The past year has knocked everyone for a loop, to put it mildly, and things still haven’t settled down. With so much uncertainty and so many unknowns, developing a plan for your 2021 IT resources probably seems overwhelming. Given that you have no idea of when things are likely to return to whatever’s normal, how can you create a reasonable plan?
The most important business lesson companies learned during 2020 was the importance of being agile and flexible. We’re not talking about high-level business concepts or trendy jargon; what we’re describing is truly the ability to shift directions and resources on a moment’s notice. The companies that struggled to adjust in the face of mass lockdowns and shutdowns or that staggered around looking for direction have an even tougher road ahead. Not only do they have to get back on track, but they also have to make up for slipping behind their more nimble competitors.
On the other hand, companies that didn’t miss a beat when faced with the pandemic’s many challenges have a solid advantage. They operate with a mentality that change is inevitable, and whether you’re doing business today or were operating in the Industrial Age, that’s a powerful plus.
For most companies, IT represents a significant chunk of the budget, particularly on the capital side. Buying IT assets is rarely cheap, and it comes with the inescapable reality that no matter how carefully you choose, what you’ve purchased becomes obsolete the moment you install it. So you face the double whammy of spending a large sum of money to buy something you’ll have to replace before you know it. And, should you choose to be “economical” and use that item beyond its optimal service life, you’ll have an even bigger adjustment when it comes time to replace it, because your operating system and all that software will likely be incompatible with the latest and greatest.
That’s why we advise companies to keep two things in mind as they begin the planning process. First, the business world is clearly transitioning to different models, and the one we see as the most practical and powerful is what we call Digital By Default. Instead of looking at equipment such as mobile devices and work-from-anywhere capabilities as an adjunct to your corporate network, we think it makes sense to recast your 2021 IT operations (and, by extension, your business) into a digital-centric model.
Moving to Digital By Default not only gives you greater flexibility, but it forces you to examine IT with fresh eyes. It stops being a tool through which you handle part of your business and instead becomes your company’s nervous system. Humans credit our arms and legs with the actions our bodies take, but the reality is everything is driven by that network we call our nerves. In the same way, adopting the Digital By Default philosophy frees you from thinking about the tools you’ll use to accomplish something so you can focus instead on leveraging your company’s collective intelligence to get where you want to be.
The second piece of guidance we recommend is shifting from an asset-based IT model to one focused on services. We’ve helped many of our clients move from making those huge capital purchases to a service model in which they pay an affordable, predictable monthly fee covering all their 2021 IT needs. We take on the responsibility for maintaining and upgrading devices, as well as finding ways to let those companies tap into the power and promise of cloud technology, software-defined everything, and other methods their competitors will reluctantly be forced to adopt in a few years.
We’ve already seen a significant shift in companies that have taken our counsel to heart. They quickly recognize that not having to think about IT gives them more time and energy they can devote to their core businesses. They finally have time to tackle those initiatives they had been pushing to the back burner. Instead of having to waste hours training their employees in the vagaries of each new system, they can let those employees focus on what they were hired to do.
If looking at 2021 still has you filled with uncertainty, you’re not alone. That’s not being timid — it shows you’re paying attention. But now it’s up to you to make the choice: will you keep stumbling along and hoping for better times, or will you take action by switching to ways of thinking and doing business that will help you through the next challenge and the one after that?