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VMware roundtable

What does your post-pandemic strategy look like?

Nearly a year has passed since the unplanned arrival of COVID-19 affecting business operations and forcing us to rethink the workplace. As leaders, managers, and employees adapted, companies moved from urgency in the first few months to a new form of “business as usual.” While we are not quite out of the woods, progress has been made. IT leaders are now able to step back and consider what worked, what didn’t, and how infrastructures and processes may look once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.

In an effort to strategize and plan for the future, we sat down with a group of CIOs and senior IT leaders, as part of our CIO Community roundtable series, to discuss post-pandemic IT strategies. Host Mark Ardito was joined by James Watters, CTO of VMware’s modern application platform, alongside this group of technology executives to look back on the impacts of the pandemic and look forward to a future beyond it.

Acceleration was a recurring theme in the discussion. While all participants shared that they were already engaged in digital transformation before the pandemic hit, many had to act quickly to support a sudden need for remote work. And those who moved fast credited the successful acceleration of output to their teams in all IT areas.

COVID-related requirements pushed the timeline on technology projects; forward-looking initiatives have moved out of R&D and into implementation. The time horizons for key projects were significantly shortened to provide urgently-needed capabilities. In terms of IT operations, executives saw faster iteration cycles to respond to immediate needs. An example was cited in the financial sector, where technology projects have traditionally taken six or more months. In the COVID environment, many banks were able to launch websites for PPP loan programs in less than two weeks. 

When discussing business beyond the pandemic a couple of key trends emerged:

Post-COVID Trend 1: Adopting the Netflix approach.

What would Netflix do? This question was recommended to serve as a filter when planning data sharing and integration projects. Rather than following a sales-driven approach where a tool or platform was procured based on a good demo and pitch (and too often ended up not working out), follow an API-first approach to accelerate project output and get the right pieces of architecture in place. An additional advantage of this approach is the improved enablement of agile workflows, which greatly benefits transformation initiatives.
Participants noted pandemic-related changes in workforce composition. One executive noted that during the first few months, revenues could not support the number of employees in his area. Rather than lose skills, he “introduced” his staff to the gig economy and encouraged workers with in-demand expertise to become independent contractors.

Post-COVID Trend 2: Permanent workforce shifts.

Some companies find that tapping talent from gig workers when needed is preferable to keeping that talent on the payroll. This finding has prompted budget shifts away from HR and toward vendor and contractor procurement.

The pandemic called for fast action from IT departments. Employees needed to have the hardware and secure internet access necessary for remote work. Processes and workflows needed to be supported digitally. Teams had to ensure that technologies like secure virtual meetings and paperless workflows functioned properly. Urgency required some companies to “bolt-on” technology capabilities so that operations could continue in the new virtual environment.

Post-Covid Trend 3: Deciding what to keep.

What will companies do once the pandemic has passed? All participants agreed that there is no going back to the way things were. At the same time, bolted-on capabilities need to be assessed. Capabilities that have proven beneficial to employees, workflows and the bottom line will need to be fully integrated into the technology infrastructure.

A final point in the roundtable discussion focused on recognizing digital transformation as a journey with no destination. There is no such thing as “hitting pause” on this journey— there is only going forward or backward. During the pandemic, the accomplishments achieved and changes made by IT leaders have moved their enterprises further along the digital transformation path. Rather than pause or attempt to return to the way things were, which in both cases would result in net backward movement, the focus should be on using the achievements and insights of the pandemic response to support forward movement.

Post-COVID to do list:

  1. Take a hard look at what your software engineering practice looks like today. If your organization is not currently working in an agile fashion, start to get some teams working in an agile way. Find a use case and begin to build agile around that to get your footing. You can develop your agile model and continue to scale from there. Remember that transforming the entire organization to agile at once is not an agile process.

  2. Culture and how we work is at the forefront of every leader and employee's mind. As we approach life post-pandemic, this priority creates an opportunity to take a fresh look at the evolution of office spaces — not just for cost, but also for function. What are people doing in offices and why should the office exist? Some leaders are looking to create collaboration zones that continue to support flexible remote working that could change the balance sheet. Anytime those two forces come together, productivity and cost, watch out.

  3. If you haven't already addressed it, consider how you are governing your data. Make sure you have the proper processes in place to promote the ability to transfer, share, exchange, access and interact with all data. Easily accessible data, organized and centralized in one unified location streamlines everything.

  4. Take time to refactor some of the things that were implemented during COVID-19, whether it’s because it is incurring unnecessary technical debt or wasn't implemented the way that you wanted. Moving forward, leaders need to be thinking through what their knee-jerk reactions were and how they can come out of COVID with best practices in place.

Are you ready to kickstart your post-pandemic strategy?

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