A new IT leadership strategy for economically challenging times

By Pierre Fricke -

person using a tablet device that's displaying charts


The current economic downturn is unlike anything I’ve experienced — driven by a pandemic that’s causing a dramatically altered business and employment landscape. The last time there was a pandemic of this magnitude was in 1918-1919. And there hasn’t been such economic dislocation in the U.S. since the 1930s. This time, they’re combined.

While challenging, the opportunity to lead and prosper is still present. For example, in recent past downturns (1990-1991, 2001-2003, and 2007-2009), organizations had to adopt new skills, technologies and methodologies — sometimes just to stay afloat. As a result, they emerged with a higher level of performance and innovation and a renewed focus on execution and cost.


Challenges present opportunity. But we have a way to go.

I’ve heard people say that COVID-19 and the economy have caused 2025 to arrive five years earlier, as businesses have quickly pivoted to digital solutions, remote work and the cloud. While I’d agree, I’d also add that many businesses and governments still have a long way to go:

  • In the U.S., state unemployment systems couldn’t take the shock of the dramatically increased load. Some were even left scrambling to find COBOL programmers! Other agencies struggled to make the changes necessary to implement the $2 trillion COVID economic relief package.
  • Travel-related businesses were challenged to create new customer experiences overnight. And restaurants likewise had to quickly support curbside strategies, if not reinvent themselves altogether. Those who got it right have thrived, while others have been forced to close their doors.
  • It’s inexcusable that businesses still make you dial through four layers of phone menus or complex internet paths, just to get an answer or talk to someone — if you ever get that far. This is one area where data improvement and integration and AI processing could make a business really shine.
  • Many businesses have recently discovered they have too much IT on-premises, rather than in a cloud configuration. Or they have IT that’s idle or in standby as extra capacity, just in case. This creates inflexibility and makes it difficult to re-provision IT to serve different applications or new data sources.


It’s time to take the lead

What does a business need to do to lead in these times? Focus on the basics — and not only get them right but improve upon them. These three transformative goals are paramount to leading today:

  • Deliver superior customer experiences.
    The customer experience you deliver today could become the most critical factor in your survival. Customers will remember those companies that came through for them — and those that didn’t.
  • Become a cloud native enabled organization.
    The smartest organizations won’t simply seek to get through this period and return to whatever their version of normal was. The technology and operational changes they’ve implemented will shape a new future.
  • Align your culture, cloud strategy and business goals to become agile and resilient.
    As you develop your cloud strategy, it’s vital to keep your business goals at the center. But it’s just as important to consider your organization’s unique cultural characteristics — because without support from employees, your business cannot move forward.


Get started with some practical first steps

Achieving these goals takes work. But we’re seeing businesses that are well on their way because they’ve taken several key actions:

  • Shift your thinking toward cloud native.
    Being cloud native doesn’t mean you need to be fully migrated to the public cloud. It’s more about a mindset shift, away from “cloud as my data center” and toward “cloud as my business differentiator.” It’s the best way to enable rapid change, scale and resilience.
  • Power exceptional customer experiences with data and cloud applications.
    All businesses experience process bottlenecks and error-prone choke points. These bear assessing to understand why and how IT in general and, more specifically, integration of applications and data across your value chain, might alleviate these pain points.
  • Secure your environments.
    With the sudden rush to the cloud in response to COVID-19, many businesses have lost focus on security best practices. But you can’t afford to be passive. Take an active approach to securing your digital presence.  
  • Don’t give up.
    To make the most of your technology investments and avoid waste, take advantage of new multicloud technologies, innovation and methodologies, so you can stay in the lead. Choose solutions that empower your business units to operate and innovate on their terms — while providing IT with increased agility, flexibility and capability and optimized cost savings.


Aramex: A success story

Let’s take a look at Aramex, a leading global provider of logistics and transportation solutions in the United Arab Emirates. Being nimble is always key in this business, but never as much as now. Aramex was facing market disruption from new players who were taking an agile, cloud native approach to business. The turmoil driven by the pandemic and economy only accelerated these pressure points.

Aramex responded with a large enterprise digital transformation program. Its goal was to move its entire technology infrastructure and applications from on-premises data centers to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to increase agility, security and speed of innovation. Some key parts to this transformation included:

  • Remote working practices
  • Cloud native strategies to drive agility and accelerate innovation
  • Optimized economics focusing investments that would differentiate the business

Aramex brought in Rackspace Technology to accelerate this transformation, reduce risk and supplement its team. Through our broad range of advisory, implementation and managed services, we were able to migrate Aramex’s infrastructure, modernize its applications and help it become a cloud native enabled organization.

As a result, Aramex has already seen 30%-40% growth in its ecommerce volumes during the COVID-19 pandemic and was easily able to accommodate such growth. Aramex continues to work with Rackspace Technology to maximize the full value of being a cloud native enabled organization, delivering new applications and innovation that drive its business forward.


Get expert guidance along the way

You can make the most of these challenging times by making a real difference for your customers. This, in turn, can set your business on track for even greater success. No matter where you are on your cloud journey, our experts are here to help you achieve your goals. Let us put our expertise to work for you.


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