By Laura Baldwin, President at O’Reilly

habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME adviceAt the start of 2020, little did we know the disruption that would take place in the business world.

We’ve had to adopt strategies for employees to work remotely, support mission-critical business systems, and enable customers to continue to successfully conduct business. There’s a palpable need to adopt and build cultures that rapidly embrace technological change. And that will change everything.

We’ll see an evolution of business models due to this period in time. Organisations that have thrived through the pandemic may not be operating solely in a digital business model, but all successful businesses will have a strong digital culture in common. That future needs to be faced moving forward. Businesses need to start thinking about how to create and implement a long-term digital business model, and there are plenty of new tools to help make that possible.

Three to five years ago—and really up until the pandemic—tech companies were riding the wave of a growing market. The wave has broken, and now we need to adapt, adjust, and do more with less. The big winners will likely be startups and smaller companies that were born digitally enabled or companies unafraid to change and adapt to our new realities. The losers will try to return to the old ways and find themselves swiftly left behind in the new normal.

It all comes from the top

Instead of moving into the future in fear, leaders need to think about all of this as opportunity. In order to rapidly adopt new technologies that will enable future business success, leaders need to embrace, drive, and support change throughout the organisation. This requires three essential elements.

First, leaders need to evaluate technologies as they emerge to determine which solutions address their business model, needs, and challenges. Because of the pace of technological change, what may be impactful today could easily be replaced by something far better in a year. But don’t let your big-picture vision be undermined by the newest sparkly tool. See holistically and understand the results you’re truly seeking from a tech solution.

Second, leaders need to build teams that are nimble and flexible enough to adapt to rapid change and provide them with the tools to develop skills and learn new technologies as they come to market. Change is often scary for employees—they don’t want to find themselves left behind as technologies evolve. They need to be supported with opportunities to learn. They need to get hands-on experience and build new skills to stay relevant and create career paths through your business. Invest in your employees as part of your tech investment, and in turn they’ll enable your business. You’ll never regret it.

Third, it’s important to admit when something has failed and be unafraid to change course. Continuing to drive a strategy or technology implementation that isn’t working or having the expected business impact doesn’t make any sense. Employees can see it. And they’ll have more respect for leaders who admit that something isn’t working and can reset. O’Reilly is about to undertake a major software rearchitecture that requires the hands and minds of all our developers, taking them away from new feature development while they complete the work. It’s a bold and expensive step, but we’re not afraid to admit something isn’t working, change course, and make the corrections needed to help ensure long-term success. Our employees get it and support it.

Start by building the right foundations

It’s becoming increasingly clear that systems architecture, clean and readily accessible data, and the cloud are enabling technologies that organisations need to focus on. With these layers in place, businesses can more successfully add new technologies that enable productivity, enhance digital connectivity to customers, and provide effective support for remote employees. These technologies also pave the way for broader adoption of artificial intelligence, whether it’s increasing productivity by augmenting employees in their day-to-day roles, predicting customer behaviours, or enabling new and engaging customer experiences.

When it comes to the cloud, cost reduction will be a big driver of adoption—and that impetus to lower cost is going to have a huge impact on innovation. Investing in a multi-cloud strategy may also help businesses against potential disruption in the market, and it’s an approach many should consider in the current competitive environment. New capabilities are being enabled in the cloud each day. Make sure as a leader you stay on top of what’s being made possible.

Some of the biggest innovations happen after times of crisis; it’s been proven time and time again. Right now, we’re undergoing a huge reset, and that presents an opportunity for any company with the capacity and drive to think ahead.

AI and cloud adoption are definitely growing at a strong rate—it’s an area in which O’Reilly has done a lot of research. Our recent AI Adoption in the Enterprise 2020 report found that the vast majority of organisations (85%) are evaluating AI or already using it in production, and more than half of these folks identify as “mature adopters.” For these innovators, their focus is on supervised learning for ML. On the cloud side, 25% of those we surveyed reported that their organisations were planning to move applications fully into the cloud in the next year, and 17% of those from organisations with more than 10,000 employees reported they’ve already made the move.

The new normal

This new normal has taken a lot of us by surprise. And we all know it’s impossible for any company to get it all right from the first go. But by focusing on leading through change, supporting employees, and placing the right bets, companies will have a greater chance at successfully navigating this period of disruption and setting their business up for future success.

About the author

Laura Baldwin began working with O’Reilly Media in October 2001. She became the company’s first President in March 2011 and is currently responsible for O’Reilly’s businesses worldwide. Prior to O’Reilly, she was a consultant to the publishing industry through BMR Associates, and managed several large consulting engagements across all genres of publishing and media.

She attributes much of her success to the all-girls high school she attended, where she was taught that leadership is available to anyone who demonstrates initiative and drive regardless of their gender. She brings that philosophy to O’Reilly, where she helped to create a diversity scholarship program and continues to advocate for an inclusive and open workforce.

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