During the COVID-19, every company dramatically shifted its priorities and expectations. That company-wide shift included a shift in expectations about the services that the IT department needed to deliver. Now that we are past the initial scramble to maintain operations, it is time to reflect on how the IT department can demonstrate its value as the company changes to survive, regain profitability, and to maintain customer satisfaction.

At the recent 2020 Virtual Digital Transformation Conference and Awards, hosted by ITWC, Chris Pope, Global VP of Innovation at ServiceNow, addressed the challenges every IT department is facing and offered a wide range of opportunities to pursue.

Workplace anywhere

As most employees exited offices and started to work from home, the IT department responded with:

  1. Rapid provisioning of laptop hardware and related software.
  2. Rapid expansion of servers and the network to accommodate the new external traffic.

It has become apparent that in the future, even after the pandemic has passed, most employees will work fewer hours in the office and more at home or in other places than they have in the past. This workplace evolution provides the IT department with the opportunity to:

  1. Reduce the acquisition of desktop workstations and acquire more laptops with base stations to create more work flexibility for employees.
  2. Strengthen support processes for remote workers through better training and more remote diagnostic and repair tools to minimize employee frustrations with technology.
  3. Improve asset management systems to track laptops and related peripherals.

Agile organization structure

As COVID-19 caused most employees to scatter into self-isolation, the company’s formal decision-making hierarchy broke down. With determination and likely out of desperation, employees organized informally to address problems and advance the work. This occurred at a breakneck pace with little training and likely significant violations of company security policies and governance expectations.
This organization structure shift to more informally organized workgroups provides the IT department with the opportunity to:

  1. Support collaboration with improved tools and training to minimize productivity losses due to distributed work.
  2. Communicate project status more visibly to improve management awareness.
  3. Introduce more agile software development practices to reduce risks to software quality and project schedule.
  4. Implement a more decentralized configuration management process to maintain configuration control under more complex operating conditions.

Agile and just-in-case supply chain

As COVID-19 impacted the supply chain, widespread shortages of materials and components occurred. At the same time, customer demand dropped significantly.

The lack of supply chain resilience and agility provides the IT department with the opportunity to:

  1. Enhance vendor management systems to support a multi-vendor supply chain.
  2. Enhance inventory management systems to better predict supply risks.
  3. Enhance logistics management systems to better predict transportation and distribution risks.
  4. Increase the exchange of forecast information with trusted vendors to better predict imbalances in supply and demand.

Contactless commerce

Almost overnight, because of COVID-19:

  1. Non-essential purchasing moved from in-person to online.
  2. Essential purchasing, often in stores, required the implementation of safety measures to protect customers and employees.

These dramatic changes provide the IT department with the opportunity to:

  1. Greatly expand e-commerce and contact center capacity to respond to changing customer channel behaviors.
  2. Expand self-serve and self-checkout in stores to improve customer service and minimize health risks.
  3. Implement curbside contactless delivery to minimize customer and employee health risks.
  4. Implement employee health check technologies at manufacturing, distribution, and retail facilities to minimize employee health risks.

Resilient workforce

As COVID-19 caused demand from customers to plummet or shift online, the workforce of most companies could not respond to the rapid change. Workers in contact centers were taxed to the limit by customer calls. Others in production were laid off due to a lack of demand.
These workforce changes provide the IT department with the opportunity to:

  1. Improve the resilience of contact center technology to scale up or down and shift work geographically.
  2. Enhance automation and self-serve capabilities to improve customer service while reducing contact center demand.
  3. Improve scenario planning systems to improve workforce planning.
  4. Support the training of multi-skilled staff to improve workforce resilience and reduce layoffs.

What opportunities do you observe that the IT department can pursue to help the company respond to the dramatic changes imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and meet customer expectations? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada


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