Although the long-term economic impact of Covid-19 is yet to be fully understood, there will undoubtedly be a long road to recovery for most industries, with many companies already buckling under the pandemic’s effects.
In times of economic uncertainty, where businesses look to reduce costs by creating an efficient, lean workforce, hiring budgets are usually the first thing to be cut. This has been strongly evidenced by a variety of studies, including a recent piece of research by LinkedIn that found that the countries hit hardest by Covid-19 have reduced their hiring by up to 45%!
Moreover, with the furlough scheme coming to an end, companies are having to make tough choices about which of their employees are more valuable than others for the long term. Although technology professionals are comparatively better off than those working in other sectors, if we’ve learned anything from the crisis and subsequent economic downturn, it’s that nobody is truly safe.
‘Which roles are business critical?’
This truly is the question on everyone’s lips right now, but some parts of the technology function – such as crucial roles in information security, data and infrastructure – are inherently more downturn resistant than others. With increased cyber threats and a dependence on digital platforms, companies can’t risk security breaches, not knowing where or how customer data is being used, or their technology platforms and products failing at crucial moments.
Where does this leave IT architecture?
Enterprise architecture, colloquially referred to as the ‘town-planning’ area of a technology function, is a forward-looking, strategic team that not only aligns both the business and technology strategies, but also targets operating models and spots opportunities for commercial benefits. In a time where budgets are tight, revenue generation and cost reduction opportunities are highly valuable.
Before the pandemic, many people argued that ‘traditional’, academic-style enterprise architecture was already beginning to die out, often being criticised as not having much to show for itself in terms of delivery and progress. In its place, solution architecture began to emerge. Being better aligned to the more popular product-centric technology functions, and sitting closer to engineering teams in order to upskill in terms of commercial ‘enterprise’ thinking, this seemed to be becoming a much more popular choice for technology leaders.
It seems, then, that Covid-19 has merely shone a stark light on an already vulnerable discipline, bringing its function under scrutiny and questioning the need for it in an ever-evolving future landscape.
Every company is now a technology company – can you really afford to stand still?
Are successful, market-leading companies like Tesla, Amazon or Netflix treading water during this crisis? Absolutely not. Being mindful of market conditions is of course crucial, but what makes organisations like these stand out is their driving principles of innovation and forward-thinking. In a world that is becoming technology-driven by the day, compounded by social distancing and remote working trends, CIOs and CTOs looking to gain a competitive advantage should seriously consider a move to enterprise architecture.
Businesses should be looking towards long-term solutions. The pandemic won’t last forever, but bad technology decisions made now (such as poor SaaS selection, incorrect vendor choices or lack of forward-thinking regarding a new platform’s integration capability) will likely end up spiralling costs and making it even harder for businesses to recover. Similarly, the opportunity cost of not investing in new technology, not knowing where new products will be funded from, or simply not having a robust and unified technology strategy, could leave you trailing behind the competition in what is becoming a more fast-paced and competitive market by the day.
Traditional IT architecture may be consigned to the past, but enterprise architecture allows companies to avoid these fatal scenarios and build a stronger business for the future.
Enterprise architecture doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. Yes, it’s an added cost to the business, but the current situation has highlighted to us more than ever that providing value is the true differentiator. Even in frugal times for investment, an effective enterprise architecture function that is centred around outcomes and delivery is a key pillar for any organisation with the intention of evolving and thriving through the coming years.