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3 strategic business focuses for the remainder of 2020

While the year is more than half over, and COVID-19 has thrown plans into disarray, there are still strategic imperatives that are worth focusing on.

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Image: marchmeena29, Getty Images/iStockphoto

To say 2020 has been an “unconventional” year just might be the understatement of the decade. If your organization does planning on a calendar-year basis, you likely diligently crafted a technology strategy for the year in the waning days of 2019, and then promptly threw it out the window in March as the world attempted to respond to the coronavirus.

SEE: Video teleconferencing do’s and don’ts (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

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There are glimmers of normalcy returning to the world, with remote working operating reasonably well at most companies, and people around the world gradually emerging from lockdown. While you are probably still “firefighting” more often than usual, now that we’re more than halfway through 2020, it’s worth revisiting the key components of your strategy, directing your efforts toward a few useful elements, and using the time to redirect your focus from getting through the next 24 hours, to ending the year positioned for growth.

Avoid “COVID stasis”

COVID-19 is going to remain with us for a long time, and it’s uncertain what the ongoing impact will actually be despite dozens of loud voices claiming they have the answer. It can be tempting to avoid any and all long-term planning, standing warily like a baseball right-fielder, watching the skies for that one fly ball that’s sure to eventually head in your direction. The major risk is that, like that right fielder, you’ll be standing around while others in and outside your organization are moving forward with advancing their agendas.

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same–here’s what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

There may well be second waves or other challenges from COVID-19, but remaining in organizational stasis is not the right way to combat this unknown. Rather than avoiding any medium- and long-term planning, revisit and adjust your strategy around the following elements:

1. IT resilience and remote work

Many organizations have long had elements of resiliency and remote working capabilities in their strategic plans, and these are often de-prioritized as the year goes on. COVID-19 created a unique opportunity to build out these capabilities, and you may have blown the barn doors off that element of your strategic planning. For the remainder of the year, consider how you industrialize these new capabilities, and rationalize the tools you acquired during the initial response. Perhaps you’re paying for four video conferencing platforms, and it’s time to invest in one or two.

2. Rethink your hiring and workforce

The coronavirus quickly redefined how and where we work, and everything from changing geographic dynamics created by remote work to rethinking inclusion in our workforce is fodder for deep consideration and strategic planning. The good news is that a thoughtful strategy on these fronts doesn’t require huge investments or multi-month systems implementations, and it could be a significant differentiator within your company and industry at large.

SEE: Virtual hiring tips for job seekers and recruiters (free PDF) (TehRepublic)

Perhaps your company has used the lowest-cost providers for supporting and maintaining its infrastructure and was caught flat-footed when demand spiked. Rather than looking at your vendors and external partners solely through a cost lens, consider metrics like responsiveness, skills, and perhaps even creating your own internal “consulting” team that provides highly skilled resources on-demand. Creative staffing ideas that once looked like an unnecessary cost may now be cheap insurance in an uncertain environment.

3. Invest in services

The organizations that responded most effectively to COVID-19 were those that were highly flexible, both organizationally and on their technical platforms. We’ve been talking about shifting IT from complex, monolithic systems, to discrete services that are independent of the underlying technology for a number of years, but now have a compelling need for the flexibility that this provides. If your company struggled to quickly adapt to a changing business environment, you likely have a solid business case for investing in a transition to microservices, and new integration platforms have made this once-daunting task even easier.

SEE: Microservices: The foundation of tomorrow’s enterprise applications (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

If you’re in the midst of reconfiguring the systems that support a key business process, for example updating your supply chain software to increase safety stocks, or significantly altering your product mix, look for opportunities to build supporting microservices and other flexible technologies as part of that process.

While it might seem like a distraction to redirect your strategic efforts as you attempt to navigate COVID-related uncertainty, merely waiting for events to drive your organization is not a particularly thoughtful plan. We’re slowly emerging from one of the best proof-points for the power of flexible, accessible technology and IT services, and savvy IT leaders will use this not only to respond to the day’s crisis, but to empower and advance their strategic objectives.

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