IT and COVID Complacency - Have You Asked Yourself These Questions?


“Be the temperature and not the thermometer.”


I worked for a CIO who used this phrase to let us know we should always participate and not just observe. I sense IT departments are now observers, waiting to see what businesses are going to do next. Our clients have gone back to business-as-usual from an IT perspective. Strategic plans created prior to the pandemic response are continuing, and things are pretty much the same except we support a hybrid office/work-from-home environment.

The Problem


IT did an amazing job of getting everyone working from home. What bothersome is not seeing examples of IT departments evaluating what’s been learned and how technologies used during the pandemic response can change how companies do business going forward.

Harvard Partners experienced the same situation. When we went back to delivering IT Assessments we realized we evaluated IT departments using the same criteria used for the past ten years. We applied our IT Assessment methodology, performed interviews, did deep dives, discovered gaps, and presented results so non-IT executives could better understand IT. Our results are meaningful and actionable and clients are very happy.

What we didn’t do was look at IT’s ability to adapt as business adapts. Sure, our assessments measure the effectiveness of work-from-home, business continuity, mobility, etc. but we weren’t measuring a company’s ability to reinvent themselves in real-time and IT’s ability to adapt and contribute, in parallel. Essentially, we weren’t measuring IT complacency the right way.

We always equate IT complacency with poor IT performance. Now, we have a situation where IT has performed very well and is also complacent.


Why Has This Happened?


The pandemic response creates a different use case. Normally, the business develops a strategy and IT contributes to making the strategy a success by implementing complementary technology solutions. Sometimes, IT drives a strategy using technology. During COVID-19 we have had multiple things happening at the same time:

  • A Business Continuity event of unknown duration
  • Continuous financial and people uncertainty
  • The mass adoption of new technologies (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Citrix, Desktop as a Service, etc.)
  • A new “business-as-usual” has emerged

Those IT departments who implemented cloud-based solutions, remote access solutions, laptops instead of desktops, collaboration technologies, and digital transformation were in good shape. Staff was sent home, IT supported them, and all has been well.

IT sees the results as the solution or end-state to the “COVID situation”, instead of being the enabler and contributor to new business operating models.


Identifying This Type of IT Complacency


How do we know if an IT organization is complacent at this point in the pandemic response? We’ve created a series of questions we hope CIOs are asking of their staff or CEOs/CFOs/COOs/Board Members are asking CIOs. There are many more questions, and we don’t expect every organization to be thinking about every question, but what we want to see a spark and small fire being lit to begin to seize these opportunities.

  1. Do you need a Business Continuity plan or has Business Continuity been encapsulated in our systems architecture and is it really transparent to the user? Do we need an alternate site for staff anymore? Do we need dedicated equipment for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery? Are we using the Cloud for its best use?
  2. Can internal collaboration tools be used for external collaboration (customer service) and sales activities? Have we taken steps to guarantee and improve the quality of electronic collaboration? Have we taught users and customers how to operate in this new environment?
  3. Can corporate network and data security be extended beyond the Local Area Network into homes, third-parties, and customers? How will we monitor work-from-home environments without invading people’s privacy? How will we deal with fixing physical devices at home? How can this translate to doing the same onsite?
  4. Do we need specialized AV rooms or will meeting rooms become extensions and enhancements of personal AV tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams? Have we taught staff about lighting, microphones, speakers, cameras to improve the quality of one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many interactions? Have we developed some type of on-line meeting etiquette? Have you standardized on an appropriate Zoom and Microsoft Teams background? Is it installed on every system?
  5. Should we buy another desktop PC when laptops serve as both office and home computing devices? Do our computing devices have the minimum Intel CPU and instruction set extension for processing video backgrounds?
  6. Should we invest in physical PCs or give users a stipend for a Bring Your Own Device model and support Desktop as a Service?
  7. If using Desktop as a Service do we want Zoom and Mircosoft Teams to work inside the virtual desktop and take the performance hit, or can we support running the tools natively on the PC?
  8. Have we done enough to digitally transform our company to enable 100% work-from-home, remote customer service, and remote sales activities? If not, what’s left to do and how do we get there?

What’s Next?


These are the questions we have been asking our clients over the past 6 months. There are plenty more from our current experiences and those to come. Is your IT department asking themselves these questions and adjusting their plans in order to focus on solving them?