The March survey by research and advisory firm, ADAPT, reported that 63% of CIOs and CTOs ranked their business continuity plans as highly effective during the crisis.
But CFOs and COOs were not as effusive with 20% rating their organisation’s response as outright ineffective and only 40% citing it as effective.
While that may seem like a return to the usual well-worn discussion on the IT-business divide, the survey showed that IT stakeholder engagement was up across the board, especially with the CEO, IT team and operations. Unsurprisingly engagement with sales was the least improved, something any IT department who has had to deal with the complexities of sales people will understand all too well.
Overall, the results “underscored the importance of IT’s value in a crisis and demonstrated that IT is an enabler when chips are down,” said Matt Boon, Strategic Research Director at ADAPT.
Transitioning employees to a digital workplace was overwhelmingly successful with three quarters of respondents saying they were successful in the provision of core application access, collaboration tools, security and work-from-home setup.
COVID-19 planning and execution had IT perceived as a strategic partner for 80% of all respondents, with only 7% describing their role as “reacting to orders”. This is a positive contrast to business-as-usual where IT has often struggled to play a strategic role in decision making. In a stark reflection of the urgency of the situation, very few respondents had difficulty getting access to senior executives or had challenges in taking critical decisions.
Indeed the close alignment between the CEO and IT during COVID-19 could well be a watershed moment for IT, with ADAPT describing it as a “renaissance”.
With such a drastic change in the operating and business environment, cost reduction, operational effectiveness and digitisation of workflow and processes all became high priorities for over 70% of respondents.
As would be expected, in a world of closed state and national borders, entering new markets was relegated to the bottom of the priority list with just 24% of respondents rating it critical.
With cost-cutting again front-and-centre across the whole business, IT did not escape the knife with 46% of respondents anticipating a budget decrease in 2021. Previous surveys by ADAPT had shown more bullish overall growth.
It will be interesting to see whether companies that invest in IT at this time seize an outsized competitive advantage over companies that slash expenditure.
“Unproven technologies will be put on hold. We do expect budgets to increase long-term but probably more from 2021,” said Aparna Sundararajan, Senior Research Strategist at ADAPT.
AI, virtual assistants and robotic process automation and IOT were listed as critical for only 1 in 5 respondents. Data containerisation, edge computing and AR were even further off the radar for most organisations.
The most significant change within the tech stack is the move to cloud, with half of respondents confirming they had increased their cloud workloads by 50% or more, in order to ensure that their employees could work effectively from their homes.
“COVID-19 has allowed cloud to make its own business case and put another nail in the CAPEX coffin,” said Boon.
But 61% of respondents planned to repatriate that cloud workload by around a third suggesting that the boom in cloud may be short-lived.
“Cloud providers need to be flexible and allow organisation to pay and use what they need when they need it,” said Boon, perhaps a little optimistically. He counsels organisations to ensure that their contracts and SLAs and the platforms themselves allow for repatriation as the organisation requires.
The two areas that were most problematic for respondents were pivoting from physical products to new digital delivery models and managing supply chains. But it is customer service and satisfaction that remains the trickiest with around a third of respondents labelling it as having friction.
For organisations navigating their way through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis, ADAPT counsels organisations to assess future needs in a post-COVID world, identify gaps in existing processes, approve technology investments that can help achieve those new priorities and assess how third-party vendors rose to the challenge when it was most needed.