Tuesday, 14 July 2020 12:40

Supporting the back to work push: why strategic IT leadership is more important than ever in a post-coronavirus world

By Ashwin Ram ManageEngine consultant
Ashwin Ram, ManageEngine product consultant Ashwin Ram, ManageEngine product consultant

GUEST OPINION by ManageEngine product consultant Ashwin Ram: As the economy reopens, IT leaders are in the hot seat, charged with ensuring their teams and technology stacks can support recovery, growth, and an array of flexible working arrangements, writes ManageEngine product consultant Ashwin Ram.

The sweeping shutdown measures put in place by the federal government to slow the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in a degree of enforced idleness for millions of Australian workers at all levels. Not so for IT leaders and their teams. In many cases, they’ve been busier than ever, enacting business continuity plans whose success has depended heavily on information and communications technology.

Demands on IT professionals’ time are unlikely to lessen as normal service resumes and businesses begin what, in many cases, will be a challenging journey back to profitability and growth. In today’s technology-driven business world, IT shops have a pivotal role to play in that recovery process.

Supporting the new normal

In many enterprises, the return to a centralised working model is shaping up to be a progressive undertaking, with employees splitting their time between head office and home  in the short and medium term, and even permanently in some instances.

The onus is on IT departments to support this dual office arrangement. In some organisations, that will entail formalising remote working policies and procedures enacted on the fly, in response to government shutdown measures.

Other enterprises will need to focus on ensuring remote workers have the tools and equipment they need to operate effectively from home, long term.

Ramping up the IT shop’s self-service functions is also likely to be a priority. Providing remote workers with the capacity to troubleshoot common issues on their own, without IT team intervention can relieve the burden on the service desk and ensure productivity doesn’t suffer because employees are waiting long periods for a fix.

Many organisations will be well served by the creation of a portal that can serve as a repository for forms, tools and high-tech information, such as articles, blog posts on common issues and how-to guides.

There may also be a place for chatbots in some IT shops, as they overhaul their arrangements to support remote workforces. The technology has earned itself a chequered reputation but recent times have seen a growing number of organisations deploy it to good effect, to resolve simple queries.

New business plan, new IT strategy

Supporting current working arrangements is a vital operational requirement in the here and now – but ensuring employees can keep on working is just one of the challenges Australian IT leaders face in the aftermath of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has upended plans and growth forecasts in thousands of organisations of all sizes and stripes and forced many leaders to overhaul their operations and business models entirely. That, in turn, necessitates IT leaders to rethink their technology stacks and modi operandi to ensure they enable, not obstruct, the enterprises they serve, as they re-engineer and pivot.

For IT leaders yet to embark on wholesale digital transformation, the race is now on.  They’ll need to run fast, to catch up to competitors that are using digitalised infrastructures to their advantage as they regroup and rebuild.

In the main, organisations with cloud-first policies found business continuity significantly easier to achieve during the shutdown period than those with legacy computing models. That advantage may be the spur, if one were needed, for laggards to call time on outmoded solutions and processes.

Playing a pivotal role in the recovery process

As the economy re-opens, Australian enterprises need to position themselves for survival and recovery, with revised business plans and growth targets that reflect a very different business landscape from that of a year ago. The upcoming year promises to be a busy one for IT leaders, as they address the challenges of ensuring their technology stacks and processes can support and enable the survival and prosperity of the businesses they serve.

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