Why businesses lacking IT flexibility risk being left behind

The pace of technological change in IT systems has increased exponentially over time and has transformed the structure of the modern corporation. A revealing example is the frequent updates to operating systems. While before it would have been the case that major patches or new versions were introduced every 3-5 years, this is increasingly becoming a yearly occurrence or more often in some cases. Looking at the cloud, new services are launching almost every week, driven by the major vendors in the sector.

But this is only one half of the story. With the rapid growth in personal devices and technologies available to consumers, there’s a much-increased employee expectation on what their company can and should provide them in terms of IT applications in their job roles. This expectation has been heightened by the move to remote working caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led organizations to completely shift their working models, bring in new services and introduce new solutions quicker than ever to markets. This evolving landscape has brought the need for IT system flexibility to the forefront across a range of industries.

Current challenges

While it’s certainly commendable the changes that businesses made to facilitate a remote workforce in 2020, the rush to adapt key systems at the front-end to meet consumer demand may have proven to be short-term solutions that need to be refined for long-term use. As we look ahead to the next few years, flexibility will be needed to ensure that employees can access the correct tools to continue to be productive. Agility to make changes quickly in the coming years will be ever more crucial is we work towards a post-pandemic future, and investing in the right parts of the technology stack will be more important than ever for businesses.

Flexibility across IT systems can provide a range of benefits to organizations, but there are roadblocks that need to be traversed in order to ensure that systems can meet this need. Front-end systems that are customer facing are more commonly updated to ensure a better service is delivered, while the back-end systems that run the key processes for a business can be easily neglected over time as they are less visible. Ensuring a balance is struck and paying attention to the current compatibility of those back-end processes is just as important to ensure flexibility across the organization. Even one outdated system can prove detrimental as it can stop other IT processes from evolving and developing.

Many businesses have looked towards cloud technology to help facilitate flexibility, but unfortunately it remains the case that many applications on legacy systems can be difficult to move from aging infrastructure to a cloud setup. One of the biggest challenges that remains in the industry is making the old work with the new, and 80 percent of a cloud migration may be simple to complete, but it’s the last 20 percent that can be the most difficult part of the project and prove to be most time-consuming. In fact, organizations that fail to take that last step in their migration can end up being in a worse position than before they began. Until all applications are in the cloud and connected to the right ecosystems, organizations won’t fully benefit from the flexibility of updated and automated processes.

Investments to drive flexibility

This container technology can allow systems and applications to be moved from legacy operating systems or servers, such as Windows 8 or Microsoft Server 2008, to updated and supported versions such as Windows 10 or Windows Server 2019, or even allow systems to be shifted from an on-premise setup to a hybrid or pure cloud arrangement when required. Edits to these containers can then easily be made to allow service packs and version updates to be added without frustration, and applications can be managed and deployed with existing management tools and processes in organizations, removing the needed for training or infrastructure changes.

In order to be flexible, organizations need to know first and foremost the current state of their IT systems and have full visibility of where weaknesses or potential risks may currently exist, and bespoke discovery tools can help them do this. Many businesses are looking to adopt flexibility in their systems but are currently unaware of which processes need addressing. Following this, a first step for many organizations is to make full use of the free tools that are provided by their chosen cloud vendor, such as AWS or Microsoft to help make broader changes to outdated or legacy systems.

For specific requirements however, organizations need to look towards investing in specialist tools, particularly in the case of operating systems such as Windows that need to be upgraded to facilitate system flexibility. This is where the expertise of a specialist technology vendor can implement specific solutions such as pre-defined packages that can enable businesses to use applications as if they’re installed natively on a new operating system or server.

Ensuring business survival

Flexibility has become so important in IT systems that business survival could ultimately depend on it. Take for example the case of UK online fashion retailer Boohoo, which purchased the brand and online business of Debenhams in January of this year. As part of the deal, Boohoo chose not to take on its physical stores and workforce. This is particularly revealing of the trend towards digital transformation and ecommerce in the clothing industry, and shows that even the most iconic of businesses have been left behind by failing to mobilize their technology and utilize flexible IT systems to adapt to an online world.

In every industry, technology is now the backbone of almost every process, and if this technology doesn’t possess the flexibility to help organizations develop how they operate, they will ultimately be left behind in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. Engaging with the right specialist technology partner and carefully investing in the appropriate solutions can allow businesses to meet the demand for digital transformation and be truly flexible and agile in their operations in the coming years.

Mat Clothier, CEO, Cloudhouse

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