The Covid-19 pandemic laid businesses bare, disrupting how companies managed their teams while changing business models across the board. It also changed the way information technology did its job. In April, experts from Accenture and Workday explored these changes in a webinar, “The Flexible Future – Why recent events demonstrate the need for business continuity at scale.” The discussion raised insights that all companies can learn from. The top takeaway: The companies that succeeded during the pandemic were the ones that tapped the cloud for digital transformation.
While the move to the cloud has been an ongoing focus for most companies, the numbers don’t give a full picture of what’s been going on. One often-cited statistic says that 93 percent of all companies embraced a public or hybrid cloud strategy prior to the pandemic. However, Accenture research completed right before the pandemic took hold showed that only a small minority of companies – just the top 10 percent – had mastered systems resilience with a shift to the cloud. That needed to change quickly, says Gloria Samuels, senior managing director and Workday business group lead at Accenture.
Indeed, once the pandemic hit, the cloud shifted from being an aspiration to a mandate in order to be flexible and resilient. “Ninety percent of business and IT executives in Accenture’s Technology Vision 2021 survey agree that to be agile and resilient, their organizations need to fast-forward their digital transformation with cloud at its core,” Samuels explains.
“Everyone is adopting a cloud-first strategy,” Samuels explains. “The resiliency, the ability to have data adjacent on the cloud near your applications, has really given us a level of insight and flexibility we never had before.”
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a good way to get started with that process, she says, since it provides a safe, secure, and reliable environment that’s thoroughly tested. The best way to start is by assessing where you can lift workloads based on what your company’s priorities are. Most companies will focus on financial agility, which becomes increasingly important. Being able to have the analytics at your fingertips to make quick decisions becomes a differentiator,” she adds.
Bringing that Success to Life
Accenture is seeing this firsthand with its own work: Samuels worked on a project called People + Work Connect, which was created by four chief human resource officers and designed to help people who were impacted by the pandemic get back to work faster by enabling organizations to quickly identify and fill job vacancies. People + Work Connect is powered by an analytics-driven platform and was launched in just 14 business days, a milestone that few thought possible before last March. Samuels says agility is one of the reasons why they were able to bring the platform to life so quickly.
“We take a living systems approach,” she says. “This helps companies accelerate digital transformation by breaking down a complex journey into manageable, prioritized steps. This approach creates value by moving the five levers of change, including strategy, organization, practices, technology, and talent, in an agile way.”
Moving through the New Normal
The journey to the cloud is not complete, however. As businesses start opening up again and employees return to the office, Accenture continues to see a strong need from its clients that are looking to move forward with their digital transformation journeys.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the company’s clients fell into three categories: Some were only starting their transformation journey, some were in the consideration phase, and some were complete but still needed additional insights and help to navigate going completely virtual. As a result, Accenture had more than 60 companies roll out Workday virtually during the pandemic, says Samuels.
There are several misconceptions that organizations have when they start their journey, says Colin Forth, vice president of Information Technology at Workday. One common misconception about the cloud is that you just “turn it on” and it works for you, he says. “Two key components, regardless of system, are data conversion and business process definition.”
The good news is that once this process is complete, a SaaS offering like the one from Workday has multiple pre-configured components that give customers an “incredible amount of efficiencies of scale,” Forth adds. “I think the fact that we all moved to remote and figured out how to make that work connect together was a huge win for our customers. They don't have to be on-site or installing some kind of servers or components and worry about the security perimeter of their enterprise. You get to take away what I would say is a whole bunch of the back office IT concerns and you get to move forward into what are the business concerns.”
In the end, this process helped ease the stress of working in a pandemic, allowing companies to focus on their people rather than their processes and technology, Samuels says. “Through all the heartbreak and human pain, it really demonstrated our resiliency and the power of technology to bring us together.”
“If you had told us that we need to get roughly 12 billion doses of vaccines out in a year, that would have been considered completely impossible. And yet we have companies that have come up with viable solutions to go to work on this,” Forth says. “And we’re figuring out new distribution networks across the world and multiple types of health infrastructure. The lesson for all of us is to concentrate on the core things that are important and state them clearly, so we know what we’re working on. Once we have a clear goal of what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s pretty amazing what people can do.”