Maybe it’s because I am a Yorkshireman (the UK’s equivalent of a Texan), but sitting back and waiting to see what will happen doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me. Assuming this awful situation eventually passes, the need then for robust information management will have never been higher. The flaws and frailties of out-of-date digital infrastructures will be exposed. One way or another, we will have to build bigger, better, and faster, and in some cases, we will have to build again from the ground. Innovation will be in demand; speed to market will define the winners from the losers. Now is the time to hunker down personally, but also a time to plan, act, build, and prepare for tomorrow.
The move to teleworking in this crisis is obvious, but such a step involves much more than providing access to Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The movement reveals the stark reality and shortcomings of our existing tech infrastructures: applications that can’t be accessed remotely, information that can’t be found, our need and dependence on the physical proximity of co-workers, and of course, the importance of workers, jobs, and activities that were previously dismissed as uninteresting and unimportant by tech vendors.
We will likely see an explosion of interest in task and process automation software, cloud storage, disaster recovery, and back up. But that will be the first phase, or the obvious phase if you will. Following this initial wave of activity will come the dawning of the reality that all that talk of digital transformation was just that, talk. Now it will be time to walk the talk. It will be time to sunset and to finally migrate legacy systems, analyze and streamline processes, and, most important of all, recognize that we are all participants in supply chains. The dislocations we are all now experiencing highlight the fact that we interact with one another in ways we haven’t always fully appreciated. Our individual and corporate bubbles have popped, and it will be a long time until they reform.
Most tech firms I have spoken to over the past couple of weeks are driving ahead as usual; there is no slow down, though there is an inconvenience. A couple of smaller firms have had pressure to stop spending from their board. Others are spending more, to be set and ready for when the crisis is over. The smart ones recognize that they now have a captive audience for their marketing and education, that they have time to adapt future strategies and plans. Others still are unexpectedly benefiting from the crisis; for example, I spoke with a startup this week that has designed an online conferencing platform that find themselves suddenly in high demand. Sitting back and doing nothing and waiting to see what happens is not part of the DNA of tech; it’s a sector that thrives on challenges and opportunities. I hope that something positive, no matter how small, can come of this. That tech priorities are rethought. That the value of humans in the chain is finally appreciated, rather than seen as an obstacle to automation. Nobody is happy about this crisis; even the tech sector isn’t that heartless. But tech became detached from reality and showed little compassion or, indeed, common sense at times. Frankly, tech is a sector that has been ambivalent at best regarding moral and ethical concerns. That has to change; maybe this is the time to make the change.
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