Scalability in the spotlight in today’s new world

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to shift the way we live, work and play.

Scalability in the spotlight in today’s new world

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to shift the way we live, work and play, which has meant businesses serving consumers have, in turn, had to either scale up, scale down or pivot their operations to cope in the ‘new normal’. However, according to research from workplace consultancy Leesman, the UK was one of the least prepared countries to deal with a mass home-working strategy.

Some businesses had already embraced workplace flexibility in some capacity. But few businesses anticipated their entire workforce would be required to shift to a home working environment, meaning it has proven more difficult for some business functions to make this transition. For example, how do you maintain a strong customer service function when having to shut down a call centre? How does a mobile sales team switch to selling from behind a computer screen? How do you maintain ‘ and optimise ‘ the supply chain amid constant change and disruption? 

This experience has taught us a lot about the importance of having systems and processes that are resilient, flexible, and scalable across every area of the business. Now, there are some key considerations and learnings businesses should be taking into account to enable operational scalability in a post-Covid-19 world to cope with everyday business operations and future unexpected events.

The constant need for flexibility, not just for a day

A scalable organisation is one that is able to increase and/or reduce its performance, resources and functionalities according to the business’ or a users’ needs. But when it comes to IT infrastructure, many teams are guilty of only preparing for scalability in line with predictable business or seasonal fluctuations, like Black Friday in retail. Yet it’s not only one-off events throughout the year like this that organisations need to be consider – think entering new geographical markets, launches new products and services, or acquisitions.

When big business decisions like this are made, IT shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be another obstacle to overcome. Scalable IT infrastructure can be the key to ensuring that instead of taking months, the IT resources needed to cope with a change in the business can be built in a matter of hours or days.

This capability can also better equip businesses to anticipate and support changes in both customer and employee behaviours. Given that seasonality is a fact of life, particularly for retailers, businesses need to be able to respond to peaks and troughs in customer behaviour and turn them into an opportunity for success, rather than one for failure.

Elasticity is another important feature in any IT infrastructure that adopts cloud, and it differs slightly from scalability which is a longer-term concept. For example, if a larger number of employees than usual unexpectedly use cloud applications or access stored data files at the same time, the cloud platform should have an elastic nature that allows it to accommodate this change in user behaviour without issue.

Flexing your IT backbone

Cloud native technology is key in enabling companies to be more scalable as different events arise. To achieve this goal, businesses should consider a migration from their private on-premise or cloud environments to the public cloud.

Public cloud is able to offer more scalability, flexibility and availability than most private environments, allowing it to adapt to changing business needs. This may be scaling for global growth, adapting to an expanding customer base, or reducing performance in response to market fluctuations that have more negative implications, as many companies have had to during the pandemic.

But, as it’s been said before and we’ll say it again, one size does not fit all. Organisations reap the greatest advantages of public cloud when adopted in a multi-cloud model that offers the flexibility to move applications to the best performing environment and optimise costs. This is critical given Gartner reports that 70% of businesses are overspending on cloud.

Building muscle memory for change

While we continue to adjust to the new situation and way of life, businesses need to focus on building resilience, flexibility, and scalability that allows them to adapt quickly in line with the changing demands of both their internal and external stakeholders. In turn, by building the infrastructure and muscle memory for change, we’ll be prepared for future unexpected events.  

Martin Blackburn
Martin Blackburn

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