The global COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many organizations to reconsider their entire business operations strategy, with a renewed focus on business continuity planning (BCP) as well as future growth and innovation.
According to a December 2019 CIO article, Roy Nicholson, a business consulting principal at Grant Thornton, stated that “IT has an increased responsibility and opportunity to help organizations stay ‘future ready.'” Today, nearly seven months into self quarantines and social distancing, Nicholson’s statement has foreshadowed the pressures and demands IT departments and professionals are tasked with in a COVID world. It’s clear that the organizations that use this workplace disruption to improve their journey of digital transformation (DX) and IT modernization will best survive the COVID-19 crisis and thrive in the future.
Digital Transformation Success Stories in the time of COVID
Although many organizations have been working toward digital transformation for at least the last 10 years, as late as January 2020 nearly ¾ of organizations felt they weren’t as digitally mature as they wanted or needed to be. Most digital transformation plans fail because they are viewed as either a technology initiative or a business initiative.
To be successful, according to Clint Boulton, senior CIO and IT leadership writer, digital transformation needs to be a true partnership—a cross-departmental collaboration that merges “business-focused philosophies and rapid application development models.”
As many organizations faced the challenge of going 100% virtual practically overnight, user and executive attitudes changed dramatically. Many digital transformation initiatives that had been discussed for years pre-COVID were implemented within weeks. For public and private organizations, large and small, across industries, digital transformation was no longer a “nice to have” scenario, but was a matter of survival:
Government organizations are required by both federal and state law to capture and store all of their electronic communications records, including email, text messages, and social media. Local government CIOs have been working on digitizing records for years. However, it took COVID-19 stay-at-home orders to push the automation of records over the edge. Some technology service providers offered IT solutions to local government departments at no cost, affording swift problem solving and ensuring security to critical citizen processes.
It should be noted that without the solution-oriented actions from IT leaders who were already plugged into local government needs, this could have all played out much differently. This further shows the importance of already having CIOs and other IT leaders integrated into business conversations before problems, such as global pandemics, arise.
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Healthcare organizations, without question, have been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jeff Thomas, CTO and acting co-CIO of Sentara Healthcare shared in a CIO article that in the span of three months, Sentara went from an average of 20 telehealth visits per month to 14,000 per week. Fortunately, Sentara started its digital transformation planning and implementation many years prior to the pandemic. As a result, Sentara’s IT team was able to handle the increase in telehealth demand because it had already built the capacity to “connect with the [patient] in a digital way.” According to Thomas, Sentara’s ability to meet such rapidly evolving needs wasn’t a “test of its digital transformation, but rather proof of it.”
Entertainment and sports organizations are still trying to figure how to safely put on large events. COVID-19 severely curtailed the Milwaukee Bucks’ playing season and the concert season at the Bucks’ home arena, Fiserv Forum. Keeping remote workers productive and fans engaged was an important goal for the Bucks’ IT team. In a conversation with Robert Cordova, the Bucks’ CTO, he said downtime during the NBA season suspension allowed IT to focus on and to accelerate new strategies for continued fan engagement, and to plan fan experience enhancements when play resumed.
Using ticket sales information, the IT team communicated directly with fans about changes they were making at Fiserv Forum. This included adding point-of-sale functionality that gave users the ability to order food and merchandise directly from an app, and increased pick-up stations that not only allowed for contactless delivery but also reduced the time fans spent waiting in line. The need to work remotely drove another positive change: high user adoption of collaboration tools, video conferencing, cloud storage, and other productivity tools.
There are many advantages and pitfalls in any digital transformation strategy. The overall goal, though, is to develop an agile, resilient organization that is more responsive to change. This year alone has presented countless challenges that IT departments were forced to face.
Now more than ever, the need for IT professionals who can lead organizations through such changes is critical—and growing. To meet this demand, the University of Wisconsin developed the Master of Science in Information Technology Management that prepares graduates to be the leaders that organizations across all industries and sectors depend on.