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IIBA.org Articles How Information Technology Helped Businesses Evolve During the Pandemic
In March of 2020, businesses across the globe were bracing for impact. The COVID-19 pandemic was ushering in an unexpected paradigm shift -- suddenly, business leaders from hundreds of industries had to reevaluate their business plans to better serve a global population under lockdown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, information technology (IT) -- capable of connecting people regardless of social distance -- emerged as a vital player in the evolution of pandemic commerce.  
 
According to IBM, 60% of business leaders have accelerated their digital transformation efforts as a result of COVID-19. IBM’s research shows that businesses that increased investments in technology during the pandemic outperformed their competition, suffering less financial losses than businesses that did not invest in IT. Evidence of IT’s effect on business is everywhere: the amount of people using teleconferencing software like Zoom to attend work meetings, go to school, or see their doctors; the prevalence of telework; and the steady adaptation of advanced technology like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare
 
Even as more of the global population is getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and going back to work, the pandemic status-quo has become the new normal. The ways businesses utilized IT during the pandemic have made apparent how important technology integration is to resilience. According to a global survey conducted by McKinsey and Company, the pandemic caused companies to accelerate the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and internal operations by an average of three to four years. Additionally, company executives from numerous industries reported a massive funding increase for technological development. Prior to the pandemic, company executives cited lack of resources and prioritization issues as the biggest barrier to adopting new technology. COVID forced many businesses to reprioritize and transform their operations to survive. Now, many business leaders plan to keep investing in technology for the long-term.  

 

The Tech that Helped Businesses Build Pandemic Resilience   

Numerous industries, from financial services to education to healthcare, have credited information technologies with helping them build resilience during the pandemic. According to McKinsey, business executives cited artificial intelligence and data security as being the most impactful technologies on company performance. IBM’s study of pandemic digital acceleration found that mobile cellphone technology, cloud computing technology, and artificial intelligence were the most influential ITs utilized by businesses during the pandemic -- particularly in the context of teleworking and customer service. Chatbots, for example, are a common form of AI technology that helped many businesses automate their customer service teams during the pandemic. Chatbots have been used extensively in healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis as a way to quickly field medical questions about the pandemic and distribute public health information. Additionally, companies like Glintt in Portugal are using IT solutions to help hospital’s deal with overcapacity -- Glintt’s IT software “Wiseward” can predict when hospitals beds will open up at crowded hospitals, thus helping hospital’s optimize their bed assignment decisions.  
 
Cloud technologies have become essential for employees working from home. Many businesses have utilized cloud technology to improve the security and resiliency of virtual projects, and cloud technology has enabled more efficient virtual employee training, communication, and teamwork. The Cloud’s application to telework prompted Forbes to label it “the backbone of remote work.” Considering telework is likely here to stay, cloud integration will continue to be vital to business growth and resiliency.  
 
The COVID-19 pandemic inspired many other innovations in business and working. For instance, drone and robot deliveries have helped solve pandemic-related business delays and labor shortages; entertainment companies are using internet and mobile tech to bring people together for virtual parties and film screenings; manufacturing companies are combating supply-chain issues by using IT to improve the efficiency of their factories; and VPN and VoIP technology have made it possible for entire corporations to move their operations online in the blink of an eye.  

 

Creating More Resilient Tech for the Future   

These technologies have empowered businesses to respond to a global crisis in record time. Even industries that have been historically skeptical of IT integration, such as some manufacturing niches, are taking notice of how IT can build resilience in the face of uncertainty. But the rapid expansion of IT in business has also created new work-related problems. For instance, Security Intelligence reported that there was a 6,000% increase in phishing, spam, and other security issues during the COVID-19 crisis. Scammers commonly exploit vulnerabilities in security systems during times of crisis, and the pandemic was no exception. IT security will be an important facet of future IT innovation.  
 
There are also potential ethical challenges of adopting new technologies. The Society for Human Resources Management used chatbots as an example of a technology that, while widely utilized, is often blind to ethical dilemmas. More so than people, chatbots struggle to tell confidential information apart from non-confidential information, and they may be more vulnerable to fraud as a result. The privacy of information shared over the internet, cloud services, and VoIPs has been subject to scrutiny. Zoom, for example, recently had to pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the company sold users’ data to technology companies and allowed hackers to engage in “zoom bombings". As a result of this lawsuit, many businesses switched their operations from Zoom to more secure video-conferencing software like WebX.  
 
Future leaders in IT business innovation will need to use the tech-lessons gleaned from the COVID-19 pandemic to build even more IT-enabled resiliency. Creating accessible, secure, and ethical technologies that can help businesses grow -- even during times of crisis -- will be a defining challenge for the rest of the 2020s and beyond. Though the COVID-19 crisis is unlikely to permanently define businesses’ operations, the tech acceleration it necessitated will likely have a permanent impact on commerce and working. It is clearer than ever before that IT will define the future of business, and that business will shape the future trajectory of IT.  
 
Developing advanced skills in IT applications for business is the first step to becoming a leader in technological innovation for your industry. Purdue University’s 100% online MS in IT Business Analysis program features a curriculum that is IIBA® & PMI®-based for immediate application in the workplace. Students in the program learn how to work as a liaison between organizational leadership teams and IT departments to help businesses in numerous industries drive technological innovation and achieve success. Learn more at the program’s website.