The last 12 months in business have been some of the most tumultuous in living memory. COVID-19 changed IT strategy for many businesses as it enforced different ways of working for many, while putting the shutters on businesses in industries such as retail and hospitalityBusinesses have had to adapt to the changes in the work environment, with many relying upon agile IT systems to help them to stay operational. 

Companies have adopted a modified approach to how they maintain productivity, despite moving from the office to home. IT specialists Neuways have seen a wave of change in how the business world have adapted their IT systems in order to help them maintain normality.

Changes in IT Strategy

Neuways’ Managing Director, Martin Roberts, explains how he has seen the IT strategy landscape transform into something new and different.

COVID-19 changed IT strategy completely. A greater emphasis has been placed on agile systems, and rightly so, in order for businesses to survive and get through the pandemic, because up until 23rd March, 2020, most workforces were in the office, with working from home being the exception.

Businesses are utilising whole suites of applications, such as Microsoft 365 to transform their previously rigid systems into systems that are connected, agile and flexibleThe investment pays itself back very quickly, through the increase in productivity that comes with it 

The reality is there wasn’t enough focus on productivity tools and cyber security in order for everyone to work from home en masse pre-pandemic. There’s been a rapid acceleration of how these changes have been accommodated to make sure employees are safe and remain productive. 

Operationally, IT strategy can be broken down into three different areas:

  • Strategy – demonstrates what will be done, usually carried out by IT Directors far in advance. 
  • Tactic – how that will be carried out, overseen by managers over a medium-term timeline. 
  • Task – the doing of the work, actioned by the remaining employees in the immediate. 

Strategic Timelines Shorten

Martin sees these timelines becoming shortened, due to the pandemic: “COVID-19 has caused change timelines shorten and shuffle forward. This places those businesses with good IT strategy in a strong position, and leaves those without trailing even further behindBusinesses understand they must become reactive to the COVID-19 situation – the situation is changing month-by-month – so it is important for businesses to remain flexible and retain the ability to change and adapt wherever circumstances demand. 

COVID has also changed the way tactics are implemented. A team spread across a region must be coordinated now, as opposed to an office as it was pre-pandemic. A lot of credit must go to the productivity tools that have become a firm fixture of many employee work routines.  

The most popular productivity tool was Microsoft Teams. Users rocketed by almost 100 million year-on-year, from 20 million in November 2019 to 115 million in November 2020, as businesses found its video conferencing features crucial to the successful running of a business.  

Keep an eye on the long-term

IT strategy has had to adapt and become more immediate to combat challenges posed by the pandemicBut it’s not only tools and software that businesses should be thinking about implementingand, as Martin says, it’s still important to think of the bigger, long-term picture. 

A comprehensive IT strategy should consider areas, like office requirementsPerhaps the amount of bandwidth the office was receiving at the end of 2019, might be unnecessary in early 2021. A review of a business’ IT equipment could also highlight either a glaring need for new devices or a surplus of old, unused equipment. 

Businesses should remain focused on planning for the long-term, as well as reacting in the short-term. While the business’ plans and projects might’ve had to adjust or be pushed forward, business leaders still should consider if they require a new website or is it time to accelerate their ERP project along. Over the last year, we have seen businesses who have invested in areas like these prosper ahead of their rivals who have stood still. 

But most importantly…

While COVID-19 changed IT strategy, there remain some similarities. With years of experience, both in IT and business, Martin is well positioned to comment on an absolute necessity, when dealing with IT strategy. 

No matter how COVID-19 has caused IT strategy to change, it will always require a strong business strategy in order to be a success. If you’ve got an unclear or out-of-date business strategy or none at all, then you’ll have a weak or non-existent IT strategy. Simple. The key is to have a clear view about your business strategy, follow it and pair it with your IT strategy. 

It is crucial that those who develop the IT strategy have a good understanding of the business strategy. When Neuways help customers develop their IT strategies, we do so from a position of understanding business as our staff have plenty of IT knowledge, as well as extensive business experience. 

The phrase, ‘Form must always follow function, applies here – you design an item first and foremost for its function, not what it looks like. IT strategy is like that, in the way it follows business strategy – we are not driven by big shiny technology, but by its purpose and what it does at the heart of it for business.