I don’t know if it’s just me, but this year has sped by. It seems like yesterday that we returned from holiday in January, refreshed and reset. Being back in the office was a novelty and there was actual excitement at the prospect of having face-to-face meetings, catchups over coffee and the odd lunch (if you could find somewhere open). Even seeing colleagues face-to-face was a positive development and seeing them in person made a change from viewing them on a screen. It was however, noticeable that it took some people a lot longer to appear following the COVID hibernation and normality didn’t seem to return until the later part of the year.
So, with the new year only weeks away, what’s ahead in 2023?
Responding to the new economic realities
The economic forecast and outlook for 2023 is for recession or limited growth. Inflation and the increasing OCR is putting significant financial pressure on all borrowers. This, combined with the Reserve Bank actively encouraging reductions in spending will see a slower 2023. Somewhat counter-intuitively however, some businesses see more positive results and opportunity in more challenging economic conditions. This has certainly been the case for Lexel over the years as many organisations use the ‘down’ time to improve and modernise.
The newer models of cloud and as-a-Service consumption are challenged by less-favourable business conditions. In the old world, budget savings could be made by delaying, deferring or scaling back capital projects. The new, per-user consumption world means Opex reduction for many services simply may not be possible. 2023 will likely see a renewed focus on improving the return and value on any operational expenditure and evaluating projects, capital investment, consumption models or initiatives that can deliver operational savings.
Regardless, organisations need to ensure that any delay or deferment of investment doesn’t create longer-term technology debt, that could be far more complex and expensive to resolve at a later date. Increasing vulnerabilities of older solutions may also increase the risk of delay. How do you keep pace with the business requirements in terms of technology, capacity and security, while at the same time matching your spending to the economic realities? Lexel’s experienced account team can help facilitate those discussions.
Working from anywhere
The last few years have clearly entrenched partial or fully working from home and workplace flexibility is now a given for many organisations. It is also a top priority and often not-negotiable for many job applicants. At the same time, organisations need to balance employee flexibility and expectations with the benefits and imperative of nurturing team culture, creating a sense of belonging and identity, and utilising collaboration by having people in the office together. Most employers will now have a relatively good view of overall productivity of the new normal, so 2023 will be an interesting year as employers look to make changes to achieve the right balance. This may create tension with some employment relationships.
Many of the solutions implemented at lockdown speed in 2020 reach their 3-year anniversary next year. This is the time to review whether you need to modernise or update what was implemented. While the initial focus was on facilitating employee access to systems, now is the time to focus on collaboration and remote teams working together more efficiently and productively. In particular, how you can better utilise the Microsoft tools and technology that you may already be paying for. The work from anywhere experience is now a ubiquitous service level expectation, so seamless connectivity is paramount regardless of the person, device, time or location. It may also be time to review your connectivity, network and/or Wi-Fi solutions.
Resource shortages were also a major factor in 2022 and this will again be prevalent in 2023. In 2021/22 the constrained talent market ignited a wage spiral and businesses struggled to retain and attract talent. The premium paid resulted in price increases and further fuelling of the inflationary fire. Whilst this appears to have eased off towards the end of this year, the lag between immigration changes and actual impact on the ground means that we are all still competing for a reduced talent pool. My discussions with our RaaS business indicate it is still a candidates’ market albeit with a reducing number of roles. Our RaaS team can assist with all your recruitment requirements across both contract and permanent roles.
As technology becomes more complex, requiring expensive specialist resources that cannot be sourced from the market, outcome-based managed services should be a consideration. Rather than looking to employ staff that can’t be found, with skills and capability that don’t match requirements, organisations should consider consuming these services from expert companies who have the scale, capability and best practise processes to deliver. Where this used to be an opportunity for very small organisations to totally outsource IT, outcome-based managed services are now a compelling discussion for larger organisations. These may still want to retain some IT leadership, control of IT strategy or strategic systems but are keen to out-task user support and keeping the lights on while leveraging experts to keep ahead of the increasing security requirements.
While we were all keen to put COVID in the rear vision mirror this year, illness during the winter challenged most businesses. Significant numbers of the workforce were forced to stay at home after testing positive or having to isolate with other family members. This, combined with resource constraints, challenged most organisations to continue to deliver or deliver to required service levels. This highlights the requirement for even stronger BCP planning and to plan beyond just disaster-based scenarios and include work around succession planning, improving staff cross-pollination, training and process documentation, so that critical tasks, work or knowledge are not isolated with a single person. While not currently included in many BCP plans, the prospect of large numbers of staff unable to work at one time should now be factored in.
The cloud addresses a number of issues while at the same time creating others. This is particularly evident when looking at the retention of organisational data and IP when distributed across remote devices or in the cloud. Many organisations may be at risk of losing data or being unable to return to a specific point. There may also be Privacy issues should customer, stakeholder, patient, student or employee data reside on a device that is lost, stolen or misplaced. Solutions encompass policy, security, backup and document management and a holistic view of the data, the location, privacy requirements and the return to service requirements is required.
The bad guys just don’t stand still. Cyber-attacks and breaches continue to accelerate in volume and sophistication, increasing the risks to business and prioritising investment on security. We will again see more focus and investment in security in 2023. The ability to document and measure your current security settings and compare this to a desired state will be required. This will also require discussion on how best to communicate with the rest of the business, including leadership and governance, the requirements, standards and investment required. Lexel’s security posture framework enables those discussions and delivers a standards-based measurement of security along with a roadmap of how to improve.
Data and BI
Data analytics and BI remain significant opportunities as organisations seek to gain real-time access to information and insights. However, as data and information volumes explode, this can become challenging. Is it time to review your data and SQL in particular? We have seen significant customer success from our SQL team with minor investments in time, delivering significant benefits and reductions in information processing. Following a health-check and a few minor adjustments from our SQL team, customers report reductions in time to access information from days to hours and hours to minutes.
Focus on sustainability
Sustainability has become a huge focus for this industry, with most vendors actively producing more sustainable products, supply chain and packaging. In addition, recycling and a focus on lifecycle management should provide opportunities to reduce environmental impact.
These trends create a challenging but exciting outlook for 2023. After the last few years of reactively responding to factors outside our control, 2023 becomes the year to reset and to proactively consider the evolution of your business models and how you might reinvent your engagement with employees, stakeholders and customers. We would love the opportunity to discuss this with you and look forward to engaging in the new year.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
General Manager Technology Solutions Group, Lexel