COVID-19. Forcing our hand?

Systems under stress reveal their weaknesses (and their strengths).  And COVID-19 is certainly causing stress and a lot of ripples across all parts of society, testing our resilience, our creativity, our economy and businesses, our governments and schools, and, at times, our patience. 

For many of us, the current environment is all too familiar; reminiscent of the Great Recession and its accompanying budget and staff cuts, reliance on unemployment benefits, savings and the helping hands of family, friends and community. This time, though, with the added threat of a substantial health risk through close personal contact, any help we get is best received from a distance. This principle applies to our business practices as well.

Companies and public agencies are contemplating, or have already implemented, remote work practices, staff reductions, leave without pay, and cut programs and budgets. Organizations whose processes remain largely dependent on human, physical exchanges of information, approvals, financial transactions, and records keeping, are realizing that continuing to do business in this manner is so grossly inefficient that it’s untenable for a remote or fragmented workforce, plus it heightens employee and customer exposure to a devastating pathogen. 

Historical arguments for adopting electronic-, virtual-based transaction and record keeping systems to gain organizational efficiencies are that much more relevant considered through the lens of reduced staff + cut budgets + sustaining health safety and security + increased efficiency to gain capacity and savings

On balance, the arguments against adopting digital-based systems as being too expensive, too difficult to implement, too difficult to manage/learn/use, or too little value-for-money continue to deserve acknowledgement and response. Even if health concerns take preeminence, the realities of funding, status quo systems, and the adoption and sustainability of any new system remain.  These concerns should be included as part of due diligence review of technology-based options.

Today’s imperatives.

The best solution(s) for an organization varies based on its overarching mission, goals, operating environment, installed systems, staff inputs, and budgets. In general, though, the following is a list of common must-haves for organizations as they look for ways to gain business efficiencies and improve their capacities to support current goals and future needs. 

  • Simplify processes
  • Increase efficiency
  • Minimize paper handling
  • Reduce transaction times
  • Realize savings
  • Reflect fiscal responsibility
  • Improve transparency
  • Improve customer outcomes
  • Remote / mobile access
  • Data security
  • Easy adoption
  • Minimize staff burden

With these ends in mind, ask yourself:

  • How are we doing in each of these areas?
  • Are there goals we are not yet achieving but could if we tweaked existing infrastructure systems and processes? (enhancing status quo) 
  • Do we believe that we have a solid enterprise foundation, but could use improved functionality in specific areas? (adding plug-ins or custom enhancements)
  • Are our systems underperforming or preventing us from substantially achieving our goals? (system replacement)
  • What would an optimized IT infrastructure look like in my organization?

For many leaders in IT, Procurement and Finance these are the familiar starting-point questions of a continuous improvement gap-analysis mantra. Not even five years removed from the Great Recession and external circumstances again force us to revisit these questions in earnest, to soul search, prioritize, and implement remedies.  Once again, we have the opportunity to turn adversity into opportunity and transform our organizations through IT enablement. 

We may not like being pushed, but now is the time to take advantage of CARES Act funding, to identify and implement right-fit solutions. We can make it easier for our customers and our institutions to achieve their goals, even during the most difficult of times.

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