Each of the investment decisions that have happened have been specific, and targeted at addressing a gap that would complete a process’ digitization or enable something badly needed to run the business
Any cyclic economic slowdown impacts businesses negatively and forces them to be cautious—and forces efficiency. The way COVID-19 situation differs is that it started impacting each one of us from day one. Speaking purely from an IT managers’ point of view, it had silver linings. It made people, hitherto sceptical of digitization, embrace technology willingly. Many companies switched to collaboration platforms literally overnight. Many invested on unplanned digitization—especially in processes where there were small gaps. For example, in supply chain, there were some paper-based approvals still prevalent. Those gaps were closed.
But each of these investments were specific, and were targeted at addressing a gap that would complete a process’ digitization or enable something badly needed to run the business, isolated from each other.
It was misinterpreted by many as a thrust to digital transformation, as a social media joke famously proclaimed.
Two things were missing—a coherent connection among these digital investments and any long-term plan with specific desired business goals—to call it a transformation plan.
If anything, many long-term projects were put on hold or postponed indefinitely.
That is what the research presented in the August issue of CIO&Leader has brought out too. No one is sure about the ‘long-run’. Planning is for the next set of milestones. Further review then will decide the next course of action. What else is agile?
But I have a feeling—this is not research finding but my own assessment—the IT managers are still struggling to come to terms with this dichotomy. On one hand, they are heroes who have kept the businesses running. On the other, their projects are negatively impacted. In certain industries like Airlines and Hospitality, where the overall business outlook is bad, it is easily explainable. But in many others, which are doing pretty well, there is still reluctance to commit investments for a longer horizon. Not because they think the situation would not improve but because they are not sure when it does, which way things will go. How exactly will be the elusive New Normal.
That also is reflected in the research. When asked about individual technologies, we get an optimist view. When specifically asked about budgets and investment, it is fairly pessimistic.
That is why we too have refrained from asking too many questions about the long run. We will do that—just in time.