Don’t let pandemic-driven tech decisions impact your opportunity to be future fit

Today, as many businesses return to a "new normal," the question technology leaders should be asking themselves is: "Are the decisions we made a year ago still the right decisions for the business today and in the future, or do we have some digital regrets that we need to address?"

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, firms were scrambling to spin up new customer and employee experiences at a time when the economic outlook was getting more and more unclear. For some firms, it felt like a race against the clock -- a race for survival. In fact, many firms didn't survive the pandemic, and Forrester projects that as many as 20% of the Fortune 500 are not going to make it through 2021 whole. 

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When it came to technology strategy, most firms fell into one of two camps. For leaders, the pandemic just accelerated existing digital transformation plans and spending. They adapted their plan and made it happen in a matter of weeks. They digitized processes rapidly and pivoted business models using existing technology roadmaps. They did truly amazing things and put distance between themselves and their competitors. 

For other firms, it was more of a scramble. They were caught off guard and put into a "survival mode" mentality, which drove rushed technology decisions. They implemented technology options that may not have been on their original technology strategy roadmaps. And, in many cases, they made choices in the moment that often deployed the best available option for customers' most immediate needs. They stitched together existing systems with APIs and didn't successfully provide their remote workers access to the tools they needed. 

Today, as many businesses return to a "new normal," the question technology leaders should be asking themselves is, "Are the decisions we made a year ago still the right decisions for the business today and in the future, or do we have some digital regrets that we need to address?" Forrester's analysis shows that productivity from tech investments has been falling for the past 20 years. Imagine what happened during the pandemic -- another less-than-desirable result: digital sameness. Digital sameness is when you invest in digital solutions only to find that your offering is highly similar to your competitors. 

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If you're now looking to evaluate your tech with an eye toward a more volatile future, here are some suggestions: 

  • Be customer-obsessed in tech decisions. Being customer-obsessed means looking at everything through your customer's eyes. And that applies to technology evaluation and consolidation. Whether it's a front-end customer-facing experience or a back-end internal system, evaluate its worth and value based on the customer's needs first. That means building solutions that engage customers on the devices and channels they choose, so it's vital you understand your customer's preferences and behaviors. 
  • Strive for resiliency, creativity, and adaptivity. Your broader technology strategy should help your firm become more resilient to deliver on your brand promise no matter the crisis, become more creative in your delivery of experiences to customers and become more adaptive to reconfigure your core business concepts when needed. 
  • Think platforms, not point solutions. One of the underpinnings of Forrester's Future Fit technology model is the use of technology platforms -- bundles of enabling technologies and services preassembled to deliver a specific customer experience or business capability. Yes, that includes a cloud-first mentality, but it goes much deeper. When new business opportunities occur, businesses can use these platforms to rapidly assemble new, unique value propositions for customers that drive significant business for the firm. To get a deep dive on this topic, watch this on–demand webinar. 

Of all the lessons learned during the pandemic, perhaps the most important lesson we learned was to expect the unexpected. Shifting to a 100% remote work environment wasn't on most CIOs' radars. Restrictions of in-person dining and shopping weren't, either. As a technology executive, your role is now to ensure that your technology strategy not only adapts to future disruption but allows your firm to make the most of unexpected change. 

This post was written by VP and Research Director Matthew Guarini, and it originally appeared here.