Planning for 2021 is underway, and CIOs are facing unprecedented levels of complexity and uncertainty. The world is changing rapidly, and remaining agile and flexible has never been more important. As always, CIOs must continue to do whatever it takes to keep the lights on, while at the same time fulfilling new demands to act as strategic business consultants to senior executives and board members, all while dealing with growing pressure for digital transformation. For 2021 and beyond, they must pursue all these initiatives in a business world that has been turned upside down by a pandemic.
Most significantly, a large percentage of employees are working remotely, and IT organizations are forced to offer remote support as a result. The sudden and unanticipated move to a dispersed workforce has compelled IT organizations to come up with quick solutions for problems that rattled their initial 2020 plans.
A key part of planning for the next year will require IT leaders to take a step back and assess the processes that were implemented in response to the pandemic this year. How well do these changes support strategic corporate goals? Are there more efficient and cost-effective ways to get things done? Do some of the changes open the door for more rapid digital transformation? How can we better position ourselves to react to the unexpected in the future? These are complex questions involving people, processes and technology that are interconnected in ways that aren’t always obvious.
Gaining Clarity in Complexity
The first step in any planning process is to synthesize and make sense of complexity. Doing so allows planners to think beyond high-level goals and focus on real action. Visual aids – diagrams, flow charts, graphs, etc. – make it easier to understand dependencies, uncover bottlenecks, spot potential security vulnerabilities, think of new ideas or creative solutions to mission-critical issues, and in general see how the many moving pieces of an enterprise architecture fit together to drive desired outcomes.
When the workforce is dispersed, it can be difficult to understand scrum team structures, plot interactions between teams and determine how best to manage remote workers. Visuals can help leaders get a clear picture of these relationships and create effective management strategies. Visuals ultimately lead to better planning and processes. They make businesses more agile despite inherent business complexity, so it’s easier to adapt to pandemic-driven crises without taking huge blows to the business.
Visuals also help IT leaders and employees communicate the complexity of IT systems, needs, and decisions to senior management and board members. Whether the focus is security, application adoption, agility, cost-effectiveness, or any other issue that requires buy-in on plans and budgets, visuals help deliver a high-level overview to non-technical stakeholders without compromising essential technical details. This is a good example of how the power of visuals increases dramatically when they can be shared.
Creating the Future with Visual Collaboration
Gaining clarity about the current state of any process or system is an essential part of the end-to-end planning process. Visual collaboration actually makes it possible to plan, envision, and gather feedback on every idea, deliverable, dependency, and handoff.
Previously, teams took to traditional whiteboards and vast quantities of sticky notes to brainstorm and collaborate on project plans, but not anymore. The introduction of virtual whiteboard capabilities enables IT organizations to unite their brightest minds for brainstorming, ideation and collaboration in real time, no matter where teams are located. These whiteboards enable active participation by everyone, including individuals who need to work asynchronously.
The best solutions in the visual collaboration category are not designed to operate as standalone applications. It’s important that they integrate with other collaboration products, so they can deliver unique and uninterrupted clarity across applications that have already been accepted within the enterprise and are part of existing workflows.
The New Reality: Be Nimble and Plan for Change
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that plans and processes need to be agile. They will almost certainly require modifications, and companies will need to implement those modifications quickly and without interrupting service or slowing down delivery. A virtual whiteboard can serve as an “anchor” so that everyone can gather quickly when changes are needed to brainstorm the best path forward at a moment’s notice. No matter what the world throws at us, interactive ideation, visual artifacts, and real-time collaboration keep teams aligned from initial idea through successful implementation, and everything in between.
The pandemic has been—and continues to be—a profound learning experience, with effects that reach into every corner of the enterprise. Corporate goals may or may not have changed, but the means of achieving them certainly has. The architecture to support remote teams was put in place on an emergency basis, and may need to be reconfigured for maximum efficiency. Digital transformation remains a priority, and agility is more important than ever when rapid, unpredictable change has become the rule.
These are daunting challenges, but they’re not insurmountable. When teams bring visuals and collaboration together, they can identify where to go and exactly how to get there.
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