Business Transformation

Modernization, Automation, Innovation: How to Succeed in a Post-Pandemic World

CIOs have always been responsible for strategic tech decisions, but now those decisions are far more critical to the business’s growth. Add in a global crisis, tech debt, a completely remote workforce, and evolving business models, CIOs around the world are tasked with strategic choices to modernize, automate and innovate that could make or break the business.

In March 2020, as coronavirus took its hold on humanity in earnest, Forrester Consulting, commissioned by VMware, published the report Improving Customer Experience and Revenue Starts With the App Portfolio. In it, 614 chief information officer and senior vice president respondents admitted to overlooking their app portfolios and cited the difficulty of managing them as a key challenge, despite seeing the benefit in doing so.

Just six months later, VMware and Forrester partnered again to recontact those in the March report, with the results released in To Recover From the Pandemic, Automate Operations to Free Budget for Innovation. Two hundred and four of the original 614 respondents gave their views on how the pandemic changed their business priorities, including application portfolio management. Even amidst the chaos of COVID-19, app portfolio management was still among the top concerns and priorities for executives.

Read on for the top takeaways of the September report, and make sure to read the full Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Spotlight: To Recover from the Pandemic, Automate Operations to Free Budget for Innovation.

Modernize and manage your app portfolio

The March 2020 Forrester report extolled the benefits of taking inventory of apps and executives agreed that it’s a top priority; however, 48 percent of respondents hadn’t touched their app portfolio in over a year. They cited tech debt, the risk to business operations, costs of patches and upgrades, and having to spend their time and resources on maintaining legacy infrastructure as the obstacles to tackling the cumbersome, yet necessary task of app portfolio maintenance.

The 204 recontact respondents in the September report confirmed that app portfolio management hasn’t fallen off their radar: 70 percent moderately or strongly agreed that they are prioritizing app modernization projects. In fact, the need to organize has been brought into sharper focus because of the crisis. Half of the polled executives said that dealing with tool sprawl, or having too many development environments or tools, has become more challenging during the pandemic.

It’s imperative to take the time to identify redundant, duplicate, and underused operational tools. When organizing your tools into the keep and trash piles, limit the number of one-off tools. Niche tools with one use will quickly clutter your efforts.

Accelerate your efforts

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the speeding up and reordering of priorities. The switch to exclusively remote workforces, budget cuts, and customers’ increasing digital demands are driving the need for speed. Twenty-six percent of the polled CIOs and SVPs strongly agreed that projects with no immediate benefit should be canceled, and 41 percent of respondents moderately agreed with the same sentiment.

Accelerated enhancement efforts should be concentrated on applications that directly affect customer experience. An overwhelming 82 percent of executives believe that CX directly ties to revenue growth, according to the March 2020 Forrester report. The pandemic has required that executives rethink their business models in a matter of days and weeks, an undertaking that is usually measured in months and years. A lightning-fast response to customers’ changing and increasingly digital needs is an excellent way to build trust. The loyalty earned now may outlast the pandemic and bolster companies through recovery.

Reduce infrastructure costs

Across almost every industry in every region, organizations were faced with budget cuts born out of global economic uncertainty. More than half of executives have experienced budget decreases since the pandemic hit, and 55 percent of executives expect to see their IT budgets reduced in the next year. Budget shortages mean that decision-makers must cut costs without cutting corners wherever they can. One area executives can look to gain savings is infrastructure and operations restructuring.  

Operation costs can skyrocket if they’re not monitored regularly, and it’s up to CIOs to track operation budgets and identify where savings may lie. Two great places to start are automation and consolidation. Not only do automation and consolidation cut costs, but they have the bonus of simplifying unnecessarily complex infrastructures. Focus first on the day-to-day, always-on operations that are essential to keeping the business running and adopt infrastructure as code whenever you can.

Invest in your talent

Investing in talent was a new section highlighted in the recontact September 2020 Forrester report. Some of the funds that are funneled into innovation should be distributed to upskilling and reskilling staff. Unfortunately, along with budget cuts, many organizations have had to reduce their staff and initiate hiring freezes; therefore, it is key to retain and do the best you can with the people you have.

Investing in talent is not only buying the necessary training programs but in establishing a learning culture in your company. Encourage employees to devote time in their workday to complete training and compensate and celebrate employees for additional training they do outside of work hours. Even allowing employees to gain certifications in areas that fall outside their job description. When people learn new skills that allow them to hop from one department to another, it breaks down silos and may provide a unique perspective on your business.

Finally, capitalize upon free training whenever possible. You may be able to find free classes and certification programs at online and local educational institutions, community centers, or through solution providers and user groups. Just because you pay nothing for it doesn’t mean you’ll get nothing from it.

Lead change

It’s OK to fail in DevOps … as long as you fail quickly and inexpensively. What CIOs can’t afford to do is fail due to a reluctance to embrace change or being burdened by legacy apps. Automation, agile software delivery, and app modernization are key to surviving in the current climate and flourishing in the post-pandemic future. The Forrester recontact report advises that “now is the time to sweat the assets you’ve invested in already.” Commit to growth, scale for the future, and lead change.


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