Tear up the rulebook to build a digital new norm

The coronavirus pandemic has become a catalyst, accelerating radical change to how organisations operate. The economic recovery from the lockdown is forcing some to push through changes that they previously would have considered impossible.

For instance, the Rail Delivery Group, is starting a journey to disrupt systems and working practices that were engineered a quarter of a century ago, some of which are still based on 50 years of best practices on how to run railway networks.

While people were told to work from home when the “R” value was greater than one, the government wants the economy to start moving again, and that means encouraging people back to their place of work. People need to feel safe not just in their workplace, but also in their daily commute. And this is more than mandating everyone on public transport wear face masks.

Rethink half a century of best practices

Speaking at the recent MuleSoft Digital conference, Simon Moorhead, CIO of the Rail Delivery Group described how  the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the move to paperless railcards.  “We need not be bound by some of the constraints that we thought were immovable. I have been tremendously impressed by my team and supply network and the train operators,” he said. For an industry that engineers for the long-term, Moorhead said that everyone is now working together using new methods of communications.

For Moorhead, there is now a golden opportunity to unpick 25 years of complexity that has probably grown over the previous 50 years, to define new services that do not look like the ones they replace. Such services can be designed for a digital world, to remove friction from customer experience.

For the rail industry in the UK, the pandemic is forcing through a change to digital ticketing and more joined up train timetable data, to enable passengers to understand how to get to their destination with the least disruption. Such changes are essential to build confidence in the railways and help people to feel that they can get to and from their home and travel destination with minimal contact with station staff and avoid queues at ticketing machines. Joined up data may even help to lower rush hour peaks.

Many people believe that businesses are unlikely ever to return to how they operated prior to the pandemic. Not only should CIOs assess the digital initiatives that can get their organisations moving again, they should also take a hard look at the inner workings of the IT department. Ross Mason, founder of MuleSoft believes that they should look to reorganise the IT department to support self-service IT. People at work already have access to advanced reporting software. With the right governance from IT, they should be able to bring in any data they require and build simple forms-based applications using low-code environments, all without IT’s involvement. 

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