IT’s checklist: leading the business through crisis

In times of crisis, like this one, companies can face enormous disruption to their business and executives are pressured to make a series of tough decisions. Some may be tactical, designed to keep their business operational, while others may be more strategic to ensure the business thrives post-crisis. 

And while this decision-making process plays out, IT leaders are in a unique position to support and lead their business counterparts. First, by ensuring the technology stack is resilient through the crisis (in other words, maintaining operational health). Second, by suggesting new ideas that enable business opportunities and drive long-term value. 

However, for many, finding a balance between these two responsibilities can be tricky, especially when matters of personal and family health are added to the business stresses. So to help, I’ve written a short checklist designed for IT leaders in the integration domain. It can be used in the first few phases of a crisis to keep responses balanced, thought through, and relevant to the business. Below is the three-part checklist:

Resiliency: Ensuring business continuity 

The only constant in a time of crisis is change. With change comes new volumetric requirements for the IT stack, new business demands, and new customer expectations. Before addressing long-term implications, it’s important that integrations remain stable and data flows through the enterprise undisrupted.

Integration-related technology: 

  1. Self-managed infrastructure and software: 
    • Check that infrastructure and software can cope with increased workloads. This includes reviewing stress test results, reassessing conditions are still relevant in this crisis (did you test large enough volumes, for example), and performing new ones, if outdated and operationally feasible.
    • Plan to extend capacity. Examples include using capacity from areas experiencing lower volumes (rebalancing) and reaching out to vendors to procure more.
    • Review real-time monitoring and alerting capabilities. Ensure that technology and processes will flag issues quickly and to the right team members. Similarly, minimize the possibility of “false positives” occurring where possible.
    • Perform sweeping API and endpoint security reviews. Times of crisis lead to increased volumes on channels not heavily used before; this exposes security vulnerabilities. To be on the safe side, check sufficient policies are applied to all endpoints and be proactive to seek out issues before they arise.
  2. Third-party managed infrastructure and software:
    • Contact vendors. Understand their business continuity plans and what extra support they can offer.

Integration-related resources:

  1. Staffing: 
    • Reorganize integration delivery and maintenance teams to meet the immediate needs of the crisis. Consider shifting delivery resources to maintenance to ensure business continuity. Some organizations may look to extend the capacity of their dedicated site reliability engineering team(s).
    • Develop contingency plans. Put together a coverage model to account for staff unable to work for a period of time. 
  2. Tools: 
    • Ensure the integration team has the right tools to work remotely. Understand what’s needed for the team to work from different locations, and keep a level of integration service expected by the business. For example, does the integration team have sufficient remote-working tools and permissions in place to access systems, identify issues, and remediate quickly?

Integration-related projects: 

  1. Critical vs. nice-to-have: 
    • Review the change pipeline. Understand which changes can be postponed in the short-term to free up resources that can be used elsewhere e.g. on maintenance activities or in other business areas in need.
    • Enhance change processes to reduce the chance of disruption. Examples include:
      1. Single method of deployment: Using the change pipeline as the only method of deployment and restricting manual overrides in production.
      2. Robust-testing strategy: Ensuring automated testing has a high level of coverage and considers all scenarios. Test-Driven Development is a fundamental part of this.
      3. Robust-rollback strategy: Requiring that the change pipeline can undo deployments in the event of bugs or breaking changes.

Recalibration: Keeping your integration efforts relevant

In times of crisis, business leaders will be looking at two things: 1) how to address the immediate needs of customers in the short term, and 2) how to operate in a “new normal” over the long-term. It’s important the integration team understands any changes in business direction and contributes where possible. 

Understanding and influencing business priorities: 

  1. Listen: 
    • Understand changes to business and IT priorities. Start thinking about ways integration can add value. Potential business themes being explored in a crisis include: 
      1. Retooling” the organization, and finding new ways to serve customers. Bain highlights Leon, the fast-food chain, as a company that’s already done this in the current crisis. In the span of eight days, they transformed from a restaurant into a distributor of ready-made meals and supplies.
      2. Improving processes to better equip the organization for future crises. For example, invest in video conferencing software for the whole enterprise, not just a select few. Or consider doubling down on an omnichannel experience so customers can seamlessly shift to an online experience next time they can’t visit a store physically.
  2. Contribute:
    • Share ideas with business and IT leadership. Explain how integration can create opportunities during and after the crisis. Examples include:
      • Highlighting which suppliers have robust integrations, and can cope with increased volumes in the supply chain.
      • Suggesting new front-end functionality that can be built quickly using reusable APIs or underlying integration components.
  3. Cadence:
    • Establish a recurring meeting with business teams and/or senior IT stakeholders to review changing priorities. A regular communication channel allows the integration team to stay strategically aligned, and add value as soon as opportunities arise.

Make integration changes: 

  1. Short/medium term: 
    • Prioritize new integrations and APIs needed to deliver new business priorities. Update the roadmap to reflect this. Where possible reuse APIs, integrations, and underlying assets to reduce duplicative work as the company exits the crisis.
    • Reallocate resources to deliver these new integrations and APIs in business areas of need. For example, if eCommerce is seeing unprecedented demand and a need for enhancements, while supply chain is operating as normal, reassign integration developers from the ERP team to the web team.
    • Reiterate core principles and any key resources to the team. Distribute a reminder of design principles and a link to the central API and integration repository. This could encourage employees to innovate with integration assets that already exist (reuse) and follow best practices while they do.
  2. Medium/long term:
    • Review the overall connectivity approach. Consider how standardizing on different patterns, technologies, and ways of working can drive more business flexibility in the future. One thing a crisis highlights is the need for agility in the next crisis. Taking the time to explore the wider use of highly reusable, foundational APIs could pay dividends down the road.

Impact: Articulate the power of integration as an enabler of change

In any crisis, it’s important to articulate the impact of integration; both to date and going forward. Requests are likely to filter down from the board level as business leaders look at the organization’s financial health and new strategic direction. In anticipation, prepare materials on the current state and how integration can enable the business of tomorrow.

Baseline:

  1. Existing spend: 
    • Ensure current integration spend is documented in its entirety. This includes internal and external spending, development and maintenance breakdowns, and integration spend outside of the central integration teams. Think of this as “shadow IT” (baked into application development budgets).

Build a narrative:

  1. Value to date: 
  2. Value going forward: 
    • Identify and rank potential opportunities to improve productivity or avoid future costs by building reusable APIs. Doing so will help the organization react quickly post-crisis and avoid duplicative work. For example, using Anypoint Platform and API-led approach, MuleSoft customers have avoided ~110 hours of development (and the associated effort costs) by reusing a single API.
    • Summarize how continuing this approach will add both business and IT value to the organization. This will validate the need for continued investment in the integration space, and create the case for further investment to ensure business agility in the future.

Key takeaways and how MuleSoft can help

MuleSoft’s organization is continuing to support businesses during these difficult times. With the combination of Anypoint Platform and integration thought leadership, we are here to help you with business continuity, enable new ways of working, and use technology for transformation, resilience, and coping with uncertainty.

For more information, please reach out to your MuleSoft customer success manager, wider account team, or contact us here.



We'd love to hear your opinion on this post


2 Responses to “IT’s checklist: leading the business through crisis”

  1. Great article Jack, clearly explains how Mulesoft and Customer Success and assist customers in these challenging times.

  2. Great article Jack clearly explains what organisation need to these in tough times and how can Mulesoft help in this transformation.