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The 3 Rs of technology during coronavirus – response, resilience and recovery

Technology leaders are managing unprecedented software and data engineering challenges as the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve.  Working in very difficult circumstances, they are addressing the deepening business and technology fallout with varying degrees of success.  Speaking to clients, colleagues and partners, who are leading technology efforts at multiple organisations, I have noticed a number of themes across the 3 Rs of technology at this extraordinary time – response, resilience and recovery.

By Ian Murrin

24/04/2020

Technology leaders are managing unprecedented software and data engineering challenges as the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve.  Working in very difficult circumstances, they are addressing the deepening business and technology fallout with varying degrees of success.  Speaking to clients, colleagues and partners, who are leading technology efforts at multiple organisations, I have noticed a number of themes across the 3 Rs of technology at this extraordinary time – response, resilience and recovery.

Response

Many organisations are doing exemplary work having quickly developed and implemented effective policies, governance and technologies.  However, others are struggling and overwhelmed – and this is usually due to a lack of effective data management.  For example, organisations may have not adequately managed data sharing and handling, or data responsibilities and ownership is lacking, or data policies and processes are incomplete, or new cyber risks have not been addressed.  The list is long and the challenges compounded, even at the best of times, by issues related to data silos, volume, value, fidelity and timeliness.

Challenges could also be of a more basic form – for example, infrastructure needing updating, especially with regard to wi-fi, or not knowing what remote working communications tools to use.

There’s an overwhelming pressure on technology departments to deliver capabilities  for remote working and distributed teams.  This has worked well where teams know each other well and processes are clearly defined and embedded.  In financial services, the temporary relaxation of risk and control guidelines have also facilitated home working.  On the downside, there might be slight delays due to inefficiencies during UAT, for example less whiteboarding and co-creation.

For completely new projects, however, organisations may find it harder to mobilise  and onboard teams remotely in a timely fashion in complex multi-stakeholder environments.  Also, anything that requires physical attendance, such as engineers conducting a site visit to connect new storage assets, needs more careful planning than usual.

Of course, public sector projects that are critical to the pandemic response are being fast-tracked, with new, accelerated procurement policies for example.  However, stretched resources in the public sector means it’s all hands on deck.  We’re hearing of even senior managers going back to coding even if it hasn’t been part of their role for years.

Resilience and Recovery

It’s telling that few people I spoke to volunteered information about their recovery plans in the context of their immediate response efforts.  Few IT leaders and departments are able to simultaneously focus on how the technology function can respond to the dislocations caused by coronavirus, for example remote working, and at the same time continue to advance their longer-term agenda to help organisations reduce cost, increase growth and deliver true digital transformation.  This is completely logical – or at least human.  Organisations will prioritise firefighting over long-term strategy at a time of crisis, especially when resources are constrained.

However, it is possible – and even beneficial – to manage response, resilience and recovery at the same time especially as we may unfortunately face more disruption in the future in a highly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.  I will be sharing some thoughts and tools to help with this in the coming days.

But in the meantime, what do you think?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  I’ll come back to you once I’ve done some further reflection – another R for the list!