Digital Acceleration and the Next Normal

We have seen incredible and rapid change in recent times. The idea of “digital transformation” for instance has seen its definition shift dramatically.

For a long time, most of us accepted that the concept involved a long-term strategy to adopt new technologies that would help us to modernize business processes, achieve greater efficiency and in an ideal world cut costs. But the moment the global health crisis struck the entire world stopped and so did just about every digital transformation project.

At first, the response to COVID-19 called for steps that felt less like long-term change than immediate actions to enable the continuity and stability to ensure organizations could continue to operate and people could work safely.

Then, the need to reduce cost and risk took precedence as organizations large and small looked to optimize their environments and entered what could be considered an “efficiency phase.”

Now, as we embark on the earliest stages of a recovery, the idea of digital transformation has re-emerged as an initiative that encompasses the process of defining, designing and delivering on the “next normal.” We understand that many things will never be the same. Some of the ways we live, work, and do business will require a re-model. Others will need a new model altogether.

Accelerating to the Next Normal

How the next normal looks will vary by industry, region and organization but two things we know are: 1) it will be digital-first and 2) it will move faster than ever.

Today, modernization is no longer an IT aspiration – it’s an operational necessity.  Consider the following:

  • An online consumer is 4 times more likely to switch to a competitor if they experience service-related problems (Source: Glance)
  • As many as 78% of consumers have backed out of an online purchase because of bad user experience (Source: Glance)
  • When it comes to adopting a new technology or process, cultural resistance can persist for up to 24 months, making the need to begin the process of change more urgent than ever (Source: Gartner)

Now, to compete and grow, organizations will need to harness this state of digital acceleration, a dedicated effort to rapidly modernize by:

  • Embracing an agile business model: Using modernized applications and infrastructure platforms that support the new requirements of doing business and ensure the ideal customer experience to drive revenue growth.
  • Rethinking the future of work: Re-imagining the workforce and enabling them with secure workspaces and collaboration platforms.

Let’s examine these two vital considerations for technology leaders as they begin to accelerate on the road to recovery.

Embracing an Agile Business Model

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, clothing retailer Zara reported losing over $465 million as 88% of its mall locations closed due to public health and safety measures. In the same period, however, the company’s online sales grew 95%.

As a result, Zara plans to invest $3 billion in developing its online shopping experiences [1].

In the next normal, an inability to adapt to change or innovate at or faster than the pace of the competition will put many organizations at risk of falling behind.

Embracing agile business is about seizing an opportunity to modernize the way you do business and – most important – to differentiate the way you interact with and serve your customers.

This is no easy task.

Some of the organizations we work with have told us, “We have legacy applications and systems we can’t change as fast as we need to.” In fact, organizations today spend 60 to 80% of their IT budgets on maintaining and operating traditional systems, leaving less time and resources for modernization initiatives. [2] Furthermore, 50% of IT leaders say the need to maintain traditional systems is impeding their efforts to transform. [3]

Others asked, “Our competitor’s digital strategy is taking our client base – what technologies should we consider?” Even with a modern, agile approach, Gartner finds 90% of organizations have said the need for skills in cloud infrastructure and emerging technologies outstrips demand.

How can your organization achieve a state of digital acceleration as an agile business?

  • Divest from infrastructure that doesn’t differentiate you: Avoid the burden of managing infrastructure that doesn’t drive a modern and streamlined customer or employee experience by embracing cloud technologies.
  • Focus on building a culture of rapid innovation: Pinpoint and remove barriers to adoption for agile methodologies, DevOps and automation to bring differentiated products and services to market faster.
  • Extend existing on-premises assets where required: Use modern cloud platforms to extend the traditional data center and modernize applications with less complexity and risk.

Rethinking the Future of Work

Over the past several months, employees everywhere have experienced the kind of transformation expected to take years in a matter of weeks – or even days. Where remote work was once considered a perk by some, it’s become a reality for many, perhaps indefinitely.

The immediate response to COVID-19 required IT leaders, along with their business and human resources counterparts, to provide for what their users needed right away: To be able to resume business as usual, safely and securely, with the same quality of experience.

To this end, many organizations needed to implement or drive adoption of new solutions for collaboration, security, remote access and virtual desktops.  As an example, between March 18 and April 29, Microsoft Teams saw 43 million new daily users, a growth of 134% in just over a month. This kind of application adoption has had a considerable impact on IT management and end-user enablement as organizations had to figure out how to deploy, manage and educate remotely.

And many organizations are still adapting to these changes.

Being ready for the future of work involves not only adapting to what the user needs today but also re-imagining the workplace to provide what they need to be successful in the next normal.

This calls for IT leaders to remove the barriers between the physical and digital workplace and break down silos around IT to connect the people, processes, and technologies to support growth and innovation.

How can your organization improve its readiness for the future of work?

  • Remove the barriers between the physical and digital workplace: Bring everyone together with a simple experience via modern working environments that run on cloud-based applications.
  • Empower IT to deliver a great employee experience: Onboard the right management and security solutions to make the employee experience easy to deploy, manage and protect.
  • Build the best employee experience for your organization: Design and deliver an end-to-end productivity and collaboration solution customized for your end-user requirements.
  • Get the most from your investments by ensuring adoption: Leverage strategic partnerships to drive structured on-boarding and usage of new tools and provide ongoing training and IT mentorship.

How Softchoice Will Continue to Help

The road to recovery from the global pandemic will look different for every organization.

From adapting to new challenges to defining your own next normal, Softchoice is here to help you make the right decisions to sustain momentum out of the crisis and thrive in recovery.

 

Are you ready to re-imagine your digital transformation journey?

Explore Softchoice services for Cloud and Enabling End Users.

Softchoice and Microsoft: A Partnership for Customer Success

As we announced last Monday, Softchoice has been recognized as the Microsoft’s Canada Partner of the Year for 2020.

We are honored to have been ranked among Microsoft’s best commercial channel partners in Canada and to be recognized for excellence in delivering enterprise-grade solutions and services across the entire Microsoft technology stack.

“Being named Microsoft’s Canada Partner of The Year is a recognition of Softchoice’s leadership in delivering innovative solutions and services that accelerate our customers’ digital journeys,” said Andrew Caprara, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Business Development at Softchoice.

“We are excited about the positive impact Microsoft and Softchoice have together on our customers’ business as they adapt to a new working environment.”

This award wasn’t just the culmination of a fantastic year together, but also the natural outcome of a longstanding partnership that continues to help Softchoice and Microsoft deliver success with digital transformation for our customers across the US and Canada.

A Commitment to Continuing Innovation

For the last several years, Softchoice has dedicated significant effort and investment into building foundational capabilities across Microsoft’s cloud, productivity, collaboration, and security technologies.

With this award, Microsoft has recognized the transformation the Softchoice team has undergone to enhance our capabilities and cover an end-to-end solution. Today we are not only equipped to help our customers select and manage the right Microsoft subscriptions for their needs but also tap into the advanced services capabilities of a global system integrator to ensure successful implementation and adoption of Microsoft technology.

We have 142 Microsoft-certified experts with 13 Gold competencies. We were also Canada’s first accredited Microsoft Azure Expert managed service provider (MSP), the highest accreditation available for the Azure cloud platform.

As a member of Microsoft’s exclusive global partner group, our team has deep connections to the Microsoft engineering team, allowing us to field some of the best-informed professionals in the industry to help customers implement and adopt Microsoft technology. This connectivity has also allowed us to continue to stay at the forefront of Microsoft product development and quickly deploy new features to help the organizations we work with to respond and adapt to new challenges.

This capability has been more important than ever in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business-as-usual for organizations everywhere. In response, some of the services we launched this year include enhanced Adoption Services for Microsoft 365 and Teams to increase end-user usage, the EMS Accelerator to expand mobile access and security, and the Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solutions to enable remote work in a short timeframe.

What makes the Softchoice team proudest about this award, however, is the validation of our view that successful digital transformation happens with people, not just technology. To this end, we maintain a focus on driving successful adoption that in turn leads to customer success.

Dedication to Customer Success in the Cloud

An essential part of our continued success in partnership with Microsoft stems from our dedication to technical excellence across the full spectrum of Microsoft solutions and services.

This advanced expertise has helped us guide organizations in their journey to adopt Azure infrastructure and services to differentiate their offerings and modernize the backend infrastructure their businesses run on.

For example, over the last year, Softchoice worked with an LED lighting solutions company in Canada to upgrade its enterprise resource planning (ERP). The underlying infrastructure was based on legacy Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, which would go end-of-life (EOL) in January 2020.

As a result of a workload assessment, the Softchoice team determined a migration to Azure would best meet the customer’s needs for superior, scalable infrastructure supporting its ERP systems.

Our deep bench strength in Azure helped Softchoice not only recommend and implement a suite of Azure services that would modernize its operations but also take advantage of extended security updates to protect its environment throughout the transition.

Today, the organization has a foundation on which to transform its core business and support growth on a global scale, supported 24/7/365 by certified Softchoice engineers.

Supporting Better Communication and Collaboration

Another essential aspect of our strong partnership with Microsoft is our focus on understanding customer challenges. As a rule, we aim to design solutions and services to drive adoption of new technology through robust planning, training, and management support to empower digital transformation.

This approach goes beyond just implementing Microsoft services to ensuring that the technology implemented meets the needs of users and that organizations get the most value from their investment by achieving full adoption.

We applied this approach this past year when working with a direct bank in Canada to replace its aging unified communications (UC) infrastructure with a new solution incorporating Skype for Business for voice and Microsoft Teams for collaboration.

The customer worked directly with a professional services architect from Softchoice to design a full implementation plan based on the organization’s unique user needs and profiles.  As a result, the organization was able to remove unnecessary software from their environment while maximizing their return on investment (ROI) by implementing tools and features that their users would adopt and use.

Meanwhile, because of the global health crisis, the rapid adoption of technologies for secure remote access and collaboration became mission-critical for our customers in 2020. In response, Softchoice developed and delivered a Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solution to provide 12 organizations with a stable and secure means to continue operating while keeping employees safe within a 3-month period.

One such organization was a Canadian university that needed a remote learning solution that would allow remote students to use applications requiring high compute power from any PC deployed as quickly as possible. The Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure solution allowed Softchoice to integrate virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) with the institution’s on-premise networks and existing Azure AD and Office 365 solutions.

The resulting implementation supported remote access to lab applications on any device or browser for 1,000 students while delivering superior performance over application streaming solutions.

Here’s to Many More Years!

We would once again like to thank Microsoft for this honor and we look forward to continuing to build on our partnership over the years to come.

With over 30 years of experience helping customers embrace technology to unleash their potential, Softchoice has continued to invest in our partnership as well as our people. Whether it’s adopting cloud services and infrastructure, onboarding new productivity and collaboration tools, or differentiating your business with modern applications, Softchoice is positioned to help you select, deploy and manage the right solutions to accelerate your digital transformation.

 

Explore the Microsoft partner page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a Pandemic is Driving Innovation

From grocery store clerks to physicians and nurses, COVID-19 made us keenly aware of the people on the front lines ensuring life would go on, and that we were kept safe. 

According to a series of new studies, businesses of all sizes are starting to look at the cloud as a new kind of essential service. With the shift to remote work and digital operations, innovation in the cloud has never been so critical.  

Cloud Adoption was Already Speeding Up Before COVID-19 

Numerous studies conducted just before the COVID-19 outbreak showed businesses were already expanding their journey to the cloud. A Softchoice survey of North American leaders found 66% of businesses intended to go cloud-first” on all new workloads. 

We also found that 37% of businesses were starting to look to cloud as an innovation engine, that is using cloud infrastructure to build new applications and services or unlock new insights from their data. At the same time, O’Reilly’s Cloud Adoption in 2020 study said almost half of all businesses planned to move 75% or more of their applications to the cloud by 2021. 

Along came the devastating global pandemic. Instead of seeing massive cuts to cloud budgets and initiatives, however, we saw IT leaders move to the cloud faster than before.  

 In one poll40% of respondents said COVID-19 was accelerating their move to the cloud. Meanwhile, 76% said the pandemic had led them to increase their spending on private and public cloud infrastructure services, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. 

 Why Cloud Innovation is Accelerating 

 All of this makes perfect sense when you consider what businesses are facing — and how the cloud can help them overcome it. Stay at home orders, social distancing and a radical shift in consumer behavior has forced businesses to rethink workplace experienceand go-to-market strategies almost overnight.  

“What you are going to see is an acceleration of more people going 100% to the cloud,” said Mary Treseler, O’Reilly’s vice president of content strategy in an interview with Tech Republic 

As businesses get back to (relative) normal, business and IT leaders are looking to the future with some uncertainty. They do not want to be caught off guard again, and they are looking to the cloud to shore up remote work and other business continuity capabilities.  

Don’t Take Our Word for It  

This pandemic-prompted innovation meshes with what we’ve learned through this year’s virtual Innovation Executive Forums. Two stories stand out from our recent event with senior IT leaders in Central Canada, showing just how fast innovation happening now. 

After COVID-19 shut down operations, an IEF member in the food retail industry worked with legal and finance teams to create a new curbside pickup and eCommerce application. The new app took just three weeks to launch. 

Another IEF member in the travel industry said his business lost almost 95% of its revenues in April and May. In response, the IT leader helped the business lay the groundwork to deliver more tailored, end-to-end travel experiences. He says IT has had to shift priorities and shorten delivery timelines to help the business survive 

In both of these stories, IT was forced to act quickly to keep the business alive and thriving. In each case, relying on cloud infrastructure, platforms and applications made a rapid response possible 

Speed Bumps Expected  

In our cloud adoption research, Softchoice found that security and compliance concerns were among the top hurdles keeping businesses from moving to the cloudBusiness leaders also struggled to recruit and retain the specialized talent needed to manage cloud infrastructure and control costs.  

Now that the pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption, don’t expect these challenges to disappear. In fact, because speed is now part of the equation, we expect these challenges to become even more important to navigate in the months ahead. To do that, finding the right partner – such as Softchoice – can make all the difference.  

 For more information on surviving and thriving in the COVID-19 era with cloud innovation, download our research brief, “Cloud: An Innovation Engine.”