Are the collaboration technologies we’ve rapidly adopted over the last six months, and the remote work they’ve enabled, here to stay beyond the current crisis?
That’s the question CIOs are asking as they set their sights on the “next new normal” and try to navigate the coronavirus-induced IT landscape, said Joe Pucciarelli, IDC group vice president and IT executive advisor, in a virtual session delivered at The Channel Company’s MES+ conference.
We might not always all work from home, Pucciarelli said, but it’s likely industries will continue to rely on the solutions they adopted during the pandemic to communicate within their organisations, supply chains and with their customers.
“One thing is certain as we move through 2020,” the IDC analyst told the MES audience, “none of us want to maintain the status quo.”
It’s clear from every analysis, including a survey conducted of MES attendees, that there’s massive investment taking place in remote communications and collaboration solutions. IT budgets are also being redirected toward automating data center operations, Pucciarelli said.
“This aggressive investment in automation and data analytics I think may be one of the most important legacies from this whole experience,” he told the session.
Pucciarelli ran through the five-stage enterprise recovery framework IDC has created to guide clients coping with the disruption.
The fist stage is reacting to the crisis, which involves figuring out how to sustain operations and maintain continuity. Then comes the cost-optimization stage, when companies are looking at controlling spending to cope with a slowdown.
That shifts to a broader focus on coping with a recession, which will bring a further reduction in customer demand and need to improve resilience.
The fourth stage sees enterprises making targeted investments as they look to return to growth, which leads into the final stage where they “finally return to next normal as a new company,” Pucciarelli said.
As they traverse those stages, many companies find an opportunity to accelerate their business strategy, with some even looking at unanticipated acquisitions.
For effective leaders to successfully drive those technological transformations, first and foremost what they must do well is “communicate, communicate, communicate,” Pucciarelli said. “Always lead every discussion with business outcomes powered by technology,” he said, rather than talking technology itself.
“We will be evaluated by how we and our teams position our organisations post-pandemic,” Pucciarelli told attendees.
In the MES survey the IDC researcher presented, more than 95 percent of technology leaders said they are improving their data analytics capabilities, 80 percent were ramping enterprise intelligence sharing, and 75 percent focused on data-driven automated decision making.
And the vast majority of survey respondents, as well as companies frequently polled by IDC throughout the pandemic, show the IT community is squarely focused on “doubling-down on our collaboration and communications strategy,” Pucciarelli said.
The reason is simple he told the MES attendees: “We never want to let this happen again.”
“IT is no longer a tool to improve productivity,” he said. “IT has become the foundation for many of our businesses.”
Jason Bystrak, vice president of cloud business at D&H Distributing, has seen those dynamics play out among the distributor’s partners.
Communications and collaboration was a rapidly growing market before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, “I don’t know how many times you’d magnify it, but massive,” Bystrak said.
Many of the digital transformation plans enterprises were talking about, or putting on year-out timelines, they implemented rapidly over the last half year.
“We just accelerated the curve of adoption of these technologies,” Bystrak said.
D&S is seeing those dynamics drive strong adoption of solutions including Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, and RingCentral, Bystrak said.
Those products have changed people’s minds, he said, and now it seems clear, based on lots of survey data, that many employees will not return to physical offices after the pandemic.
“We’ve seen, given the right technology, we can all be productive from a work-from-home environment. These technologies are key to make that happen. I don’t see anyone not keeping them in place,” Bystrak told CRN.
“It’s not a power generator you turn off after storm. This is technology that once you turn on you get stuck to,” he added.
Pucciarelli’s emphasis on effective communication from business leaders around technology adoption applies just as well to channel consultancies, Bystrak said.
VARs and MSPs too often talk to their customers’ IT leaders. They should learn how to have business conversations around productivity and collaboration, which create for them more opportunities to monetize those technologies with services like professional training, he told CRN.