HUMANITY is facing a true test of compassion and ability to adapt to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and in some dire cases, to save lives. The pandemic has escalated to devastating effects across the world heralding the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Business has naturally been a casualty with stock markets across the world suffering and business closures being a reality in several countries. Now, more than ever, the modern organisation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) must lean on IT-empowered capabilities to weather the storm. Now, more than ever, the modern organisation must prove its tech empowered advantages as worthy investments beyond catch phrases. In this article I explore digital capabilities/readiness, mobile capabilities, cybersecurity and IT governance as crucial aspects to the 4IR organisation and its ability to outlive the Covid-19 pandemic.
The digitised organisation
When one speaks of digital transformation and/or capability, the relevant pillars to what we are facing now are; having a digitised environment: having as much of the operations of the business being run on computer systems (automated ERP processing etc) in close consultation with management for business requirements; having a digitised employee experience; empowering the employee with technology and platforms to conduct business on behalf of or within the organisation in a strictly digital environment.
Ensuring employee is digitally ready
The data-led approach: drawing insights and decision support information from real-time digital business information systems allowing the organisation to strategise and approach its market in a more targeted manner.
One of the main drives to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is social distancing. With the digitised organisation, digital capabilities become an enabler to this prevention strategy as well as insurance that the business itself can continue to function.
With a digitally ready environment and workforce, collaboration, teleconferencing and chat platforms are available to minimise human contact but achieve equally effective internal and external business communication. Think Zoom/WebEx/Microsoft teams etc. In fact, across the world, vendors of these technologies (e.g. Microsoft) have begun offering these platforms to organisations for free. If your organisation has moved to limit human interaction, shift it to virtual platforms.
In the event that key/identified employees are self-quarantining or the organisation has taken the work-from-home route, the IT department must ensure that via remote connections the same platforms are securely accessible and do not disrupt the organisation’s day-to-day processing.
Mobile technology has been dubbed the next big thing in enabling the organisation to move with speed and agility in the market.
In the Covid-19 pandemic era, it has fast become the only means to conduct business. The C-Suite still require their dashboards, sales teams still need to sell, finance teams still need to crunch numbers and share reports, emails still need to be sent and received.
Tablets, phones and other mobile devices are taking up more responsibility in ensuring business information flows seamlessly. In these tough times, it is imperative that the modern organisation refrains from paying lip service to the grandiose of mobile technology. Instead it must be treated with the seriousness called for by the environment and the organisation must demand from it the capabilities it requires to conduct business without hindrance.
Risk, security aspect
The Covid-19 pandemic has not come without its own set of unique cyber-threats for organisations to deal with. Social engineering attacks have surged as attackers are taking advantage of panicky victims to steal information while posing as Covid-19 health workers.
Attackers are also keenly aware that organisations are scrambling to continue operations as close to normal as possible and looking to technologies like remote connections and mobile technologies. It is no secret that those platforms invariably have become prime hunting grounds for cyber attackers. Cyber-threats have elevated amidst the pandemic. It is crucial that the organisation’s cyber-space in the cyber ecosystem it operates in be viciously protected. A security framework must be in place to guide the security protocols implemented. The choice of technologies must be vetted with security as a top priority with the boardroom’s attention.
Cyber-security awareness in the workforce must be at an all-time high and pursued aggressively to protect company data. In many instances, a cyber-security breach can cost the organisation significantly more money than scaling down operations until robust and revolving cyber-security can be guaranteed. The security framework must be operationalised in tandem with risk management practice.
Disaster recovery, IT governance
By any measure, the Covid-19 pandemic is a disaster. A thorough Disaster Recovery (DR) plan must be in place to coordinate how all the previous aspects are executed (business communications and processing, technology platforms in use and security measures). This of course would sit under a larger business continuity plan.
A DR committee must be charged to declare a disaster, activate and execute disaster protocols, give relevant feedback to management of the organisation, and be keenly aware of all elevation and de-escalation triggers in the COVID-19 induced IT disaster. A thorough IT Governance framework would dictate where decisions would be made and by whom to ensure transparent and effective accountability.
The goal remains to produce or induce desirable IT systems use before, especially during, and after the disaster period. In conclusion, in the 4IR has positioned 4IR-ready organisations to reasonably withstand the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This has been setup, albeit unintended, via pursuits of digital transformation and thorough IT governance practice. Armed with these tools, IT has a lot to offer the organisation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mujuru is a published academic writer, speaker and IT specialist.