Around this time of year when I talk with ex-colleagues and friends in the IT profession, they typically mention the challenges to complete investment plans by Christmas. “At the moment we are not sure whether we will go ahead with a number of projects that we had planned. I am just running out of time to get things done and to invest.” Their concern always is – under-spend and you haven’t achieved your plan – spend now and you will not get value anyway.
It’s the perennial cliff edge that some of the harder, more complex projects drop over. You just run out of cliff before you can get to them. Everyone is caught between the reality of leveraging the final pieces of the current year budget whilst planning for the next and, because of COVID 19, it is harder this year because so many projects were put on hold, diverted or just ran slower because of the challenges of remote working. Strategic priorities were put to one side in order to focus on the near and present danger of doing business in the COVID climate.
Early in the year when the COVID 19 threat broke out into the open, we saw companies react in two broad ways. Those businesses directly involved with critical supply chains and services, refocused money and efforts on COVID related projects. Retail, PPE supply, logistics all invested heavily in staffing and IT to provide services in the new remote landscape.
Other businesses battened down the hatches and scaled back operation to weather the storm. In May, Gartner predicted an 8% drop in IT spending, however already at that point public cloud services were growing 19% in 2020. Cloud-based telephony and messaging and cloud-based conferencing were also seeing spending growth 8.9% and 24.3%.
From our experiences with our clients, this is what happened.
All organisations had to shift their working practices in some shape or form, moving to a remote digital operating model wherever possible. Some organisations even moved into digital engagement with customers and employees for the very first time. This has led to an enforced use of cloud solutions for many companies, with the deployment of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, in particular, and it happened very quickly. Remote working capabilities were often put into place within record time.
Some of these cloud-based services – Microsoft Teams especially – have opened up a whole wealth of possibilities and questions for IT teams and for users alike. Teams apps and the related power platform offer possibilities for users to build out business focused capabilities. This is potentially a much better solution than traditional Excel and Access based applications but brings a whole host of new challenges for IT departments and Business Architects to corral these new applications into a logical and supportable landscape. Users have been given a taste of new possibilities. They (rightly) want to act fast and effectively to move the organisation in a direction that will allow it to thrive and survive, and right now that means fast and effective innovation.
The broader situation has another effect in terms of evaluating spend. It calls into question the old assumptions about the investment roadmap:
- Why will it take so long now that we have seen how fast we can make such a fundamental change under pressure?
- Why do we have to do it like that now that we have new ways to do business?
There is an appetite for change, and IT are being asked to support that.
Sometime around late summer, when the new operating “normal” had started to work out and companies found they could still engage with customers, and run projects effectively projects and investment restarted. That meant that the time to get these projects running and to make the investment was even shorter than in previous years. Add to this the challenges of moving projects forward at pace in virtual teams means that budgets were necessarily cut.
Where are we now and where do we go from here?
As businesses and organisations understand the challenges and opportunities of COVID 19 business landscape, IT buyers need to refocus and move quickly to support this. This could be put off until next year’s budgets, but that in itself is a risk. With things changing so quickly right now, even the remaining weeks of 2020 provide an important head start to address the risks that have opened up in an uncertain business world.
At Illuminet we have been working on new ways to help our customers achieve change, and to help get projects moving again before the end of the year.
Reprioritise / Rebound
The rapid shift to remote working and digital engagement with customers has left gaps in governance, data and security. Employee remote working experience and security for remote work is now an issue. Data protection becomes a bigger concern.
You have to achieve these new priorities with smaller budgets per project and in less time than other years.
Recover and Restart Projects
There is a higher expectation of what is possible. You need to capitalise on the pace with which you were able to transform to digital working and service provision and you need to pick up stalled projects and get them moving fast.
To help with this Illuminet has a portfolio of services we offer:
As the world has changed this year, organisations are having to embrace the new operational models that have emerged out of these changes. You cannot necessarily wait until next year’s budget either. With smaller budgets imposed by reduced revenues, the challenge is to identify new cost savings under the new, remote, operating models and getting the best people in place and retaining them in the easiest way.
A summary of our services:
COVID Recovery Squads – discounted expert resources to get you moving.
Knowledgeflex – Pay as you go expert consultancy
Project Assurance Services – Review and re-energise your critical projects
Cost Reduction MOT – Cost health-check
i-Hire – Reduce your bad hires and streamline the recruitment process.