It’s easy for businesses to go into survival mode right now. Supply chains are reeling from inflationary and workforce pressures; consumer demand is bracing itself for the full impacts of the cost of living crisis; and climate change is no longer something happening elsewhere, all while the machinations of geopolitics are spooking markets on an almost daily basis. We live in uncertain and unpredictable times.
Business leaders may be tempted to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. Pause any growth ambitions and protect what you have, until times are better. Certainly, it’s understandable to view major investments as more risky now. But business is all about making constant progress against the competition. Stopping sends you backwards on a trajectory you may never recover from.
There is a middle way, where you don’t need to spend your way out of danger, nor stop. By looking at what you have, you may find you have what you need.
If you want a recent lesson in how to do this, then take a look at schools. When COVID-19 hit and schools were forced to shut, education didn’t stop. Schools looked at what they had; laptops, communication software, a community of willing parents. Almost overnight, mass homeschooling was born.
Maximizing the value of what you have begins by knowing what you possess.
Start with an audit of your technology and software. In good times, we don’t always ask the most of our tech. We buy it and deploy it to do a job, while its other capabilities sit spare. Now is the time to fully optimize what you have already paid for.
If you purchase IT on subscription, perhaps as a cloud service, do you know what other capabilities that comes with? Technical support, security updates, business consultancy, education and training, networking, analytics and input into a vendor’s product roadmap could—should—be some of the features of your subscription.
Too easily these can be viewed as decorative add-ons and forgotten about. Yet leveraging them could provide the answers to optimizing your tech stack and running your IT more cost-efficiently. An IDC report into the value of our own subscriptions demonstrates the value of unlocking your full investment: businesses with a Red Hat subscription lowered their three-year cost of operations by 35%, reported that their IT infrastructure teams were more efficient by 38% and that development teams were 21% more productive.
Next, look at your people. Businesses can become too obsessed with job titles. They only tell you part of the story—what a person is doing, not what they could do. Auditing for skills is a more valuable exercise than discarding roles. In my experience, it always unearths talent you didn’t know you had, and who can be redeployed to roles that have become more important.
Then there’s your ecosystem. Maybe you don’t even realize you’re part of one. But stop to think of all the businesses you touch: your customers, suppliers, agencies, technology partners. Odds are they are feeling the same pressures as you. Leverage these relationships. By reaching out and asking how you can help, you invite help in return. The prize could be more favorable contract terms, an input into product development, or simply another pair of eyes on the challenges you face. Amazing things happen when you collaborate.
All this is made easier when you are running open source technology in an open culture organization. An open source stack is malleable, affording the ability to pivot sharply between different infrastructure environments and explore new integrations between interoperable software. While in an open culture, change and collaboration are "business-as-usual" values. Communities are not some ethereal concept, but highly organized ecosystems with defined processes for engagement.
Compare this to a business built with rigid, proprietary technology whose first instincts are for secrecy, and where change is subject to decisions coming from the top. One model is like turning round an oil tanker in a storm, the other is like a swimmer changing direction in a calm sea.
Those businesses that invested in open source technology and the culture that goes with it were better prepared for the tough times we have just faced—92% of IT leaders feel that enterprise open source solutions were important to addressing their COVID-related challenges.
The challenges businesses are facing are multiple and complex. It was not so long ago that businesses were faced with the most serious global financial meltdown since the Great Depression. More recently COVID-19 came from nowhere to completely rearrange life as we know it. Add in "local" shocks—governments falling, currencies crashing, floods and wildfires raging—and the lesson is to always expect the unexpected, so prepare and build now for the agility you will inevitably need.