While many office workers have settled into month seven of remote work due to the coronavirus, leaders across the tech industry are still pushing for sustained technology and culture transformation to ensure innovation is here to stay.
As more contractors and organizations have made the switch to cloud to support a scalable and remote technology infrastructure, Stephen Franchetti, vice president of IT and business technology at Slack, predicts reintegrating applications will be the next wave of modernization.
Transformation around correcting the fragmentation of work caused by the explosion of SaaS applications is on the horizon, he said, speaking during a MIT Sloan Digital Learning Series event.
"The challenge that this has created is there's a lot of silos of data, knowledge, and processes within the organization," Franchetti said. "The digital HQ in the future is all about this integrated work stack with more applications actually coming together and playing well together."
The pandemic fast-forwarded transformation efforts as businesses adapted to the digital-first world. Companies had to course-correct to adjust to the changing landscape, with innovation and lasting culture change quickly following, tech expert say.
Pilots fueling post-pandemic innovation
From expanding virtual private network to meet higher demand on the network to sending employees home with office equipment, companies found innovative ways throughout the pandemic to stay productive.
Quick, problem-solving pilots fueled companies like Zimmer Biomet since March and "none of that is throwaway," said Zeeshan Tariq, senior vice president and chief information officer at Zimmer Biomet.
Innovative tech will likely be at the forefront of further transformation for internal and client facing IT processes, even as the pandemic fades. Automation and artificial intelligence are meeting customers in the digital age, and have become one way to reduce human-to-human interaction at a time when in-person help is difficult to realize.
IT teams should continue "to make sure that the tech wasn't just enabling the basics, but it was actually allowing us to be innovative as well," said Graham Wilkinson, executive vice president of product strategy and innovation at Kinesso, on the panel.
It’s also accelerated technology adoption.
“As bad as this situation is, it’s also pushing the industry forward into a better place,” said William Sankey, CEO of New York-based data analytics solutions provider Northspyre, which helps predict and manage the impact of unplanned changes on project costs and construction timelines. “Maybe where it would have taken seven to 10 years to catch up to where the finance industry is in leveraging data, I think that transition will now be underway in the next two to three years.”
At Massachusetts-based Consigli Construction, technology has helped the firm be flexible through the pandemic.
"Our philosophy on technology set us up to adapt," Jack Moran, director of VDC services for Consigli, told Construction Dive this summer. "We have always taken the approach that every time we look at a technology we look at it through the lens of, 'Is it going to help us build more efficiently, more safely, provide higher quality experience for our owners?' So, that philosophy helped us to very quickly adapt technologies that we already had to the situation because we always think of them in a very practical sense."
Incoming culture change
Behind the tech transformation, a long-lasting culture shift to support IT modernization effort is an emerging theme across sectors.
Keeping the virtual culture strong will remain a priority as organizations realize productivity and efficiency are possible in a remote work environment, Tariq said.
"As we continue to operate in this mostly virtual environment for the foreseeable future, our collective challenge is to ensure that this connective tissue is not only maintained, but further strengthened," he said.
Having a workforce with a digital mindset is what prepared Kinesso for the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilkinson said.
While sustaining a culture of innovation, Wilkinson urged the IT workforce to keep asking why tech investments are being made. "We have to stop adding complexity to our system," he said. "It is way too complex and way too fragmented and solutions need to be consolidated and clients need clear solutions."
Asking why will start to simplify solutions, Wilkinson said.
CIOs have been pinned as leaders of the innovation culture change, but what this looks like can vary by team and company.
Agility and strong culture are vital to riding out the rest of the pandemic and company recovery, according to Franchetti. Employee wellness became a priority in the switch to telework as organizations worked to mitigate spread of the virus. Companies that can keep a digital culture alive are best suited for the future.
"The winners in the future are those companies that really stayed closest to their customers and really pivoted fastest to serve them the best and really embrace this whole idea of the digital HQ and what that means for the digital office moving forward," Franchetti said.