COVID-19: IT Services Providers’ Digital Transformation Initiatives More Important Than Ever

R. Bhattacharyya

Summary Bullets:

• Overall, the response by IT services providers (ITSP) to COVID-19 has been muted, though this is starting to change.

• Now is the time to promote digital transformation initiatives related to workplace virtualization, cloud migration, hybrid or multi-cloud management, IoT, adoption of advanced analytics and RPA, and cybersecurity.

Overall, the response by IT services providers to COVID-19 has been muted. At the onset of the crisis, most made the appropriate and generic statements that were expected. They expressed concern for the safety and well-being of employees and clients, and sought to reassure customers that they had the systems and processes in place to continue to service their customers without disruption.

This messaging, although necessary, was lackluster compared to what came from others in the IT industry on short notice. Telecom operators such as Verizon released figures highlighting the staggering growth in network traffic; 8×8 announced a new service designed to get remote employees up and running with collaboration tools more quickly; Salesforce proclaimed it would not have any significant layoffs for 90 days and called on others to follow suit; and most recently HPE revealed new financing terms to help customers with payment relief during today’s difficult times. These are just a few of the more noteworthy announcements that will be remembered as the industry looks back on this tumultuous period.

That’s not to say that all ITSPs shied away from taking a more active thought leadership role. Among their U.S. and IT services peers, IBM and Accenture stood out. IBM was very proactive with its communication, moving beyond messaging related to concern and support for employees and customers, to highlighting that its technology is being engaged to proactively fight the virus and maintain essential business operations. IBM highlighted that it was providing access to high performance computers to help speed the race for a vaccine; it noted that it was using analytics to help better manage the logistical and supply chain challenges relate to rerouting essential freight; and it deployed Watson Assistant to help overburdened municipal and state governments better respond to the large COVID-19 related call volumes. In addition, IBM is offering up its analytics platform for free to any official health organization that is working towards a COVID-19 vaccine. Accenture took a different, but equally forward-looking approach. It’s messaging was very well-structured and clearly outlined that it could assist customers develop and implement remote working, cloud, analytics (vaccine, cure, logistics), security and business continuity strategies. Across the globe, TCS was also proactive. TCS came out early with announcements that it was providing a COVID-19 patient tracker, offering a platform for clinical trials, working with pharmaceutical and medical institutions to compile data, and researching options for affordable ventilators.

The response is starting to change and more ITSPs are expanding their COVID-19-related communication. Taking a different approach to the impact of the pandemic on business, Zensar is leveraging its own cloud-based operational model and crisis management experience to offer best practices to customers. The company constructed the Zensar Enterprise Resiliency Framework (ZERF) to help enterprises identify and mitigate the impact of the crisis. ZenTrust enables businesses to analyze and optimize costs across their application landscape with a suite of offerings designed to allow customers breathing space for longer term strategic planning. ZenCare provides remote employees access to a virtual workplace and collaboration tools using a browser. And more recently, Cognizant released forward-looking industry-specific guidance for companies in healthcare, manufacturing and consumer goods, to name a few; Capgemini released insights into managing supply chains, ensuring cybersecurity with a remote workforce, and suggested best practices for retailers.

ITSPs generally could be doing more with their messaging. Granted these companies are dealing with many of the same challenges others are facing, such as travel restrictions and the need to get a large workforce up and running remotely and securely on little notice – no small challenge for a group of players that built their businesses on outsourcing. And also impressive is that since these early announcements, numerous ITSPs have stepped up to contribute large amounts of funding to support healthcare organizations, medical research, and educational initiatives.

It is time for ITSPs to promote the digital transformation initiatives they have been endorsing for quite a while, including workplace virtualization, cloud migration, hybrid or multi-cloud management, IoT, adoption of advanced analytics and RPA, and cybersecurity. At the moment customers need help with immediate challenges related to business continuity. But soon they will want to consider what can be done to improve resiliency in the medium and long term, and will need to begin planning and implementing their strategies and roadmaps. Of course, now is not the time to be seen as opportunistic. The next several months will be challenging as companies rein in spending in an attempt to recover from the economic shocks inflicted by the pandemic. Communication should be conservative and empathetic. But it’s also not a time to avoid the obvious – digital transformation is no longer a nice to have, it has become a need to have.


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