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COVID-19 and its impact on IT strategy and budgets

Read time 4min 20sec
Ian Russell, business advisor and author.
Ian Russell, business advisor and author.

ITWeb’s Impact of COVID-19 on digital transformation webinar series kicked off yesterday with a focus on the pandemic’s impact on IT strategy and technology budgets.

Speaker and business advisor Ian Russell presented the keynote address in which he highlighted major issues that businesses and the South African economy will have to deal with to ensure survival in a post-coronavirus world.

A BC and AC world

The former BCX CEO said the world can be divided into a time ‘before coronavirus (BC)’ and ‘after coronavirus (AC)’.

“We have to make peace with not going back to normal. The AC world is a different space, and it needs different ways of thinking. We can’t build new ways of operating on old ways of thinking.”

Lockdown leadership is about future-proofing your business.

Ian Russell

He said those in business leadership have been placed at the epicentre of change and should be using the crisis to help their organisations ‘survive, revive and thrive’.

“Take this opportunity to enable your employees, customers and suppliers. Lockdown leadership is about future-proofing your business.”

Four ways of working

Russell’s talk centred on the four business essentials:

1.Decision-making. He said good decisions are things people can live with and not everyone will agree with them. “The time where we could spend endless hours arguing until we reached consensus has passed. We have to make decisions much more quickly during this time and we should use the COVID-19 platform to become more flexible,” said Russell.

2.Staff. Customers. Shareholders. Suppliers. He said employees should be an organisation’s main priority, followed by the customers – make sure you understand what this interruption means to them and how they want to be served in future.

3.Collaborate to compete.

Russell said South Africans are very poor in collaborating to compete — when an opportunity arises, organisations quickly take positions and fight for those positions instead of pulling in the same direction.

“One of the pleasing things I saw in early lockdown was retailers like Woolworths and Checkers collaborating to compete. They used the crisis to share their backend supply chain structure to get goods into shops. Compared to global giants like the US and the UK, South Africa is a small economy, yet we compete viciously for small shares in the market.”

He feels local telcos missed the opportunity to collaborate to compete.

“I was surprised to see them competing when they could have used the chance to improve access and speed and make data cheaper. They didn’t embrace the opportunity and now it’s lost.”

Moving forward, collaboration is a critical way of thinking, he stressed. “We must consider how SA can grow to compete on a greater global scale.”

4.Authenticity and integrity outweigh certainty. “People will remember how we behaved now more than what we did. We have to be careful how we work moving forward,” he said.

Virtual water cooler conversations.

Russell, who is also a best-selling author, took the audience through the different ways of trading to preserve liquidity:

  • Manage for liquidity and survival, not profit.

    “CFOs are in a battle for liquidity and are making different investment decisions now. Our role as tech leaders is to show how no investments in the technology needed will negatively impact the organisation. It won’t be an easy conversation to have, but you need to show how you can enable organisational survival.

“And the liquidity issue is massive. How do we create a different agility in front of customers? Because currently, they’re unwillingly engaging with our physical spaces. If digital agility becomes everything, how do we dial down legacy costs and begin to invest in digital engagement?”

  • Your legacy is how you behave, not what you did.

    “You can cover all the basics such as letting people work from home and changing policies, but in doing this, did we lead or push employees? We need leadership to get through this unprecedented crisis.”
  • Dial up your people engagement and investment.

    “How are you engaging with employees at a personal level? As a leader, are you spending time with your team? What’s the virtual water cooler conversation? This is how tech can show that it has another part of the organisation covered.”

One of the audience questions posed to Russell was on the efficacy of zero-based tech budgets during this time, to which he responded” “If you haven’t started doing it this way, you’re slow. Work from nothing and see what you still need. If you need to, take money from one arm and channel it into other business units.”

This webinar forms part of a series of complimentary webinars. Upcoming sessions include COVID-19’s impact on remote work and automation. Register here.

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