How to Keep Adapting and Operating Digitally During COVID-19

eWEEK DATA POINTS: Organizations that have not prioritized digital transformation have been forced to change course and build operational resiliency quickly to deliver experiences for customers and employees.

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Even though the coronavirus pandemic has been impacting the globe demonstrably for nearing a half-year, enterprises are still adjusting their business approaches here in midsummer to continue to work efficiently. COVID-19 has forced both consumers and companies into a new digital reality. 

Prior to the pandemic, 70% of companies had a digital transformation initiative in place or were working on one. The organizations that had not prioritized digital transformation have been forced to change course and build operational resiliency quickly to deliver experiences for customers and employees. This quick pivot to and rapid deployment of new digital services have come at a real cost, impacting developers, site reliability engineers and DevOps practitioners.

A recent survey from digital service availability platform provider xMatters of 300 consumers and 300 IT professionals in companies of at least 500 employees found that more than half of consumers experienced increased digital service problems during the work-from-home period, despite IT professionals' confidence in the services. It also revealed that the surge in reliance on digital services during COVID-19 is straining IT teams’ digital transformation readiness and work-life balance. 

Digital transformation is critical, not only to compete, but to survive. But it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming transition. In this eWEEK Data Points article, Troy McAlpin, CEO at xMatters, offers tips for helping enterprise organizations adapt and digitally transform during and post COVID-19. 

Data Point No. 1: Address User Concerns Immediately and Improve the Customer Experience  

Absolute consumer and employee reliance on digital services means that the time to address issues and fulfill expectations is immediate and urgent. xMatters’ recent survey found that 75% of IT professionals believe their organizations are equipped with the tools and processes to support the increased consumption of digital services. However, there is a very serious gap between the technical team’s expectations and the actual customer experience. More than half (54%) of consumers surveyed said they experienced an increase in application performance errors with the digital services or applications they’ve used during this stay-at-home period.

Bravo! for the rapid production and deployment of services, but recognize there is work to be done to ensure that services are resilient and meeting expectations. It’s essential that enterprises build in the necessary operational resilience to support those services and survive in this new reality. The success of any business depends on the quality of their customers’ experiences, and the companies that will be most successful in their digital transformation journeys are ones that put their customers' needs first. 

Data Point No. 2: Put Greater Focus on Infrastructure Security and Privacy 

Security or privacy also continues to be a top concern for consumers using digital services. When the survey asked consumers what could dissuade them from continuing to use digital services, half said they would stop using a mobile application or website if it was slow to respond, and half said security or privacy concerns would stop them.

As offices begin to reopen and workplaces offer flexible working environments, some companies will have employees both at home and in the office. Business leaders need to put measures in place to ensure that their teams are operating in a reliable and secure infrastructure, no matter where they work. 

Data Point No. 3: Future-Proof Your Business Now and Prepare for Future Business Interruptions

As the world comes together to overcome the most critical health-care crisis our generation has faced, we as technologists can modernize the practice of business continuity to be one of business resiliency. This is done by ensuring that the digital service supply chain is fault-tolerant and meets the needs and expectations of consumers and employees across industries during the current work-from-home period and beyond. Enterprises must build in the necessary operational resilience to support new and existing digital service offerings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already told us to expect a second wave of COVID-19. This could mean a return to shelter-in-place mandates and with that, a sustained or increased reliance on digital services. With 90% of consumers taking advantage of new digital services or applications to do their jobs, IT leaders need to have solutions for this increased reliance on digital services and ensure that continuity plans are in place to manage future business interruptions.  

Data Point No. 4: Keep Up the Drive to Innovate

With regard to digital service experiences, more than half (52%) of consumers reported that if the mobile app or website does not respond quickly, they would stop using it. In the age of digital transformation, maintaining quick response times and high availability is no longer enough. IT organizations must regularly develop and release new, innovative services to stay competitive and meet the demand for high-quality and cutting-edge digital customer experiences. Otherwise, customers will jump ship and move on to an alternative service. 

Tech leaders have an important responsibility to make sure teams on the hook for maintaining a positive customer experience have visibility into the entire customer lifecycle, whether that's continuous integration and deployment, application monitoring or incident response. DevOps toolchains, for example, can connect the most effective tools for developing, delivering and maintaining software that your organization depends on for your DevOps teams and SREs. This provides transparency and accountability to ensure reliable and impactful customer experiences. 

Data Point No. 5: Invest in Automation 

There is no doubt that this pandemic will have widespread and long-lasting implications because it has massively altered how we learn, work, communicate and consume. The world now depends on digital services to such a great extent that the people and technologies making them possible are more vital than ever. A report from McKinsey estimated that up to 45% of the tasks that humans currently perform at work could be automated. xMatters' survey also found that nearly half (43%) of IT teams surveyed now need to learn new technologies in the realm of automation, orchestration and cloud.

Now is not the time to take shortcuts in building the technology framework you need to avoid toil, especially toil that can be easily automated away. Mundane tasks like code deployment, rollback and incident response can also be automated to help ease the stress on IT. The more you can automate the technologies that ensure that experience, the happier both your customers and IT team will be.

If you have a suggestion for an eWEEK Data Points article, email cpreimesberger@eweek.com.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...