The pandemic redefined many aspects of the way we live, work, and socialize. As the COVID-19 scare and lockdowns gripped our world in the early months of 2020, organizations responded with a work-from-home mandate for the safety of their employees. It was a wise and ethical decision, although implementing it was not easy. Ensuring that employees could work from any remote location as seamlessly as they did at the office required an immediate and sophisticated IT infrastructure to be implemented.
The IT infrastructure had to consist of a robust network of computers, mobiles, and other devices and an always-on wi-fi connection that allowed for group meetings with employees from various locations. It also had to take into account the varied applications and cybersecurity capabilities needed to protect against malware and cyber-attacks. This infrastructure had to be installed super-quick to keep businesses running “as usual.”
Fortunately, IT teams in businesses both large and small quickly rose to the challenge and, within days to a few months, brought some normality to the work that had been disrupted so suddenly. True, it was not exactly how organizations had previously worked, and soon people talked about a “new normal” where businesses were running smoothly again, bringing back hope for many.
The fact is, IT had rescued businesses, employees, and customers from falling into a chasm that had appeared out of nowhere due to an unprecedented pandemic. New technologies were tested and implemented, employees were trained, and digital payment systems and online transactions became commonplace. People began to experience, accept, work, and live with technology as they had not imagined before.
But all was not well everywhere. Adapting to this change created stress for many people. Apart from economic and business losses across the world, there was a decline in job satisfaction and an increase in mental health issues among employees. The labour market experienced an upheaval as many companies reduced their headcount, and people lost their jobs. The Great Resignation in the United States for the past year or so is, perhaps, an organized response to that change.
This has led to a dearth of IT talent in the industry. Non-IT business leaders are now influencing decisions on IT investments, including recruitment of IT talent. HR teams are busy hiring new talent, often offering higher pay to attract the best in the marketplace, while re-skilling employees to create a workforce that can work with emerging technologies.
HR and IT teams are working in tandem to make sense of all this and find solutions to employee and talent issues. The good news isthat IT teams have risen to the occasion and done what they are best at: using innovative technology to ensure employees stay connected no matter where they and their team members are. And within this reality of remote and hybrid workspaces, IT is ensuring that teams, businesses, and the organization as a whole remain productive throughout.
For the organization, IT is no longer about a department that manages digital and business transformations within the organization. It is about mastering ongoing internal and external transformations with a view to the futureso that the organization is prepared for and fortified against massive disruptions, pandemic or otherwise. Today, there is no doubt that IT is a crucial member of the organization’s decision-making team.
For IT professionals, this is their defining moment. They can have the driver’s seat and share responsibilities with the leadership team and benefit from the collective experience. The transition may not be easy as there are no past experiences to fall back on or playbooks to learn from. To do it right, IT initiatives need to be based on board-level management goals and priorities. They need to enhance the experiences of the members at the tableand have measurable proof of their achievements.
To start with, IT can consider these three factors when measuring the strength and efficacy of their initiatives: productivity, contextualization, and security.
IT initiatives must enhance team member experience. Productivity is a clear reflection of such user experience in terms of ease of use and time saved. A move in that direction, for instance, is to introduce self-service features like digital/online payments, self-cancellations for online subscriptions, and chatbots for help and feedback. In short, anything that removes delays and hurdles in user interactions.
Learning from user behaviour, IT initiatives need to build in contextualization. This means having visibility into all possible devices, applications, operating systems, and browsers that team members rely on through the web, mobiles, tablets, the cloud, ATMs, etc. It also means establishing seamless transitions between devices and applications from wherever the team members are accessing them.
With malware, cyber-attacks and cybercrimes on the rise, security is critical for team members and the organization. It is imperative that all IT initiatives secure users from any such risk, including data breaches and identity thefts. This may be particularly difficult since team members are situated in remote locations, using untested local last-mile technologies orIT not being able to control with whom team members share their devices, applications, and data. IT initiatives also need to anticipate possible risks and threats in the future.
Managing all this seamlessly and successfully is no easy task, and IT certainly has its work cut out. New and sophisticated tools and technologies are constantly being introduced in the marketplace to provide the advantages that IT teams look for every day. Keeping abreast of all such options is, of course, a challenge. But IT now has a seat at the table with the big guys; it can make the impossible possible.