COVID-19's impact on tech optimisation and modernisation

Gartner Australasia Pty Ltd

By Neville Cannon*
Monday, 01 June, 2020

COVID-19's impact on tech optimisation and modernisation

Governments will struggle to complete tech optimisation or modernising plans if they’re not directly relevant to supporting COVID-19 responses.

Given the impact of COVID-19, it’s untenable that Australian government IT departments or shared services organisations can assume normal levels of activity. Mandated restrictions have caused significant workforce disruptions and a shift to maintaining frontline services. This means that long-term projects associated with optimisation and modernisation have been pushed to the side.

As the short-term immediate response requirements fade, government organisations will seek to strengthen what has been initially provisioned, making sure what is in place is more robust and secure.

In the longer term, recovery will require a critical examination of the risks and mitigations that can be put in place to better meet any similar future challenge. Such an examination will have to consider the requirement for legacy systems to be able to withstand further stress tests at times of critical need.

Modernisation is no longer an IT desire but an operational necessity. However, any such assessment will be undertaken at the exact same time that governments are facing enormous pressure to focus on the economic recovery phase. Given the depth of measures taken to date, this could last for many years to come.

COVID-19 is forcing governments to undertake previously unacceptable actions. Policy, legislation and responses are now be determined on a daily basis, creating a situation where decisions made at one point in time may prove to be wrong or inadequate later.

The level of disruption and upheaval makes it unlikely that governments will focus on optimising existing processes or modernising systems that aren’t directly and immediately supporting emergency operations.

Adaptive planning

In the short-term, the continuing spread of COVID-19 will require departments to address numerous challenges, including health care, transporting goods and people, caring for the vulnerable and elderly, seeing businesses close and unemployment.

CIOs should expect unspent project funds to be reallocated, at least in the near term, and staff to be dynamically reallocated as necessary.

In the long term, governments will focus on restoring public confidence and trust in institutions and processes, as well as economic recovery and prosperity. In addition, there will be increased attention on what can be done to better manage and prepare for any such future event.

Future process optimisation is likely to look very different as radically new processes and delivery mechanisms will emerge.

Rapidly changing policymaking and prioritisation

Normal decision-making has been affected by the strain of rapidly changing policymaking and prioritisation. Governance that may normally have taken place over days and weeks may need to occur in hours.

Prepare for continuous change by establishing daily staff meetings, adapting governance processes to accommodate shifting requirements and changed priorities, and assessing available resources. Also, capture costs and issues associated with COVID-19 emergency responses and request financial support.

Supporting collaboration and communication

It’s uncertain what the duration and final outcome of COVID-19 will be. Optimisation or modernisation of existing applications and new processes could prove fruitless if found to have failed the pandemic test. It’s likely that new applications to support collaboration and communication will be demanded and existing applications deprioritised.

Critically review optimisation projects that are halted and determine whether they’re candidates for replacement after the pandemic crisis. Step up agile teams to create minimal viable products (MVPs) that deliver value and keep pace with continual changes. Also, mothball projects that aren’t vital and release resources for frontline duties.

Changes to project prioritisation and financial budgeting

Post-pandemic reviews will take into account the lessons learned, including what must be built in for future resilience and what must revert or be stopped to deliver savings. Project prioritisation and financial budgeting will be radically altered to accommodate new operational processes.

Capture lessons during the pandemic to build and protect targeted investment business cases in agile and flexible digital solutions, while expecting cuts to operational budgets. Review technologies and solutions to increase organisational resilience by strategically migrating to ‘packaged business capabilities’ that support a ‘composable’ enterprise.

Promoting digital as the way forward

While facing the immediate pressures of managing the growing and continually shifting challenges COVID-19 delivers, pay attention to lessons learned along the way.

As the crisis continues, capture tactical and strategic lessons to best support arguments for investment in digital capabilities when the time is right.

*Neville Cannon is a Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, focused on the public sector and government.

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