizations that have the right culture not only manage to survive but also adapt, innovate, and find opportunities to turn to their advantage and thrive.
Establishing and implementing a sustainable business continuity plan at an organizational scale requires clarity and decisiveness from the senior management of the business, and a willingness to adapt and support from the rest of the organization. Considering the increasingly complex and rapidly deteriorating situations that accompany crises, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, decision-makers are hard-pressed to quickly approve trade-offs and near-term costs, and they can only do it with the support and understanding of the rest of the organization—a task made significantly easier with an already prepared, adaptive organization culture.
Embracing organizational transition, especially from a technology perspective, is central to establishing a well-prepared business continuity plan. It requires a change in mind-sets and a platform mentality that can support the technological transformations and work culture needed to maintain stability during crises situations such as COVID-19 and maintain and sustain progress. The key to accomplishing this lies in adopting an agile adaptive approach to organizational culture, backed by a strong technology core.
An agile approach to organizational culture also allows businesses to quickly adapt to their requirements. The benefits of such capabilities extend far beyond creating a mere pandemic-proof business. Buy-in from stakeholders from across the organizational value chain translates to quicker adaptability to new business challenges and greater response to dynamic market trends.
Supporting the agile culture with a pandemic-resilient technology core
As businesses struggle with the complexities of enabling remote access infrastructures on short notice, they are also coming to the realization that simplifying digital experiences could drive rapid progress, and that the right technology stack could foster digital experiences, support a digital workforce, and amplify the agile organizational culture. One of the ways they can achieve this is by identifying critical services and functions to adopt a modular approach to business continuity. By doing so, organizations can begin leveraging vital technology components such as microservices, to drive digital transformation in the work environment and support the workforce.
For this model to function effectively, businesses need to ensure high levels of synergy and transparency across all levels of the enterprise architecture. However, only a few organizations are adequately prepared to adopt such a digitally transparent ecosystem. Most organizations continue to struggle with unstructured data and disparate systems, which among other things leads to shadow IT, and uncertainty in the face of challenges.
“One of the problems of digitalization is the uncertainty that comes with it. While everyone agrees that digital is the future, no one knows exactly what that future looks like. Therefore, firms have to implement systems that can integrate the digital with the physical and social spaces.”
- Dr. Mohamed Zaki, Cambridge Service Alliance (CSA)
These uncertainties are specially compounded in case of global crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. While it is important to glean learnings from these events and use them to strengthen your ecosystem, it is also important to not narrow your focus overmuch, as that would neither be productive nor financially feasible. Instead, organizations need to focus on building a comprehensive digital workforce platform founded on a strong technology core. Planned properly, this combination would have the inherent resilience and capabilities to adapt to pretty much any situation.
A few key considerations that need to be considered while embarking on a mission to work a technology core that can support and amplify your agile organization are as follows:
Organization-wide accessibility and security
The first important component of such a platform would be accessibility. Through the platform’s multi-dimensional networking capabilities built within device-agnostic interfaces, organizations can drive enterprise-wide collaboration over a single platform. As a result, businesses can look at successfully creating a unified platform for disparate systems as well as provide contextual resource engagement over an anytime-anywhere ecosystem. We see many businesses implementing this successfully today, with most of their employees working and collaborating from their homes.
Accessibility is trickier for industries that need to share sensitive data such as medical records. These organizations can leverage the capabilities of a cloud-based blockchain platform to add another layer of security and implement identity-based access restrictions. A blockchain identity service utilizes public or private application authentication to provide access to authorized users, making it impossible for threat actors to infiltrate and steal information.
BAU automation for focus on innovation
The other significant requirement of such a platform would be automation and cognitive capabilities. With fence-sitters now forced to expedite the digital transformation process, leveraging AI-powered mechanics to enhance the technology core can be a decisive factor for success in a post-COVID-19 competitive landscape. Automation is also a critical cog of building an adaptive organizational culture, as by utilizing the power of machine learning to automate business-as-usual (BAU) tasks, company resources can be focused on innovation, learning, and BCP exercises as required. This, in turn, will drive agility and innovation, and pave the path toward further technology adoption, enhanced digital framework, and knowledge sharing.
Enabling an intelligent business ecosystem
The role of a strong technology core is not limited to enhancing the remote work environment. The accelerated growth of technological transformation across industries prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic has presented organizations with a silver lining in the form of the motivation they needed to devote resources to digitally enhance their operations and processes.
One of the ways businesses can do this is by leveraging unified data accessibility and AI-driven tools to implement intelligent business systems. The possibilities are virtually limitless and include smart backend orchestration that enables real-time, consensus-driven decisions that will go a very long way in building an adaptive and agile organizational culture.
The role of organizational culture extends beyond driving and supporting technological advancements in a crisis-struck environment, such as the current situation. However, with the right culture, these situations, while putting organizations to test, can also serve to strengthen, resolve, and speed up progress. Therefore, businesses need to understand the importance of fostering and incorporating trust, patience, and mutual support backed by a strong technological core to ensure stability and progress in trying times.
In various collaborations between HCL and Cambridge Service Alliance on digital transformation researches, it was evident that cultural barriers such as communication setbacks and the relationship between corporate management and business areas are two of the chief roadblocks to implementing enterprise-wide technological transformations. Overcoming these would need a renewed commitment from senior management, and a communication clarity in a top-down manner across all stakeholders of the business.
Eventually, an organization that embraces the organizational and technological changes to make the most of the opportunity arising from these difficult times will emerge better and stronger. These organizations will not only be able to promote smarter core IT infrastructure investments and stay ahead of the curve but will also be able to evolve in a post-disaster world, with greater agility and innovation at their command.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the hardest challenges our race has had to face in recent times. Organizations that can focus on moving in the right direction in these tough times will emerge stronger than ever. By adopting the right technology, a supportive organizational mindset to bring about change, and a structured approach to strategy formulation, forward looking businesses stand on the verge of an organizational coup: Realizing the future of work that has for so long only existed in board room discussions and whitepapers.
This blog was also published in YourStory.com.