A catalyst for change – the pandemic, IT and the acceleration of digital transformation

22 October 2020

Scott Wilson, director of customer experience, eFax

Scott Wilson, director of customer experience, eFax

IT functions have long wrestled with the challenges of digital transformation. Caught between the need to keep the lights on and the imperative to support businesses in disrupted markets, it’s little wonder that obstacles continually come up.

In fact, our latest eFax survey identified five key areas that IT decision-makers say are holding back digital transformation: low budgets, little leadership buy-in, poor cooperation between departments, restrictive vendors and being held back by having to make legacy processes work.

It’s clear that, for all the talk of digitalisation being an imperative, not a nice to have, many IT managers were struggling to translate that sentiment into direct action. Decisions on new initiatives could take months, if not years, as committees discussed and considered, and business units had to make the case for new investment in digital tools and projects. Sometimes, these delays would lead to departments taking matters into their own hands, and leaving IT and networking managers to have to deal with the fallout of Shadow IT.

The pandemic as transformation catalyst

The pandemic has potentially changed all that. Time and time again, those enterprises that emerged relatively unhindered were the ones that had reached a degree of digital maturity, proving beyond doubt the benefits of digital transformation. For those IT managers that had previously fought for digitalisation project approval it could be frustrating, as our survey shows. More than three quarters of the IT decision-makers we spoke to would have accelerated digital transformation sooner if they were aware of the full impact it could make on their organisation in just a few months.

What’s more, 60% of respondents are accelerating the speed of their transformation projects as a direct result of the disruption the pandemic wrought on their workforces.

Overcoming obstacles to futureproofed transformation

So, are the issues of budget and leadership, silos, legacy apps and restrictive vendors all forgotten? No, but there may be a way for IT and Networking teams to use the learnings of the pandemic to overcome these obstacles.

What they need to be conscious of, however, is that these challenges are predominantly cultural. Leaders need to understand that for any change project to be successful, they have to promote the behaviour they wish to see throughout the organisation, and digitalisation is no different. It’s all very well telling IT to roll out a new feature to facilitate more collaborative working, for example, but if leaders themselves don’t use it and stick to old workarounds, then uptake within the businesses is going to be much slower.

Leadership not buying into IT has been a common complaint for as long as technology has been part of business; how do today’s IT managers respond? How quickly they were able to respond to the challenges the pandemic brought with it will certainly have a bearing, but so too will the decisions IT managers make in the coming months. The decisions made in March and April were crisis-focused; those made now need to be about futureproofing against disruption in the years that follow.

As part of this, IT and networking managers need to also be careful with who they select as their technology service providers. They need their app estate and infrastructure to possess the same attributes as the digital world they want to compete in; agile, flexible, scalable and cost-effective. That means having partners that can deliver against those characteristics. Vendors that can’t, or won’t, deliver solutions to those requirements need to be replaced by those that can.

There’s also the question of legacy. IT and network infrastructure is built on technical debt – using what was already in place as a foundation to create new offerings. This can make digitising hard, but the ultimate truth is that there are just some applications and systems which can’t be moved to new environments, whether that’s lift and shift, transform or rip and replace. It’s up to IT and networking managers to integrate those systems while delivering transformation across the rest of the business.

Post-pandemic IT – the path to total transformation

The message from IT decision-makers is clear – accelerated digital transformation is only achievable with the right support in place. There needs to be budget, there needs to be leadership, but there also needs to be an acknowledgement from IT that the right decisions need to be made. That means aligning solution and vendor selection with business goals and working out how to contend with legacy decisions.

The evidence is there – the first months of the pandemic proved the worth of digitally transformed operations. It is up to IT and networking to ensure that the decisions made now will futureproof their operations against whatever else might happen.