There’s a lot of talk out there about how the ‘new normal’ generated by the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing organizations to reexamine their operating models. Right now, forward-looking companies are knee-deep in the process of rethinking everything they do—from digitizing customer experiences, to leapfrogging the future of work, to building resilience into their businesses. All types of things that used to be done in person—buying or selling a product, signing a document, and even visiting your doctor—are now done in a virtual fashion.
Of course, pre existing trends were moving us towards this step-function in digital adoption long before the virus appeared. The 2020 pandemic is simply an accelerant fueling a resurgence already in motion. It’s forcing companies to accelerate projects that might have slowly unfolded over the next decade, but are now top of the priority list this year as COVID-19 forces the digitization of more and more services.
Pressure from the likes of Amazon and similarly tech-forward businesses (think Airbnb, Uber, Plaid, and others) is pushing all companies to innovate faster, and this pressure extends beyond consumer services. SpaceX is revolutionizing aerospace, Tesla is disrupting the automotive industry, and smaller upstarts like Flexport are upending the historically slow-moving shipping industry. To stay nimble in competitive environments like these, every business must automate its manual work, create exceptional customer experiences, and cut costs.
In order to speed up the pace of innovation, it’s crucial for your IT and engineering organizations to stay on top of new technology and development practices. Smart teams do this by embracing services-based architectures, mobile-first approaches like the 12-factor app methodology, and fully automated continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) techniques. What you don't want is for development to ever stop unexpectedly, so you need a modern environment that can operate like a highly efficient highway—always keeping releases moving forward without any bottlenecks.
Cloud-native resiliency is one big reason companies like Amazon and cutting-edge startups can release new features and enhancements at such an incredible pace without having their site go down or getting side-tracked by data corruption issues. They’re always ready to roll back changes if something breaks. Another way to increase agility is by adopting best-of-breed platforms for your critical business plumbing, such as Salesforce for CRM, Okta for identity, or Shopify for commerce. This allows you to benefit from the latest advancements in scalability, security, and commoditized functionality for certain areas of the business, while keeping your internal focus on more strategically differentiated tech projects.
The seismic activity brought on by the “Amazon Effect” (and then exacerbated by COVID-19) is likely testing your business’ resilience and opening your CEO’s eyes to any shortcomings in responsiveness, preparedness, and speed. At the same time, it creates pressures that make it harder than ever for you to keep up with emerging threats and opportunities. If you want to run as fast as companies like Amazon (and who doesn’t?), it’s important to constantly think upstream, and remember that the faster you go, the greater your risk from issues like faulty code, data loss, or corruption.
Keep in mind that any modern system you’re using—whether a SaaS solution like Box, Salesforce, or Workday, or an internal application hosted on AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform—is a cloud, not a fortress. It’s a myth that just because your data is in the cloud, it’s protected. Never overlook your data backup and recovery strategy, because your corporate data assets are central to business continuity. Having rapid recovery processes in place should anything go wrong can not only help you move faster, it will also help you avoid the embarrassment of looking incompetent if a messy data disruption jams up business.
When you can plan ahead and prevent (or at least dramatically mitigate) issues, you’ll increase your team’s pace of innovation, and maybe even flip the script on the inevitable uncertainty that surrounds your business. History has shown that companies that invest in innovation during times of crisis win. According to McKinsey, during past downturns, innovators typically achieved returns to shareholders 10% higher than those of their peers and outperformed the market by more than 30% during the recovery years. Clearly, resiliency is a priceless competitive advantage that gives you the agility to not just survive challenges, but foresee potential threats to your assets or brand equity, and take proactive steps to protect them.