7 Recommendations to Recession-Proof and Focus Your Digital Transformation

Are we in a recession or a correction? Anthony Juliano is the CTO and General Partner at Landmark Ventures, and we debated this question a few weeks ago. Every week, new economic data supports the recession argument, while other data provides evidence that we’re not heading in that direction.

CIO and IT leaders have a choice: Either wait 6-10 months for the data and economists to form a conclusion or adjust plans to address the possibility of a financial downturn.

Recession? Correction? -> Digital Transformation

Several technology executives weighed in on this article on their ideas, practices, and technologies to help recession-proof your digital transformation.  

1.      Prioritize your digital transformation roadmap

Are you going into 2023 budgets with the same strategies and roadmap you developed earlier this year? Perhaps it requires some rethinking, and I received two perspectives on where to focus.  

Rajeev Kumar, CRO at SirionLabs, says, “Business leaders should prioritize digital transformation initiatives that will help conserve cash, reduce uncertainty, accelerate sales, and mitigate enterprise risks.”

One person to partner with is the CFO, who should be more open to workflow technologies now that in the past. Kumar continues, “For CFOs who are laser-focused on the bottom-line during downturns, a contract lifecycle management (CLM) system offers a single source of truth on both incoming revenue and outgoing expenses.”

My perspective: Look at your roadmap through the lens of your customers and business stakeholders. Some will be more open to investment during a recession, especially if budget squeezing forces them to consider new technologies and ways of working.

2.      Focus on the customer and value proposition

The second perspective comes from David Robinson, Director of Data Science at Heap. “Demonstrate real value,” he says. “The best way to protect your product during ruthless budget management is to ensure customers understand the value you provide.”

Robinson also suggests that businesses enable their customers to try out products. “Lean into self-serve,” he says. “More and more customers would rather research and try out a product themselves than engage in a lengthy sales cycle.”

My perspective: I said in a recent tweet and blog post, “Don’t slow down. Speed up in the areas that matter.” For many organizations, that should require both productivity and customer-facing initiatives but requires better focus on delivering short and mid-term business value.  

3.      Increase experimentation and analytics on customer-facing initiatives

So don’t stop investing in customer-facing and growth initiatives, but do increase data-driven experiments and feedback processes.

Che Sharma, CEO and co-founder at Eppo, recommends, “Do implement high-quality A/B experimentation as part of your feature development process. Experimentation is the only way to tie feature releases to business metrics, like revenue and retention, instead of click metrics, which is crucial during a recession.”

My perspective: Speeding up doesn’t mean losing control. Experimentation is key during volatile market conditions and when it’s hard to predict customer buying behaviors.

4.      Optimize your multicloud architectures to reduce spend

Shifting gears to IT, I sought insights on how IT leaders should reconsider cloud, infrastructure, and hybrid work tech strategies. Here are two recommendations.

David Williams, SVP of market strategy at Quali, says, “Reining in the complexity of cloud infrastructure is a major challenge for businesses during a recession, but it’s crucial.”

Even if we’re not in a true recession, Williams recommends, “Don’t wait until a recession hits to start trying to understand infrastructure costs and the business context around them.”

Arthur Lozinski, co-founder and CEO of Oomnitza, adds, “Effective enterprise technology management (ETM) is key to firms’ well-being of their IT infrastructure as we move toward economic uncertainty while dealing with a hybrid or remote work environment.”

My perspective: Rate your IT financial management practices. During growth periods, it’s easy to add infrastructure with fewer financial scrutinies. In addition to reducing costs, look for ways to add financial and cost management practices to cloud, hybrid working, and DevOps technologies.

5.      Consolidate to standard DevOps tools and practices

And what about DevOps? Can we still support DevOps teams having significant autonomy to select their own tools? It may be a good time to take stock, regroup, and asses opportunities to create standards.

“During times of prosperity, developers have more freedom of choice in the tools they use, which creates greater complexity in their toolchains and processes,” says Williams. “When businesses feel more urgency around costs and metrics, it becomes very difficult to manage costs because they can’t prioritize which projects, tools or skill sets are essential.”

What’s William’s recommendation? He says, “Do standardize tools and processes as best as possible to understand the business value they provide.“

My perspective: Setting team-driven standards is a best agile way of working practice whether you’re facing a recession or during growth. Picking tools like kids in the candy store often leads to mounds of technical debt cavities.  

6.      Improve employee experiences and productivity

Shifting gears – what about employee experiences? The first perspective I share is specific to Industrial 4.0 and manufacturing, while the second can be applied to just about all organizations.

Arjun Chandar, CEO at IndustrialML, says, “A key way to recession-proof your digital transformation program is to develop tools that don’t depend on any particular worker or machine. Develop tools which can be flexible even if you downsize, use backup equipment, or bring in inexperienced workers or temps.”

Mihir Shukla, CEO at Automation Anywhere, says, “We’re seeing things we never thought we would experience in our lifetime – and that’s forcing companies to rapidly adapt and understand how to remain agile for unexpected events.” He continues, “Organizations are dramatically increasing budgets to support new automation initiatives.”

My perspective: One way to ramp up during a recession is by investing in citizen data science programs and low-code / no-code platforms. Both approaches, especially when deployed with a citizen governance model, can enthuse and empower employees even during a downturn.

7.      Develop your digital transformation leaders

One final recommendation. While you must focus on the economy and how that impacts your digital transformation strategy and roadmap, don’t lose sight of your leaders, teams, and people who drive transformation. Digital Trailblazers can help you accelerate digital transformation efforts, especially during periods of uncertainty. Developing them now is one way to retain the key people who buy into the business’s mission and the vision behind the transformation.   


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