Prior to the pandemic, some organizations were rapidly accelerating their transformation goals, while others took a more cautious approach. However, a new study by IDG, in partnership with SAP, shows that COVID-19 significantly shifted many CIO and CTO strategies — with the effects continuing to be felt today.

The “COVID-19 Response MarketPulse Research” survey by IDG polled nearly 150 leading CIOs and CTOs from small and large organizations on their response to the pandemic and its effects, including the influx in remote workers and the perceived rise in the importance of digital technologies. Participants came from a variety of industries, including financial services, retail, information technology, and manufacturing, production, and distribution.

When diving deeper into the data, some clear patterns emerge.

How CIOs and CTOs Responded to COVID-19

Before COVID-19, IDG found that most organizations were already steadily advancing toward their digital transformation goals in some way. This positioned them to quickly adapt to pandemic disruptions, skillfully blending short-term fixes with their long-term objectives.

IDG’s research showed 76% of enterprises did this by migrating their on-premise infrastructure to the cloud. Seventy-four percent invested in new digital services and solutions, while 61% embraced co-location services. Small organizations were far more likely to migrate to a co-location provider, by a ratio of 73% to 42%.

This shows that cloud operating models enabling rapid business change and scale are as critical as ever.

Biggest Hurdles: Inflexible Infrastructure and Lack of Proper IT Capabilities

There were challenges, of course, as companies struggled to garner sufficient IT resources to scale their work-from-home operations and battled inflexible technology infrastructure.

In its research, IDG explained that strong digital services partners could greatly aid organizations in hurdling these barriers and instituting effective project and implementation management.

Earlier this year, SAP announced a new business-transformation-as-a-service offering — called RISE with SAP — designed to help address some of these challenges and provide a simplified path to the Intelligent Enterprise. The offering includes pragmatic and straightforward steps that can be implemented with relative ease, through one offer, one contract and an attractive TCO, with both SAP S/4HANA Cloud and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition.

Key Considerations for Technology Leaders Moving Forward

The changes of the last year are expected to be long lasting. In addition to common challenges reported, several other themes surfaced during the study:

  • Organizations typically built new IT capabilities by migrating on-premise resources to a mix of cloud or colocation providers, investing in new digital services, and outsourcing skills and capabilities. However, many view these fixes as short-term solutions that will be reevaluated soon.
  • During COVID-19, the importance of digital security and employee experience dramatically increased. However, profitability and efficiency have also become much more important now that many organizations have adapted.
  • The biggest areas of investment included data analytics to drive digital business objectives, customer experience technology, and innovations that helped accelerate the move to the cloud.
  • Interestingly, investments in these technologies were typically not impacted by COVID-19, either positively or negatively, indicating that they are likely embedded in the digital road map.
  • Most enterprises look like they will take their foot off the digital transformation accelerator post-COVID-19, perhaps to take stock of the changes and realign their IT strategy. However, IT investment will still increase for most.

COVID-19 may not have entirely changed the transformation priorities of modern enterprises, but it did prove that they are not going away anytime soon. And if the IDG study shows us anything, it’s that digital services partners like SAP must be prepared to facilitate transformation efforts for all kinds of companies — big and small, pandemic or not.

Lloyd Adams is senior vice president and managing director of the East Region for SAP North America.