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Importance of IT for Business: The Day IT Stood Still

Doan Nguyen

During the recent week off from work, I had a chance to listen to some of the classic radio dramas. I heard episodes from The Shadow, Lake Wobegone, and the two classics – The Day the Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds. I grew to love radio drama. The story is played out by the characters with sound effects so vivid that combined, they render a truly immersive experience. It was as if I was there watching.

After listening to The Day the Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds, I was thinking….Imagine what if IT stood still? That is all Information Technology functions such as, networking, compute, storage, and applications ceased to operate? Does daily life come to a massive frenzy of panic followed by a stoppage of work. Though it’s unlikely we’ll face extraterrestrials anytime soon, could there be a plausible scenario that removes the foundational capabilities in technology that we’ve grown accustomed to? What if internet connectivity, cloud computing resources, home automation, etc. all stopped working? What would the impact be on business and everyday life?

Y2K Remembered

In 1999, everyone in Information Technology was in a frenzy working to head off the Millennium Bug or the Y2K bug. Many applications were coded representing the year using only the last 2 digits, leaving out the “19”. Banks that calculated interest rates using dates and year, for example, would calculate the rate of interest for “0000”, minus almost 100 years. Transportation system depended on having the correct date and time for scheduled flights, trains, etc. The failure to fix the date issue, feared by many, would bring down  banking systems, government information systems, transportation systems, utility services, etc. Fixing Y2K became a very expensive global IT project. Many glitches did happen but catastrophic failures as feared did not play out. IT was prepared and businesses continued.

Then arrived COVID-19

As COVID-19 raged across the globe, offices and businesses closed. The world simply just stopped. For the fortunate millions who are sent home to continue work, their work life and family life took on a different meaning. The kitchen became the office, the home office turned into a classroom for distance learning. Once again, Information Technology is at the front line. For the IT practitioners and leaders, their roles are instantly transformed into “business continuity officers.” IT was no longer a back office function but a critical player in the business. To keep business going, companies needed to instantly scale compute power to meet online transaction loads not foreseen even in their testing. In a matter of days, many enterprises had to serve up a massive number of applications to a widely distributed workforce to maintain business operations, at the same time keeping connected to their customers securely. Imagine if networking connectivity failed. A hospital wouldn’t have sufficient bandwidth or storage for onsite medical teams to send and receive x-rays and scans to doctors over a remote network would cease to exist. How would my online storefront be able to scale quickly enough to commit the surge in orders and process payments securely, all while keeping customer data safe and secured? Bottomline, how does IT support working remotely quickly and securely?

Fortunately, many businesses who rely on technology and Information Technology as their primary backbone have benefitted from a battle tested IT to ensure business continuity during uncertain times.

Over the years and through many operational disruptions, IT has learned to build in resiliency. A big part of ensuring the resilience of IT is automation. With the pandemic and  massive disruption, there’s no time to hire new staff. Existing IT staff simply cannot handle a sudden pivot to company-wide remote work quick enough. Imagine having to execute a manual roll out of networking services, security configurations, applications and desktop services encoded in a playbook with hundreds of tasks and multi-level dependencies, all in a matter of hours or minutes. It wouldn’t be feasible. Automation is a critical foundation to enable IT with the flexibility and resilience to successfully cope in times of crisis.

Open for Business

As with Y2K and COVID-19, Information Technology became the engine that adapted and delivered to help keep businesses running. Replacing an office work force with a work from home population, scaling workloads to the cloud from datacenters, delivering instant mobile offices for onsite operations.

Recovering from this crisis will be a long, hard battle. Surviving and thriving in the journey ahead requires an even smarter, more flexible and resilient IT, improving IT cost efficiencies. For some, the lesson learned is a fundamental rethink of their infrastructure, how to enable flexibility, scale datacenter services, DevOps services, and Desktop Services.  For many companies moving forward means  a change in their business models. With rapid innovations and cost cutting, IT again has found solutions to survive  COVID-19 and keep businesses moving forward.

The invisible hero…

IT has always been an important part in our lives. In the digital economy, IT is the lifeline for business and consumers, creating an inextricable bond and dependency that enables us to work, shop, entertain, communicate, stay connected. Services that are so easily accessible that the technological complexities behind the scenes have become completely invisible to us. This very fabric that powers our daily lives in effect has become the invisible infrastructure of the digital economy.

Through recent history this digital bond has been tested many times. The resilience and ingenuity of IT came through each time to help businesses forge ahead and keep all of us connected. Behind the scenes, is an army of IT heroes helping to keep the engines of economy working.

Join us in the conversation and share your IT moments of crisis and what you’ve done to recover.

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