With more returning to the office in Singapore after more COVID-19 restrictions were eased on Monday 28 September, the question of how IT teams can support a world of work where digital transformations have happened at a rapid speed and new digital architectures have been deployed has become an important one to ask. Jim Cavanaugh, the President of Cisco AppDynamics in Asia Pacific and Japan, examines how IT teams can adapt to new digital transformation demands and navigate their company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. Teams became virtual overnight. Employees embraced collaboration tools and video conferencing technology as part of their new day-to-day. Organisations have moved huge sections of their business online much faster than projected, redefining their operations and strategies to meet evolving customer demands.
More than half-a-year into the pandemic, the transition back to the workplace in Singapore has been set in motion. Restrictions are easing and employees are returning to the office. But this is no return to the ‘old normal’ – safety measures remain in place, working from home is still the default option, and employees must continue to do so for at least half their working hours.
A hybrid working environment looks set to stay, with flexible employees working from different locations and with more varied working patterns. For employers this means constant revisions to how they deploy IT systems and services to meet the needs of their workforce, whilst still achieving business goals. Businesses are having to rapidly update their technology applications and tools to maintain business continuity, encourage collaboration, and maintain their office team culture in a dispersed work environment. It’s clear that the work is far from over for IT teams.
IT teams remain under pressure
The pressure on technology and the people running IT departments all over the world has never been greater than the past year. IT teams have faced a brand new set of business and technology priorities and challenges, and have learned valuable lessons that will shape digital transformation efforts in the future. 81% of global technologists said that COVID-19 created the biggest technology pressure for their organisation that they have ever experienced and 61% said they felt under more pressure at work than ever before, according to the Agents of Transformation Report 2020: COVID-19 Special Edition report by Cisco’s AppDynamics.
Technology priorities changed within 95% of organisations surveyed in the same report during the pandemic. It has been up to technologists to deliver the infrastructure, applications and security required to maintain world-class digital experiences, both internally and externally for their organisations.
It is positive that many of the tools and technologies that have enabled remote working have been successful. We’ve seen that people can be as productive in a remote office reality, without a drop in productivity. A global survey by employee engagement platform EngageRocket of over 20,000 respondents found that about 49% of people reported being equally productive working at home in June as they were when they worked in the office before the COVID-19 outbreak and 23% felt more productive. Organisations are clearly comfortable with remote work becoming a permanent fixture, with tech companies such as Twitter recently announcing that their employees are now allowed to work from home permanently.
The key for businesses is to stay flexible and agile, ready to continually adapt to new business and customer demands. Thankfully, IT teams seem positive in their ability to be part of the solution. According to the Agents of Transformation Report 2020, 87% of technologists regard the response to COVID-19 as an opportunity for tech professionals to show their value to the business. In fact, 80% of technologists report that the response of their IT team to the pandemic has positively changed the perception of IT within their organisation.
The Future Technologist Skillset
For technologists that found themselves spearheading their business’ response to the global pandemic certain skills have proved vital. The Agents of Transformation 2020 report identified the skills that were most necessary for technologists navigating their company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Top of the list were collaboration, analytical thinking, and outcome-driven decision making.
A key characteristic of an ‘Agent of Transformation’ is that they take responsibility for their own success and are always developing their skills and attributes in order to continually improve, perform at a higher level and be better connected to the business. Enterprises will need forward-thinking individuals who can react to the pace of change we are seeing.
Organisations must also do all they can to provide their technologists with the tools they need to meet digital transformation requirements. The IT response to the pandemic has, in some instances, led to increased complexity. Many organisations have taken full advantage of modern cloud infrastructures and microservices architectures. The benefits of cloud in terms of flexibility, innovation and collaboration have been clear to see. However, technologists must now navigate a more complex, distributed application architecture and configuration, with some components remaining on-premise and the rest of them in the cloud, creating a hybrid cloud architecture.
Technologists need the tools to manage these complex environments and maximise the investment. 92% of technologists report that having visibility and insight into the performance of the technology stack and its impact on customers and the business is the most important factor in becoming an Agent of Transformation during this period.
Remote Work: Agility and Applications
The impact of COVID-19 on our working lives and organisational structures will be long lasting, far beyond the easing of restrictions on how people work, travel and interact. Companies are recognising the benefits of having greater numbers of people working remotely and adopting more agile approaches to all areas of employee management, from recruitment and onboarding, to internal communications and collaboration between teams.
Digital services and applications are essential in keeping workforces productive at home and therefore it is vitally important that IT departments are able to handle surges in demand and unique pressures on their IT estate. This means having the right tools to monitor and manage the technology stack, from the user experience at the application layer, right through to the network.
There’s no return to the pre-pandemic version of “normal” for Singaporeans despite the lift in restrictions. What’s clear for all organisations, whether embracing remote working, full time or looking towards a hybrid model, is that IT teams and technologists, armed with the right tools, applications and skills, are critical for businesses to thrive in this new era of work.