23 August 2022

A CIO’s perspective on what we learned from Covid: Responding to change

By Jeff Arndt, CIO

Broadly at NEXTDC we’ve been talking about the Great Reset – an all-encompassing post-COVID shake up of business and social landscapes.

Organisations are rethinking their response to change, and one thing is clear: technology, and the infrastructure that supports it, has a key role to play in this Great Reset. We’re seeing the repurposing of existing digital transformation programs and the initiation of others to align to changed circumstances.

Concepts such as cloud, colocation, automation and Hybrid IT have rapidly moved from adopted megatrends to core business strategies that enable organisations to not only survive amidst disruption but also to learn from and thrive on it.

Technology for business enablement

When physical movement was halted in early 2020, it severely hobbled organisations that couldn’t leverage technology to replicate or replace ‘high touch’ stakeholder experiences. They struggled through lockdowns and border closures. In most situations, simply moving to other existing channels was an inadequate short or long-term solution.

For example, moving a sales meeting at a critical point in the buying cycle – which you’d traditionally have in-person, at the prospective customer’s offices – to a voice channel, and expecting the same outcome is, at best, naive.

To me this really underlines the critical role of the IT business partner as we enter the post-pandemic reset. It’s also a particularly important development for any CIO focused on shifting perceptions from being a technology provider, to a strategic function that can help solve business problems.

Given this forced adaptation, there are two examples that stick with me regarding how the stakeholder experiences were bettered and provided a strategic point of difference both during lockdowns and border closures and, more importantly, since we have opened up again.

Pivot 1: Learning

Many ‘in-person’ networking, learning and development opportunities moved to a virtual format over the past two years – with varying degrees of success.

The most successful adaptations I experienced during this period were when it was clear it was firstly about the learning objective or outcome, and secondly how this could be optimally delivered given such limitations, as opposed to just replicating existing content in a call.

Things like mandatory live pre-event checks – 24/48 hours before content delivery. Verses wasting time up to the 1st break sorting through technology hiccups – and then seeing the inevitable re-scheduling of some attendees because they just couldn’t make it work on the morning of!

The best experiences were those that validated the learning environment, provided space for your introduction, and connected you with your working group. Maximising time in the first session to get into content.

Pivot 2: Compliance and completion inspections

An example closer to the NEXTDC business, specifically our customer commissioning program. Some of our customers have very specific requirements often driven by requirements forced onto them by regulators or compliance requirements.

Prior to the pandemic, senior representatives of these global customers would always carry out an in-person inspection of the space, prior to handover, effectively auditing the space.

Given the specificity and expertise required, most visitors would come from overseas. With international and domestic borders closed, we needed to move quickly to meet this essential customer need despite being unable to attend the facility in-person.

Considering the outcome of these inspections we thought through the experience journey and outcome, partnering with imaging, connectivity and collaboration partners, and key stakeholders in the business.

Some customers have returned to physical inspections but, interestingly, demand continues for virtual inspections, underlining the importance of flexibility and autonomy as we reset.

At NEXTDC, it is our great privilege to work in partnership supporting many organisations as they navigate the challenges and opportunities of this Great Reset. Download our report The Great Reset to read more about these important themes.

Or, reach out to us and we’ll help you press the reset button on your technology infrastructure.