By Martin Marchetti, Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP & Greg Ruebusch, Senior Manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP
With the onset of COVID-19, technology and business leaders have been faced with unforeseen operational, technical, and workforce challenges that have negatively impacted their ability to provide the same level of HR application support and employee experience. The scale to which organizations were forced to shift operations to fully virtual models was unprecedented—having to mandate work-from-home (WFH) policies in some cases literally overnight.
These workplace shifts have placed enormous pressures on the teams responsible for running and maintaining the critical technologies organizations rely on to effectively manage their workforce during this pandemic. Having a well-defined support structure across people, process, and technology is critical. During a pandemic, it is imperative to have the right operational support model—and backup plan—in place as business continuity is key to successfully navigating the unchartered waters ahead.
Deloitte’s sensing of the market tells us that, while most teams have experienced mild pain acclimating to virtual-support delivery, some teams have experienced significant operational breakdowns.
Regardless of where companies are in their recovery life cycle to COVID-19, many HR and IT organizations are now realizing that the shift to virtual is here to stay.
To successfully adapt and thrive in this new virtual world, organizations will have to revisit the basics. Below we focus on organization and people, and how to maintain cloud technology in today’s virtual world.
Step 1: Bring HR and IT together virtually. In a pre-COVID-19 world, connecting the right teams was already a challenge. Another layer of complexity is added when trying to bring teams together virtually. As cloud technology evolves and organizations react to external events, such as COVID-19, it can be a catalyst for HR and IT to work together again. Organizations should capitalize on this renewed partnership and collaborate to design an operating support model that will support the virtualized workforce. Neither HR nor IT should be doing this alone—both groups contain the critical connections, knowledge, and experience necessary to tackle these targets. High-performing organizations focus their collaboration with the rest of the business while keeping the internal teams manageable. Keeping the HR and IT teams small and empowered should enable them to work together to gather critical information and stakeholders, and to design and govern the plan to achieve promise, impact, and value from both technology and people. Starting this conversation, to fully comprehend the journey ahead, is a fundamental step for organizations to be able to understand and build the right teams to provide efficient and effective support of their systems.
Step 2: Understand the journey. Shifting to a virtual or semi-virtual workforce, while providing support to cloud technologies, requires organizations to change how they have supported HR applications. Although there are misconceptions that moving to cloud will eliminate the need for a support team, that is not the case. Roles and responsibilities will need to evolve to virtually support and manage the processes of the cloud-based application. The true value of the system is realized with constant innovation consumption. New releases, for example, continue to roll out, and organizations are responsible for being prepared to assess impacts and adopt new functionality. Organizations may not have the skills to support this, and they will need to identify current employees to train or seek external support services. It can be a challenge for organizations to keep up with the pace of the evolving technology, and if the right team is not in place it is easy to miss opportunities and fall behind before the next release comes out. How support is delivered will require a new strategy as well, with many teams and roles that will need to be virtualized to effectively support the application and, more importantly, the business. As organizations build out their operating model, the virtualization of work is a key aspect to consider.
 Chris Havrilla and Erin Spencer, Four Top Findings Make the Case for HR Technology Strategy, HC Research & Sensing, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2020.
Step 3: Looking into the corporate mirror. Understanding organizational readiness to handle the new virtual world, brought on by COVID-19, is essential to supporting all technology. Honestly assessing the HR and IT organization across people, process, and technology is key to establishing a solid foundation for the new operating support model. This reflection can be helpful in identifying where organizations are strong and have the right talent, and where they may need help in sustaining their cloud technology. As organizations asses their current capabilities, they need to work together to define what success looks like to ensure that the team is built to support, meet, and surpass those goals.
Step 4: Size and strategize the service delivery team. Having the right support team in place is the final step in activating the cloud support strategy. Organizations will need to define what their virtual delivery team needs to be, accounting for functional and technical scope, demographics, solution complexity, and geographies. Understanding the team’s roles and responsibilities required to support the application landscape, virtually, is a key element. Lastly, organizations will need to decide which sourcing approach—in-house model, hybrid vendor model, or fully managed model—will work best for them in the new virtual world.
Preparing for unforeseen challenges, such as COVID-19, is something successful organizations have integrated into their ongoing strategies. Establishing an approach to sustain technology and support business operations helps to position organizations to run effectively and recognize the benefits of moving to the cloud. This not only prepares organizations for the expected, but also—and more importantly—positions leaders for the unexpected. Whether an organization can adapt and thrive while facing uncertainty is proving to be a determining factor of longstanding success.