Some recent discussions among Forrester analysts raised an important observation about the role of technology during our global COVID-19 crisis. At the moment, bleeding edge technologies (blockchain and quantum computing, to pick on a few) — which always garner most of the buzz — now suddenly take a back seat to essential technologies that enable virtual work and collaboration securely at scale. This may disappoint the technology elites in Silicon Valley, but it really shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The current crisis has laid bare just how important core infrastructure and operations are to business resiliency and dependability. We’ve heard numerous stories of IT teams that are scrambling to provision laptops and deploy multifactor authentication to employees who must now work from home or that are straining to provide basic quality of service to the thousands of employees now logging into the same critical business apps at roughly the same time (usually 9 a.m.). Any bleeding edge technology that doesn’t address current challenges or remains unproven carries too much perceived risk to be considered right now. That should be obvious, but when an organization is under duress, the risk threshold jumps to another level.
In times of crisis, human nature drives us to decrease risk. It steers us to people and technologies we can depend on when we need them. They see novel technologies as a luxury while they are struggling with the essentials. And we often hear from our clients how they wish vendors would focus less on fancy new features and apply that energy to make the base product work as intended. Great customer experiences and great employee experiences require far more than features — they also require dependability. One without the other is a losing proposition. Forrester emphasizes this repeatedly.
There are some emerging technologies that are proving to deliver great value during a crisis, such as AI. A marquee use case for AI is genetic sequencing and analysis for conquering maladies like the coronavirus. Modeling how a virus spreads is another. Plenty of commercial, governmental, and academic institutions are actively pursuing such AI-based solutions. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention built a self-diagnosis tool atop Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to relieve some strain on the medical community. While not all of these solutions are technically “AI,” rest assured, this family of analytical innovations is helping . . . a lot.
Despite the economic downturn we now face, we encourage technology leaders to keep pushing forward with innovative technologies that demonstrate both value and dependability. After all, these technologies will help you deliver the differentiating value to your customers and employees — the kind of value that makes your business more desirable in the market. This is how you beat the competition! That pursuit needs to remain a priority, because the strongest innovators will emerge from this crisis more powerful than ever while many weaker companies will perish. As you all fight to weather this current storm, however, be sure to give extra attention to technology that is proven dependable.
Companies, schools, and governments around the world are locked down with work-from-home programs. This new surge of telecommuters will depend on things like collaboration tools, phone services, VPNs, and virtual desktops. Once, you may have viewed these as boring technologies; however, it’s clear now that they help your people remain engaged, productive, and happier so they can keep your business running smoothly amid the turmoil. This crisis will last for quite some time, unfortunately, and periodic flare-ups will likely force employees back to virtual work. Eventually, when there is a vaccine or herd immunity, the new normal will demand that you continue to support a dynamic virtual and mobile workforce permanently. And the business executives who experienced firsthand the shortcomings of legacy technology environments will suddenly demand that IT accelerate roadmaps for app and infrastructure modernization, refined service management, high-availability architectures, automation for speed and reliability, cloud for scale and flexibility, and a network that delivers high performance. The time to start designing for dependability is now.