and Sam Colyer
In just under half a year, Covid-19 has altered many businesses irrevocably.
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But how prepared were they? All projects and programmes do their due diligence when it comes to risk, but how many would have foreseen a global pandemic being a game-changer this year? Not only did it drive entire workforces to work from home with immediate effect, but it entailed unexpected childcare duties, furloughed staff and an instant dependency on technology support. Businesses will try and prepare for any eventuality, but when faced with a considerable disruptor, it all comes down to how quickly they can react and adapt.
We can speculate about how businesses have risen to these challenges in this period of uncertainty and change, but we wanted to gather some real-life experiences. So we caught up with a number of Chief Architects who are part of Konvergent’s Roundtable community to see how Covid-19 has impacted their organisations over these past few months.
Do more with less.
It’s not exactly a new concept. It’s a difficulty that many businesses have been struggling with for a long time, but as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic became apparent, the need to increase productivity at a reduced capacity became immediately more pronounced. Staff were furloughed, and non-permanent employees were let go. Businesses are now having to obtain fast-tracked approvals from the executive level to give them guidance on where funds should be directed. The businesses we spoke to where having to make difficult decisions around what reductions to make. Burberry’s Chief Architect said their portfolio is governed by their COO and CFO and that their choices:
Chief Architect, Burberry
Of course, while this is working in the short term due to current market conditions, this is not sustainable in the long run. A reduced IT budget, combined with the need for better technology, does not align. There’s also the risk that overworked staff will soon start to harm wellbeing and productivity.
Chief Architects typically spend a lot of time guiding executive level and senior stakeholders along the journey of change. It’s often a lengthy process with many hurdles to overcome. But at the start of March, this all changed, there was a need for quick decisions made with confidence.
Great architecture allows businesses to pivot quickly and efficiently. We spoke to a Head of Architecture who had engaged promptly with the executive level’s priorities and found themselves taking on an “enabler” role, where their main focus has been on how they can support the business in delivering its services remotely. The importance of communicating the necessity of good architecture with senior executives during these times was also mentioned.
So what have businesses been doing with anything considered non-urgent? As you might expect, the architects we spoke to said work on these initiatives had stalled. Reduced capacity was mainly to blame, and businesses seemed fully aware of the risks associated with having to put specific projects aside from both a business development and financial perspective. The decision as to when and how these programmes and projects should be reinstated could be difficult too: priorities have changed, and the landscape is now looking very different, which could affect the overall scope of existing initiatives.
Short term planning is likely to be more common when a business is in crisis mode, but at some point, thinking will need to shift back to the long term. How and when this shift happens will have an impact on how the organisation moves forward.
The contrast between limited finances and the need for good architecture is stark. Chief Architects have found themselves at the forefront of businesses, working in close partnership with the senior executive level.
Chief IT Architect,
Head of Architecture,
Leading Health Organisation
The risk is that this shift may be short-lived, and so maintaining this momentum over the next few months will be important. How this is done is still up for debate, but stakeholders will be looking for tangible evidence around the increasing use of digital technology, productivity and home working.
There’s a lot being said about the sudden shift to working at home already. What’s clear is that the reliance on having a fit for purpose digtal workplace has put IT leaders on the frontline. From a technology perspective, the businesses we spoke with were all fairly positive; their existing infrastructure allowed them to move quickly and adapt as necessary.
Those that were able to execute decisions without tripping over lengthy sign-off chains were always going to fare well in this environment. But home working must also be considered from the personal perspective. Others spoke about missing the connections that face to face meetings bring, and the difficulty of interacting via a screen.
Many businesses aren’t really planning on heading back to the office until 2021. But when the time comes, it will be interesting to see how many organisations will go back to a pre-pandemic environment. This time of forced change has brought about new ways of working, so it will be interesting to see how permanent some of these adjustments will be.
International Law Firm
It’s been insightful to engage with several different Architects about their experiences and reactions to Covid-19, but it’s likely that this is only the beginning of changes to come. As short-term thinking shifts back to long term visions, stalled projects are reinstated, and decisions are made about whether home working could become permanent, organisations will need to continue to be agile and deal with the unfamiliar. The role of the Architect has been challenged, and in many instances aligned to become an integral part of the organisation – it will be interesting to see whether this is a lasting change.
Lessons learned will need to be ongoing, and it would be worth businesses considering how differently they might react should a similar situation take place in future.
If you have any new experiences or thoughts on the above, then please do get in touch.
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