IT survival guide in the age of austerity

Lorenso Lumassi, VP, EMC global services for META, Eastern Europe & Russia on how businesses can use technology to remain competitive in a subdued market

Tags: Digital transformationEMC Corporation
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IT survival guide in the age of austerity Lumassi: Every single IT decision must have a clear business case that provides short, medium and long term ROI.
By  Lorenso Lumassi Published  October 4, 2016

Diversification has evolved into a key factor across all businesses thanks to the way technology is digitally disrupting every facet of modern life. Both, young digital and historic tangible organisations are blurring the lines between the two in the name of sustainable growth and market share. But economic diversification is even more vital for resource-based economies like the ones I work with – Russia, Middle East and Africa – in today’s particularly volatile market.

Crude oil and natural gas prices have dipped to their lowest levels since 2009. The impact of which has been huge. As Focus Economics explains, “Oil prices are still low and this is hurting oil-producing countries’ coffers, while geopolitical risks, subdued global demand and challenging domestic conditions are putting a dent in MENA’s growth.”

As such, many natural resource rich countries are embracing economic diversification. The most widely documented being Saudi Arabia’s ambitious ‘Vision 2030’ agenda. The country is transforming its public and private sector and ways to manage its vast resources. But of course diversification requires transformation, both in terms of the way organisations operate and their digital infrastructure. New revenue streams and partnerships mean new business models, processes and channels. And these must all be supported and enabled by relevant technology.

Almost everyone I speak to, no matter the region or vertical, realises that in order to be competitive they have to embrace these new approaches and technologies. Our recent State of IT Transformation report, which assessed over 660 global enterprises across 18 industries, states that organisations have clear technological goals. It shows that CIOs are looking to reduce IT costs and use those savings to make investments in digital transformations. CIOs view creating a hybrid cloud architecture as a key enabler for them to provide the automation and self-service that will reduce operating costs.

However, while the majority understands this - they’re not always able to execute a transformation, for a number of reasons. According to a survey undertaken for EMC by Arlington Research reveals that more than 39% of professionals believe that in their companies the IT agenda is set by functions such as marketing and sales other than IT. This disconnect is clearly evident across the boardroom. The study also states that many IT professionals are concerned that their company will struggle to overcome IT challenges and harness new opportunities if they do not have the right infrastructure or tools. Moreover, this could also lead to IT inhibiting rather than enabling innovation in the organisation. 

Furthermore, drastic economic and political changes mean that finances are being squeezed more than ever. Every single IT decision must have a clear business case that provides short, medium and long term ROI. Secondly, maturity is an issue. Just because a business wants to implement a new technology, doesn’t always mean it’s ready to. As our report showed, 50% of organisations still rate themselves as low in overall maturity, when it comes to implementing these solutions.

Most organisations face a complicated future as they do not always plan these types of programs and applications on a greenfield site. So to be successful you need to consider how you deal with legacy IT.  I’m working with several financial services companies based in Africa & the Middle East who are in the process of planning their long-term transformational roadmap to become a market-leader. Our Dell EMC services teams have helped accelerate their journey by identifying the areas of modernisation, automation and then transformation for their current IT environment.

By this I mean we’ve been working together to modernise their data centre and build a highly virtualised platform as a services (PaaS)- a platform specifically designed to develop, launch and manage applications, eliminating the need to build and maintain a separate IT infrastructure for the same. As well as tap into big data and analytics to automate and predict business valuable initiatives, reduce costs and improve efficiencies where possible. Doing so these companies have freed up valuable resources to develop and implement a more innovative transformational strategy to give them a competitive edge.

Other organisations looking to achieve similar results should follow four key steps:

Analyse and evaluate the organisations current position – Before developing any strategy, it is vital to assess where the company currently is against where it wants to be.

Develop a clear roadmap – Evaluating current capabilities and future objectives is essential to add milestones to the transformation roadmap. According to the State of IT Transformation report, 90% of organisations understand the importance of having a documented IT transformation strategy.

Take advice from external experts – This is where external experts can offer value, helping organisations to identify ‘quick-win’ projects to show immediate ROI and value, and position IT as a strategic partner. Before going on to more complicated long-term activities.

Get executive buy-in – Every type of transformation must have strong internal support from executives to be successful. For IT leaders to develop a strategic foothold they must really establish strong relationships across the business. This isn’t a new concept, but it’s certainly becoming even more important as external market pressures and a need for positive business impact increase.

In conclusion, everyone must transform to succeed, whether through diversification or otherwise to keep pace with the new wave of digitisation. The “should we transform?” conversation is over, but as our recent research suggests, how to make this transformation happen is certainly something worth discussing. Ultimately, the ability to develop a clear roadmap closely aligned to the business and IT objectives of an organisation will dictate who succeeds and who fails.

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