Businesses around the world are working hard to respond meaningfully to profound disruptions to the economy. Some industries, like cruise ship vacations, have temporarily vanished. Others, like restaurants, have been radically transformed. Energy consumption patterns have shifted as a result of grounded airline flights and empty highways. Work and education have become remote. Some businesses find themselves struggling to survive. Others are booming.
Amid all these changes, business and technology leaders are trying to make smart decisions about how to invest in IT to ensure the survival of their businesses.
At TechStone, we have the privilege of consulting for companies in energy, retail, finance, high tech, consumer packaged goods (CPG), and manufacturing and distribution. What I’ve observed in the past few months is that market-leading companies are not freezing IT projects and hunkering down. Instead, they are asking hard questions about what capabilities they need right now and what capabilities they will likely need in the future. And they are engaged in building those capabilities so that when this disruption is over, they will emerge stronger, more agile, and more profitable.
Simply put: Rather than hitting the pause button, these companies are accelerating their digital transformation projects and their migration to the cloud.
Continuity planning is the strategic work of assessing risks and threats and planning how to mitigate them so the company can continue operating in a profitable way. For businesses facing more risks and uncertainty than ever before, continuity planning should be a top priority. The smart companies I work with are using continuity planning to undertake digital transformations that will increase their chances to survive and help them thrive in the months and years to come.
7 Steps for Surviving and Thriving Amid Disruption
Based on our experiences working with companies that are embracing digital transformation to survive, here’s a seven-step process for tackling continuity planning. This process can help you, regardless of whatever industry you’re operating in.
1. Don’t stand still. Transform.
The first step is to get moving. Assume that some of the disruption you see today will have long-term consequences. Some work that has become remote will probably stay that way. Online collaboration will only become a bigger part of your employees’ lives. And running IT resources in the cloud, rather than on-premises, will be more important than ever because of cost and ease of management.
If you’ve had to redesign processes in response to the disrupted economy, continue to monitor and assess those processes to ensure they still meet the needs of the business. For example, have your customers shown a preference for new ways of receiving products and services? Have you discovered new ways of doing business that turn out to be more efficient and cost-effective? Are you ready to adopt more cloud-based applications, which can be scaled and reconfigured quickly in response to changing market needs?
Make a list of several ways that you could transform your IT infrastructure to better support your business now and in the future.
2. Pick a use case
Once you’ve asked those questions and developed a sense for where you’d like to go next, pick a use case. Ask yourself, what’s a compelling reason to adopt a new technology, such as a cloud platform for a particular type of operation? Chances are, this reason will be based on your company’s overall direction.
So what is that direction, and has it changed in light of recent events? Are you buying other companies as part of a long-term M&A strategy? Are you being acquired yourself? Are you looking at ways to expand your market through new products and services? Or are you focused on increasing agility and reducing costs by migrating to more affordable IT systems, such a modern cloud platform for inventory management, supply chain procurement, or HR?
These are some of the common use cases we see driving transformation in the companies we work with.
3. Assemble a cross-departmental team
As part of the assessment, an organization should begin assembling a cross-departmental team of relevant experts who can help the discovery process and weigh in on the business requirements for a new approach to the challenges at hand.
You’ll want to have stakeholders from different departments involved; not only IT people, such as architects and developers, but business people as well. And you’ll want to get at least one senior executive on board as a champion to ensure that your project gets the support it needs, even as its requirements and requests cross-departmental lines. This team will serve as the steering committee for the project going forward.
4. Do an assessment, and categorize your findings
Once you’ve identified the use case or uses cases you’d like to pursue and assembled a team, do an assessment. (It may be helpful to have a consultant help with this work.) An assessment involves taking a detailed look at the state of IT assets and processes related to the use case and considering how they need to be changed to support digital transformation.
For example, if the use case is to improve the company’s integration capabilities, in the assessment you would survey all the integration tools that have been used to build the integrations currently in place.
Typically, we’ll find that a company has multiple tools for ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) processes, other tools for application-to-application integration, and still other tools for integrating with other businesses such as partners and customers.
We’ll often also find a lot of custom code – “spaghetti code” – that was written over the years to meet this or that short-term need. All that custom code now constitutes technical debt: it’s overhead that it is time-consuming and costly to maintain. This is the sort of overhead you should be trying to eliminate as part of digital transformation.
Your assessment should include technologies, processes, roles, and how all three of those things need to change to improve your company’s handling of the use case.
5. Develop a strategy, a charter, and a roadmap
Next, put that assessment to work. Come up with a blueprint to build the new technical solution and to integrate it with the rest of your enterprise architecture. You’re going to develop a strategy for moving forward, a charter summarizing the mission and scope of the project, and a detailed roadmap describing the phases of development, testing, and release.
Your cross-departmental team should help develop these documents. The breadth of that team helps ensure that no project requirements are overlooked and that the project will receive the support it needs.
6. Select vendors and technology
By this stage, you’ve identified your high-priority use cases. You’ve identified the current state of the technology you’re using to address these use cases. And you’ve developed a roadmap for transforming your technology to better meet your needs.
Now you’re ready to select the vendors and technologies that will help you achieve your goals. Your selection process should take into account the possibly reduced staff you’re working with and the likely increased pace of operations you’re striving to address. Legacy, on-premises systems, for example, typically require highly skilled staff to maintain and update. New cloud applications are much easier to manage with a small team and for a lower total cost.
Your development team can work much more quickly and affordably with a modern, low-code development environment like that offered by the Boomi Platform. Boomi’s low-code development usually accelerates development 5X – a meaningful improvement for any company trying to move quickly.
By a wide margin, Boomi has been the most common vendor that we’ve selected for integration for our customers over the last four or five years. We believe Boomi is an excellent choice not only for the current needs of our customers, but also for their future needs as their integrations diversify and scale, requiring an elastic, flexible, and durable integration architecture.
7. Build the transformation
Once you’ve selected the vendors and technologies for your use case, start building. If your use case is modernizing your integrations, for example, start building the integrations and integrating your applications and data repositories. Whatever work you’re doing in this step, it should be guided by the charter for the use cases you’ve identified and supported by the steering committee of stakeholders.
As a result of this process, you’ll achieve more than just addressing the uses cases you set out to improve. You’ll find that you’ve got a new cross-departmental team, a new set of tools, and a track record for success.
You’re ready to keep innovating and modernizing, so that no matter what disruptions occur, you can continue operations and come out a stronger, more agile, and more profitable company.