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Never before has the importance of IT been felt as acutely as during the covid-19 crisis, where lockdown summons, social distancing, commuting hazards and work from home (WFH) are the new norm.

Since March, we have engaged with several Fortune 500 chief information officers (CIOs) and chief experience officers (CXOs) on this topic, having polled more than 200 business leaders on their professional pressures and technology priorities. Here is what we found.

Across the board, almost 65% indicated a moderate-to-severe impact on their planned IT investments. While, over 55% revealed they will undergo IT spending cuts in 2020, 20% CIOs said they were bracing for higher cuts. Besides, productivity of IT resources was still not at pre-covid levels. Almost 30% leaders said productive capacity has taken a hit by over 20% during the lockdown.

Bain and Company’s review highlighted seven focus areas, which are top-of-mind for CXOs. Enhanced customer experience and enabling direct-to-consumer commerce are top priorities.

Examples include one view of customer and personalization in banking and retail and telemedicine portals.

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Graphic: Mint

Moving erstwhile physical processes online is next on the business leaders’ radar. Several leaders identified that the on-boarding of new customers or renewals across various sectors will increasingly become an online process.

Next is a massive need for automation, an area much beyond conventional robotic process automation and business process management interventions—it encompasses everything from processes to application and infrastructure management. An effective implementation of automation will require a hybrid organizational structure with a centre of excellence supported by scrum teams for each key area. This will need to be coupled with technical bets to reduce cost-per-unit automation and increasing return on investment manifold.

Most leaders said the existing supply chain paradigms will have to be redesigned. In today’s environment, a quick turnaround will be key and most existing supply chain frameworks will need to adapt rapidly to new business arrangements. In addition, a strong thrust on data and analytics will continue, as organizations look to do away with multiple analytics tools and silo’ed datasets. Eventually, and soon, companies will move into integrated “one views" with rapid testing and learn analytics platforms that are integrated with front-end channels.

The current, omnipresent WFH theme (WFH 1.0), which could achieve only up to 80% of pre-covid productivity levels, will have to be revamped, such that it provides higher productivity, quality and security than pre-covid times. We call it WFH 2.0. Finally, security needs have to be called out separately. We are looking at a permanent upward shift in “online" interactions across industries. Cybersecurity incidents will rise significantly and organizations will have to remain proactive and ahead of the curve to stay safe.

In the first phase of covid, winning companies focused on immediate business continuity—securing ops, reprioritizing product backlog, right-sizing of roles, vendor rate negotiation, reduction in non-essential services and service-level agreement recasting. This was the “act now to protect and run the business today" phase, which is at its tail end now.

In the months to come, winners will need to embark on a “retool for the new world" planning and execution journey. They will need to rethink and architect the future course of action for IT. This would require them to cut waste, spend smartly, and build a fast-and-lean operating model, coupled with a robust technology architecture.

CIOs will have to structurally, with transparency, reduce “run" cost across applications and infrastructure via automation, move to the cloud and achieve planned benefits, and also reprioritize core modernization plans. Vendor consolidation and architecting your IT organization across spans and layers could yield additional benefits. A robust technology architecture will be a must, as more processes move online, making speed, security and resilience very critical.

Sandeep Nayak and Gaurav Sadana are Partners and Apoorva Bhattad is an Expert Principal in Bain & Company. They are leaders in the firm’s Telecommunications, Media and Technology practice.


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