How Embracing Change in Unpredictable Times is Allowing One Company to Align IT Strategies with Business Priorities
The COVID-19 pandemic has created new problems that demand new solutions in nearly every aspect of business operations. Despite this reality, too many companies are still clinging to old plans that were designed for a different world.
As someone who has spent his professional life leveraging technology to transform companies, I’m proud that my company, Novolex, is reacting to the world as it is, rather than as it wishes it to be. I came to Novolex, a fast-growing paper and plastics packaging and foodservice products manufacturer, to put in place operations that could scale with expansion and implement new technologies across the breadth of Novolex’s brands, facilities, and functions. But when the pandemic hit, we – like many others –had to change course to reflect new priorities and realities, both for our business and our customers. Change is never easy, but we chose to leverage our new reality as a pivot point for Novolex’s way of doing things – a choice that is already proving to have been the right one. I encourage all business leaders to do the same, evaluating whether their current solutions – IT or otherwise –fit their problems, and identifying the best path forward during and after the pandemic.
Change is never easy, but we chose to leverage our new reality as a pivot point for Novolex’s way of doing things – a choice that is already proving to have been the right one
No one knows what our economic and public health future holds. But when it comes to digital transformation, we can and should take what we’ve learned over the past few months and apply it to the future. As Novolex has worked its way through this crisis, I’ve come to learn three lessons.
Lesson 1: COVID-19 offers an opportunity to adapt IT strategies to evolving business priorities.
It’s impossible to separate business strategy from IT strategy because the IT approach must follow the business environment and consumer needs. Novolex has closely followed purchasing trends during the pandemic from the brand level at the top down to individual consumers to understand not just how our customers’ needs are evolving, but also how our IT systems can support necessary change. One result of this attentiveness and flexibility was that Novolex was able to retool equipment to produce Personal Protective Equipment and help frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19.
The pandemic has compelled our leadership to have tough conversations about our business objectives and priority, driving changes to our IT strategy as well. Like many others, our early IT responses focused on how we could facilitate a remote workforce. Now, we are intent on re-imagining our IT initiatives so that they create new advantages for our business while also being implemented safely. These are not conversations that we would have had in a pre-pandemic world, and there is reason to hope that by having them now, Novolex can position itself to emerge from the pandemic as a stronger, more efficient company.
Lesson 2: COVID-19 risks go beyond personal health and have to be accounted for the IT solutions of tomorrow.
In addition to reassessing and rethinking business and IT strategies, companies also need to conduct new risk assessments in light of the pandemic. At Novolex, we had to take a hard look at our largest investments and ask if the risks of those plans now outweighed the anticipated benefits. We also had to think about the new risks that our customers are facing and determine if we were still well-positioned to help mitigate those concerns. After concluding that change was necessary, we had to think creatively, asking ourselves if there were ways to accomplish some of the same goals, along with some new ones, with smaller, less extensive programs. Equally important, we always have to ensure that changes will be driven through all aspects of the organization; as integral as technological progression is to change management, the people and processes must also be brought along for the ride.
Lesson 3: There is courage in walking away.
It’s hard to admit that a plan that you and your colleagues have poured your hearts into over months and years just isn’t the right fit for your company anymore. But there’s real wisdom in being able to see this, and there’s courage in making the decision to change course. For the long-term viability of the company, sometimes the best choice is to try something new. That was true before the pandemic, but it’s especially true today. I’m proud of our leadership at Novolex and excited for the new course we’re charting.
I’ve been lucky to have worked across industries – telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, industrial manufacturing, retail – and for companies of every size. Throughout those experiences, I’ve always sought to apply what I learned along the way to different problems and contexts. Today’s situation, though larger in scope, requires the same spirit. The most significant challenges have always driven the greatest opportunity and innovation. I encourage all business, and IT leaders to remember this as they reevaluate and reset their companies’ technological directions.