2020 started with all kinds of hope, both personally and professionally. Budgets were set for a new year with the expectation of growth. Personally, my family had a lot of new events – my kids moving (the last one starting college), and my wife and I figuring out how to live as empty nesters.
Last year started with a lot of promise, and in my opinion, ended with a lot of growth and opportunity. I didn't hate 2020. Here’s why.
Through the stay-at-home orders and changes in our lives, I found the opportunity to read and learn again.
The hustle of life in 2019 made me feel like reading was something I did before bed. I read books for fun because that helped me ease into a more relaxed routine. Through slowing down in 2020, I found that I love to read articles and blogs. I enjoyed finding snippets of information that were helpful and trying to figure out more about them. I still love books but articles and blogs became part of my day-to-day and gave me periods of time to quickly find new topics to review.
I also found the time to learn new skills and focus on the certifications that were beneficial to me. I was able to take time and renew a passion for learning that had been stifled by hectic work and life schedules. I realized that putting time aside to study invigorated and challenged me. I had forgotten the challenge of taking a test and the accomplishment of passing.
My youngest son missed his final baseball season, his prom, his graduation, and a lot of activities that are part of your senior year in high school. I watched him accept what had happened and figure out how to be happy. I saw him take in news, process it, and choose a response that made him content. I saw the capability he had to accept, move on, and enjoy whatever the next step was. The maturity in that made me proud.
My wife and I also saw a time to change old habits. Gone were the days of eating fast food as we rushed from sporting event to sporting event. We now found time to walk, enjoy the park system in Toledo, and become more focused on what we could do together versus where we needed to be next.
Our best friends also became part of our family. Not through marriage, but because we decided to quarantine together. We could get together and enjoy time, sometimes sitting outside and sometimes sitting in the garage. They became part of our quarantine team. These times were invaluable.
I watched the pandemic unfold as we moved work home. I had just accepted my new job at Stratascale as the work-from-home orders became a reality. I felt pride that my efforts for my previous employer to introduce digital agility with cloud, automation, and security allowed them to keep thousands of people home without a lot of stress. They were prepared for what was coming at them and they had the capability to respond no matter what. I now fully understand that digital agility is less about being prepared for anything, and more about being able to respond to changing conditions quickly. You can never plan for everything, but you can build an environment that allows you to respond to everything.
With a digital agility mindset, we need to develop teams to respond differently than in the past. Previously, teams were hierarchical and built around a structure that required leadership. Now, employees rally around defined objectives and metrics, and leadership is encouraged to come from within. At the end of the day, high-performing teams have a job to do, and they need to form and reform around changing conditions.
Good culture grows on trust, not a feeling that HR needs to monitor everyone. Through the pandemic and the shift to a hybrid workforce, companies are finding that they can trust the people they hired to work from home effectively and previous misgivings around reduced efficiency are no longer a huge concern.
Prior to 2020, we were all working hard on projects, and in many cases, we didn't move as quickly as we could. We were supporting aged, legacy technologies while trying to enhance a business plan that required faster responses and agility. We have learned that removing the technical debt helps us become more digitally agile. Just keeping the lights on is no longer a component of the IT budget. We can use the money to remove legacy environments and prepare for the capabilities that a new digital agility landscape brings.
IT has also supported the reconceptualization of the business. This is true from small, local businesses to the enterprise. A year ago, we enjoyed going out to our favorite restaurant or seeing a movie on the big screen. Now, IT enables us to order online from our favorite local place and watch a new release streamed on our TV.
Education systems changed overnight to support students in a safer environment. We saw vaccines developed in record time. Business changed overnight and we now know what is plausible.
I hate the term "new normal." Our expectations have changed, and normal now means adapting as quickly as possible.
The digital experience has taken center stage. As we move into 2021, we will have to deliver a great experience to users while maintaining the agility to shift in response to environmental challenges.
There is not a “new normal.” The standard now revolves around how fast we can adapt. That can be exciting when you are prepared.
Jason Hood has almost 30 years of experience running cloud, infrastructure (server, storage, and network), desktop, service desk, security, HPC, and data teams for both Fortune 500 and private equity-funded companies. Most recently, he has focused on the operations side of large data centers, IT modernization, and cloud migrations.