What an unexpected crisis teaches us about the role and future of IT

By | 4 minute read | July 29, 2020

Our mission in the IBM Garage for Systems — to help organizations with their pressing IT challenges — gives us a rare window into the immediate needs clients are facing today. When the global pandemic hit, business and IT leaders were asking us a lot of questions: How do I ensure business continuity? How can I secure my IT with the increase of remote services? What will happen after the crisis, and how can we be prepared? What if this happens again? Do we have to work on a new IT model? What can we do better?

In the IBM Garage team in Montpellier, we’re used to leading with empathy and genuinely addressing our clients’ needs with technical expertise. It was always the case, but more than ever, we’re learning from each other, as many organizations are facing unprecedented challenges with supply chain resiliency and business continuity, cybersecurity and maintaining agility and flexibility in the face of the global pandemic and its effects. Here are some of the lessons we’re learning from recent discussions with clients across industries as they pivot to address a new reality.

Preparing for the unexpected

Pressures on business continuity have intensified this year. If you operate in an essential industry — such as healthcare or food supply — you’re facing unprecedented demand while striving to protect your workforce. And all sectors are grappling with the difficulties of keeping business running while transitioning to digital revenue streams. If COVID-19 is teaching us anything, it’s that unexpected crises can happen, and being prepared for unlikely events makes good business sense.

Companies must also be ready to adapt to changes in people’s behavior — both in the short and long term. In some ways, unexpected events can accelerate changes that were already in motion, and in others they can rewrite the rules completely. For example, the pandemic is fast-tracking the move to cashless payments. People are shopping online more, and the convenience may encourage them to continue to do so long after COVID. As a result, enabling continuity for digital services is critical for organizations.

Preparing for the unexpected also means having a reliable and automated security strategy. Unfortunately, cybercriminals take advantage during times of crisis to attack companies when they’re vulnerable. Consider the central administration for a hospital in Paris, which was targeted while it was dealing with emergencies. Building in security features at every layer of your infrastructure is essential.

Feeling the pinch

Businesses are likely to see their IT budgets come under greater scrutiny than before, with an emphasis on cost-cutting and efficiency. It’s important, though, to think of IT economics over the long term rather than just the upfront costs of a technology.

Business resilience includes processes, logistics, provisioning and people. Technology that’s able to hyper-consolidate workloads would allow you to save on data center resource consumption and footprint, both of which lead to cost savings. When thinking about the cost of your server technology, it’s important to consider consolidation, operability and reduced complexity. Is this server able to deliver large-scale Linux environments and operate millions of containers through an open, secured environment that can sustain hybrid multicloud architectures?

Many companies were already moving towards more automation, more control and more options for empowering system administrators to react to a problem. The pandemic will convince those who were delaying such a move to make resilience a higher priority. No two crises are identical, and the best plan is to have multiple alternatives to address multiple potential risk scenarios.

Looking to the future

One thing is for sure: IT will play a key role in shaping the world, just as it has for decades. AI is placing new demands on computing power, since it requires huge amounts of processing capacity to build and train models. Enter quantum, which is ideal for tackling multi-parameter problems. Quantum computing will likely contribute to overcoming some of the most pressing industry challenges in the future. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, quantum could enable chemical simulations that help with the discovery of new drugs, better predict protein structures and identify the risks of a disease or its spread. The resolution of optimization problems could help optimize the chains of distribution of drugs, and the use of AI could speed up diagnoses and help us analyze genetic data more precisely.

Data centers of the future will be equipped with binary, biologically inspired quantum accelerators. Like an orchestra conductor, hybrid cloud will make it possible for these systems to operate harmoniously thanks to a layer of security and intelligent automation.

The IT industry has been in a significant transformation driven by data, AI and cloud, and recent events have demonstrated how essential IT is to keeping businesses running today and designing architectures for tomorrow. The unexpected teaches us that by bringing our talents and technologies together, we can find a faster route to IT innovation and navigate toward the future.

In IBM Garage, we’re grateful to engage with clients and partners across a wide range of industries. We roll up our sleeves together to solve challenges by designing and delivering creative and timely solutions. Our mission gives us a window into what’s happening with IT across industries. We’d be pleased to help you innovate and elevate the value of your IT infrastructure.