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Let's hope uncertain times leads to more IT spending

The views of Claranet that the spending on digital transformation has increased as the economic and political landscape has become more uncertain has intrigued Billy MacInnes

I ought to be intrigued by the notion advanced by Michel Robert, UK managing director at Claranet, that the political and economic turmoil currently swirling around the UK should be seen as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Reflecting on the results of the 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey which found that 89% were maintaining or increasing their investment in innovation, Robert stated that rather than embrace an austere approach to technology adoption to try and save on costs and consolidate, “the opposite may well be the best course of action”.

His argument is that business leaders should be concentrating on how to get ahead of their competitors “regardless of the economic and political climate” and these external challenges should make organisations “think of fresh ways of doing things as a matter of course: it’s a time to experiment with new approaches. Technology has always been an effective way of doing this, and can be done in a way that won’t bankrupt a cash-strapped organisation”.

Robert goes on to say that well-prepared businesses should view these times of upheaval “as a blessing rather than a cure”.

Unsurprisingly, given the nature of Claranet’s business, he views this as an opportunity for companies to invest in scalable, cloud-based IT solutions – and you can’t knock him for having a go.

However, while I ought to be intrigued, I have to admit that I’m not really. Here’s why. Whatever the economic and political situation, I can’t help feeling that IT providers won’t hesitate to try and sell their services and solutions based on cost and competitiveness. As Roberts notes, regardless of the economic and political climate, “the priority for any business leader should be working out how best to get ahead of their competitors”.

In bad times, that means thinking of fresh ways to do things. In good times, it means thinking of fresh ways to do things. If technology is an effective way of experimenting with new approaches in uncertain times, it will be just as effective in the good times too.

Robert argues the need for an “agile IT estate” is nothing new but it is much more conspicuous today, given recent economic and political events. I’m not entirely convinced. In a growing market with more competitors, wouldn’t the need for agile IT become even more pronounced as a means of gaining an edge? Who can say one way or the other with any certainty?

One thing we should be able to agree on though is that in times of economic and political certainty, customers are likely to be more comfortable buying services and solutions than they might be when the outlook is much harder to discern with any type of clarity. Whatever benefits companies might gain from using the uncertainty to differentiate themselves from their competitors might not be enough if the customers aren’t there to justify it.

Nevertheless, Roberts’ argument is nothing new in terms of organisations viewing times of uncertainty as an opportunity to take stock and scrutinise their systems and processes more clearly than they might when the orders are flying out the door. The only problem there is that they can, as many businesses have done during economic downturns, cut back so sharply that they are in no position to take advantage as soon as things start to pick up again. That’s potentially an area where the ability to spin up and spin down IT on demand in the cloud could prove a blessing for companies trying to navigate their way through rocky economic seas.

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