Technology evolution: how to address business needs in COVID-19 times

tech

Author: Michal Lucki, CTO at VMLY&R Poland

What has changed recently

Probably you’ve heard this statement before, but I’ll say it again. COVID-19 pandemic has hit the mankind on the personal, social and economic levels. As a natural consequence, all of us started to focus more on the essential needs. The business has done the same and has begun to think about what is currently crucial for it to function, to produce, to sell, to manage and to earn money. Technology, which was always a tool that helps companies to solve problems, optimize, automatize or create products and drive innovation, was also taken under closer examination. Hence tech companies or departments need to adjust to the current situation and learn to live in the new-normal after COVID-19 pandemic, in one way or another.

To back up the above with some numbers, let’s look at how the investments in technology changed comparing March and April 2020. In March 2020, 40% of companies declared increase spending on software. In April, only 15% have said the same, 31% said that they would spend less, 30% will probably stay as they are within the investments and 24% is not sure what their approach will be. The biggest savings are currently done on marketing software – 44% of an area that will not suffer that much is IT Security, here only 12% of companies want to save. Surprisingly 29% of respondents said they would save on sales platforms.1 It seems quite interesting once compared with potential e-commerce boost consequently linked to people staying at home.

For companies like VMLY&R who leverages technology to support marketing, sales and communication, it is quite a challenge to still provide meaningful tech support for its clients. Especially we see similar trends among our clients as well.

There are a lot of voices carrying the same question: In which areas technology should support business in COVID-19 times? And there are a lot of answers to it. I have also been asked the same question, my answer was and still is, the tech should support business in the same areas as before. The important question to ask is:

“How should technology support the business?”

This is my first pandemic, so I can only share my thoughts based on the last two months. As it goes for our clients, I can see three major groups. Those who have exact, well defined and well-based needs that need to be implemented. Those who would like to minimize their losses but need some assistance in defining the right way to do it. And those who are trying to get rid of the costs that are not essential to have their business up and running. Despite a little of bit different expectations, the way to address the needs of all three groups in pandemic times is the same. They expect a solution that would be precise in addressing their needs, they need a cost-effective solution, they need an efficient solution. I would add one more thing which does not always come up in the discussions, however, is also important; they need a solution that is future proof. Being precise in COVID-19 times, it does not mean to implement a brand-new ERP or Marketing Automation platform that will boost all of the sales or operations KPIs into space. Now we face problems that are smaller at scale and easier to measure. I will give you just a few examples what our tech department has been asked for recently: improve our company site traffic by a new design, help us to show what kind of charitable activities we undertake during the pandemic, tell us how we could connect people who want to help support specific causes, improve our commerce through new UX flow.

As you can see, those tasks are small, easy to measure and define an area of application in a very accurate way. One can answer these needs in two ways. One is to draw a wider picture of the problem, define a couple of more challenges that could be solved via a more sophisticated platform or software written on demand. Second is to define a solution that is tailor-made for the specific problem, is fast to deliver and costs a reasonable amount of money. Two months ago, I would choose the first answer because it can bring value to a business on a larger scale and larger timescale. Now I will go with the second option. If I’d stop at that there would be nothing special. Some of you could even say that I’m proposing our clients a straight way to hell by creating a lot of small, not integrated technology inconsistent pieces of software. And this could be true if my engineers and I would think only about the accuracy, price and efficiency, but we are always adding our “secret factor”; future proof. And this is the moment where things get more interesting. Now, as never before thinking about small platforms, sites, applications or enhancements, one thinks about enterprise-level solutions is the key to deliver real value to the business. They should be ready to be plugged-in to the existing ecosystem, have an architecture that will enable them to exchange data feed or business logic components easily. They should utilize existing frameworks, platforms or other applications as much as possible.

They should be created with respect to the already existing software landscape and fit it seamlessly. This is how I see the tech supporting business now. One may ask:

"Where’s the evolution in that?"

It is just a way we should proceed when times get a little tough and money is not flowing to IT suppliers with such a stream, as it was a couple of months ago, but it will get back to where it was in March 2020. Well, you could say that assuming the organizations will forget how they managed to run their business with reduced technology expenditure. Personally, I doubt they will. I think that pandemic gave us all; companies, departments, teams and people time to think about what is important to produce and deliver real value. Because of this lesson, the tech business will go from think big and deliver big or sometimes think small but deliver big, to think big, deliver small, and be ready for more.

Author: Michal Lucki, CTO at VMLY&R Poland

1 Source of the numbers is: https://www.trustradius.com/vendor-blog/covid-19-tech-spending-data

Fotografia: unsplash.com