Powering IT strategy beyond COVID-19

By Ivo Körner
Ivo Körner, vice president, IBM Systems Europe, on how the right IT infrastructure can fuel business success beyond the current COVID-19 climate...

As a leader in the tech industry, making the right IT infrastructure choice will impact long term business success. These are the five things Ivo recommends evaluating, especially in the current context: 

Critical role of cash flow in ensuring operational continuity

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has introduced unprecedented levels of uncertainty into the business environment. Customers are pausing deals, suppliers are unable to fulfil orders, and business plans developed just months ago are now irrelevant. 

In response, organisations are prioritizing cash flow so they have the business agility needed to respond to the current crisis, as well as any other challenges that might occur as social distancing is relaxed. 

IT administrators needs to ask themselves if their infrastructure is optimized to help them do this. For example, does it support the acceleration of ROI from critical projects? Are you able to draw value from your data, at both maximum speed and availability?

Beyond these practical considerations, organisations should have a frank conversation with their IT partners about their situation. Most are reconfiguring their offering in response to the current business environment. What’s more, some are offering attractive deals designed to help businesses obtain the functionality they need while maintaining their liquidity.

Reducing cost in order to focus on main business priorities

Just as operational agility allows you to ramp up capacity in response to opportunity during good times, flexible IT infrastructure is similarly beneficial when dealing with business disruption. Enterprises able to lock-down non-essential activities during a crisis, and free up their IT team and resources to focus on business-critical workloads, like Enterprise Resource Planning or Customer Relationship Management. A bank for example, could do this to focus more on digital banking services. 

The way you build and manage the IT estate can also help. Pay-As-You-Go software contracts allow organisations to ramp capacity and associated costs up and down as and when required. Further, shifting to Open Source software for critical workloads will significantly reduce licensing costs.

Building this kind of flexibility into your IT infrastructure makes sense at the best of times, but it is a game changer in the current climate. By prioritizing and consolidating business-critical workloads, businesses ensure they continue to function effectively, while simultaneously cutting costs and improving cash flow.

Immediately respond to fluctuating client demand

Does your IT infrastructure enable internal process digitalization, allowing you to free up resources, as well as focus on your client priorities? Can you efficiently run processes remotely, and at maximum efficiency? 

In uncertain times client needs can be hard to predict. This kind of functionality can be the difference between supporting your customers when they most need it, and losing them to a competitor.

IT process optimization helps manage the workloads associated with basic client demands, like data retrieval or analytics. But in times like these, it’s the ability to scale allocation of IT resources, both up and down, that makes the difference between unhappy and satisfied clients.

Always prioritize data and IT systems protection

From an infrastructure perspective, beyond the liquidity challenge, maintaining security is perhaps the most important priority for IT administrators right now. 

For many organisations today, your data is your business, so protecting it is of the utmost importance. A safe, viable IT environment is critical to business continuity in normal times. But in the midst of a pandemic it is even more vital, supporting new ways of working, as well as the need for increased capacity agility to address the challenges we are all encountering. 

With so many staff working remotely, some for the first time, businesses are being exposed to new threats. Online collaboration tools may be great for keeping employees connected, but they represent a false economy if their use compromises data integrity or overall security posture. Moreover, its been reported that the coronavirus has led to a surge in phishing scams. 

Deploying a “defense in depth” approach goes a long way to limiting exposure to risk. Implementing multiple layers of cybersecurity defense means that even if one is compromised, there are still others in place to thwart an attack. 

Quickly adjust your IT infrastructure to new ways of working

Meeting growing client demands is one thing, but IT teams are also working hard to enable remote access for staff. Trying to achieve both as quickly and efficiently as possible inevitably puts staff and infrastructure under intense pressure. 

That’s why having a true partnership with your IT provider is so important at times like this. IT vendor success is directly tied to that of its customers, so they should be going above and beyond to help them weather the storm and prepare for the return to normality. This means offering things like more flexible terms, training support and trial access to new tools.

If your partner is not supporting you in this way, it might be time to review the relationship.   

For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA .

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