Can adversity drive innovation?

What has become clear in the last few days is that things that we had previously though was impossible, are actually happening. Who would have thought 10 days ago that Australia would shut down its international boarders and seek to significantly restrict movements between states. The new normal for the world is the basis for innovation – consider what you though you knew to be a fact, it is often just a constraint of thinking. But how does this affect technology planning and strategy?

When we look at the short term we are often finding that assumptions around response planning has been unable to predict the impacts of this crisis. Digital supply chains are failing and we are needing to revisit the assumptions made for our existing plans. Directions by IT for staff to go down to Officeworks to pick up a screen and keyboard for your new work from home environment are being replaced with come to the office and take your monitor home as staff report that the shelves are bare at suppliers. Hotspot your laptop to your work mobile has been replaced with order a NBN service as network congestions hits mobile networks. Record highs reported by telco’s for voice traffic is changing our assumption about the role voice services play in these scenarios.

In the medium term we need to understand how the new work practices are changing assumptions that we made about collaboration and collaborative systems. We are seeing that the requirements of systems that supported face to face meetings are quite different from those that replace face to face activity. Systems that provide effective video collaboration between two people are not the same as those that can support effective communication between 15 people. Slack, Webex, Teams and Zoom may have previously looked like they were all solving similar problems, are being proven to be different on a regular basis.

Where some cloud providers have been able to keep ahead of the growth curve, others have not. When your scenario planning has now fallen down on assumptions that have proved inaccurate, it is vital to quickly identify the problem, and make a decision to remediate. The challenge is to make sure that these decision are based on knowledge and fact, rather than pivoting away from a poorly performing service to a completely failing one. Independent and experienced advice is key.

In the longer term it is all about understanding and preparing for the pressure of the recovery. Every year we see the subtle lift in business spirits on the break of spring, but the up turn from this recovery will be enormous. The pressure to delivery solutions at speed will be greater than we have experienced before and a disproportionate amount of this load will fall on the shoulders of your IT systems, infrastructure and capability. Decision support systems, data analysis and visualisation tools and massive changes to global supply chains and work practices will drive monumental change in core business systems. Poor advice by technologist due to inexperience of conflicted interests will deliver project and system failure. This has always cost businesses disproportionately to the expected implementation costs – add pressure, short time frames and lack of understanding and knowledge and we can reasonably expect some monumental stuff ups. Planning is essential, IT excellence is by design, not by accident.

About Greg Spencer

Greg is a Founding Partner of Beyond Technology Consulting. Having held a number of senior executive positions in the past in a variety of technology industries; these roles included Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Vice President of Network & Operations and Chief Operations Officer. Greg’s engineering qualifications provides a sound technology base and he still retains solid technical credentials in IP and application network architectures today. With over twenty years of industry technology management experience, Gregory is now part of the Beyond Technology Consulting team providing specialist strategy, telecommunications, business alignment, transformation management and consulting skills.

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