IT Modernization During COVID-19: How IT Leaders Can Implement Short-term Fixes With Long-term Thinking

Eugene Khazin

Principal and Co-Founder, Prime TSR

How should a CIO plan during a pandemic? I think there’s only one way to do it: Plan for the worst-case and best-case at the same time.

Let me explain. 

If you only plan for the worst, you’ll be ready if a disaster happens. You’ll be loved by everyone because the company was ready for the worst-case scenario. But, what you aren’t prepared for is to step on the peddle when the company is ready to go full-throttle toward a new digital economy.

And the excuse, “We were told to plan for the worst,” isn’t going to cut it. So, in reality, an effective CEO has to plan for both simultaneously. 

Your organization is probably in one of two buckets of thinking at the moment:

  1. Only focus on short-term initiatives that keep our business running until we understand the full impact of the current pandemic. Keep costs and resources low while ensuring the business can operate as normal.
  2. Let’s accelerate our digital transformation initiatives because we know the need for our organization to be digitally aligned will put us in a better position.

However, the first steps each leader should take are going to be similar, if not identical. The wonderful thing about the cloud is that “short-term” fixes can also serve as long-term planning. 

I see three big areas for short-term fixes to get your organization where it needs to be. These fixes can be the catapult to scale up further initiatives when, and if, you start your “digital transformation.” 

 

  • Infrastructure Security, Speed, and Flexibility for Remote Work
  • Predictable, Optimized IT Spending
  • Business Continuity: Preparing for New Digital Customer Experiences

Infrastructure Security, Speed, and Flexibility for Remote Work

This pandemic has taught everyone a valuable lesson: You will never have enough time to plan for a crisis in the future. 

It’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen quickly. You probably planned for some of your organization to work remotely, but never in your wildest dreams did you plan for the entire company to be remote. Take steps to protect your infrastructure and data, and ensure that the infrastructure is available at all times, especially during a disaster.

The good news is that modern cloud offerings have given organizations the capability to move quicker on IT initiatives while maintaining a high level of security. Here are some things the cloud can provide right out of the box.

Managed Infrastructure and Data Security

Currently, you don’t have time to engage the security team in building a solution from the ground-up. You have days or weeks, not six months. Using the cloud’s managed security offerings, you can deploy secure infrastructures in minutes without ever acquiring hardware for services.

This includes:

  • End-to-end Infrastructure security: You’ve probably heard of “Zoom bombing” by now, and it’s a big example of how fast something can go from “easy to use” to large organizations banning its use. The cloud offers many managed security solutions that can help you build out an initial robust solution fairly quickly.
  • Data security: Built into AWS Workspaces, you can implement Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) security policies for employees who want to access applications using their own devices.
  • EC2 and Azure resilience: Both offer multiple regions globally to host your data.

Speed and Agility 

When the business team comes to IT leadership and says, “We need to do this quickly, no exceptions,” then you need a quick answer. So, the question you have to ask yourself is: How quickly can you build new infrastructure requirements?

  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a wonderful example of why the cloud is the short-term and long-term answer. With IaC, you can provision and manage an entirely secure, tested, infrastructure in minutes using a human-readable and machine-executable template file. My recommendation is to create a few IaC templates for infrastructures you want to roll-out and test. You can start small, prove it out, and when you’re ready to roll it out to a bigger part of the infrastructure, you can do so easily.

Disaster Recovery

If there was a time to stress test your disaster recovery and high availability procedures, now is the time. The last thing to pair with uncertainty is an unmitigated disaster that the company isn’t ready for. IaC and major cloud providers’ ability to provision servers across many physical regions gives you a perfect reason to test out disaster recovery in the cloud.

Predictable, Optimized IT Spending

CIOs have a balancing act: They need to make the corporate finance team happy with their spending and expenses while ensuring they can move quickly for business needs. And at any time, it can tilt one way or the other. The CFO can ask you to reduce costs immediately, and on the other side, the business teams can tell you to move faster to meet their new digital needs.

Move to Opex Model. Right now, the CFO is asking you to reduce costs and make them more predictable. This is an opportunity to go through everything that can be shut down, but also find areas within IT that can be reduced and more predictable if they were set up in the cloud. This gives you the opportunity to reduce costs, but also the ability to accelerate your digital transformation when it’s ready.

For this to be effective, I highly recommend creating a cloud economic model, where you can predict costs more effectively using an Opex operating model. 

Refactor applications to reduce cost. Unless you’re on the “let’s go all-in on digital transformation” boat during the pandemic, this is probably not the best use of your funds. Still, consider refactoring a few applications in the cloud to get some proof points on how server and resource costs can be reduced, while still providing superior technology support to the business.

Business Continuity: Preparing for New Digital Customer Experiences

A big reason we launched our cloud-based Customer 360 solution, leveraging Amazon Connect, is because we found organizations weren’t ready to handle the increased call-center volume when the entire customer service organization went remote. And they also didn’t have the time for a 6-9 month project to get them ready to support their customers. They didn’t need it today, they needed it yesterday.

In traditional, non-cloud situations, it would take you a long time to get up and running. With cloud services like Amazon Connect, you can run a fully-functional call-center in minutes.

Amazon Connect is a small example of how you can roll out new secure, digital experiences in 1/10th of the time it would normally take. Use this as an opportunity to explore new solutions.

Now is the time to explore what the cloud can do in terms of rolling out new functionality that will further enable your organization to increase its digital experiences. The value proposition is simple: We can get this up and running quickly, and if it doesn’t work, we simply shut it off. No long-term contracts needed, and we’re not stuck with it.

Think Strategically and Tactically With an Eye to Your Future Strategy

The current situation is something we’ve never experienced. However, I believe it’s a great time to start thinking about the small IT modernization wins that can be the foundation for launching a full-on digital transformation, which I strongly believe will happen sooner than later.