We've all heard and lived through the stories about how IT teams at many an organization made pretty much an overnight pivot to equip and enable employees to work from home as governments issued stay-at-home orders and shut down non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We are now all a few months past this moment of crisis and living in a new kind of normal. While some businesses are shuttered, perhaps forever, on the other side many workers are humming away productively from their home offices. Zoom video conference calls are common. Some organizations are making the most of technology investments they made a year or more ago. And IT leaders are rewriting their technology budgets for 2020 as they consider the best way forward for 2021.
Jenna Cline is one of them. As the head of IT Strategy and Planning at enterprise software provider Atlassian, she was at the center of the organization's pivot to work from home in early March 2020. Atlassian actually had put together a task force to monitor the coronavirus a few months before the shut down in March, Cline said, so the company was ready to make the decision.
"But from an IT point of view, it was a pretty rapid transition," she said. "We like to joke it was: Surprise! You are supporting a 100% remote workforce!"
Atlassian was in a strong position to do that, but still, it was a massive shift, according to Cline.
One of the biggest challenges and accomplishments was figuring out how to close the books remotely for the first time ever for the finance tech teams. Another challenge was ensuring that all new hires got laptops.
"If we were doing this as a planned event, I think about what are all the things are we'd have in place to make sure it went smoothly," she said. "We probably would have planned a 12- to 18-month road map."
Instead it happened just about overnight. Other things changed, too. For instance, Atlassian had always held a weekly internal town hall meeting over video. However, within a week of the company going remote, the number of people watching the town hall live quadrupled.
The new normal
Atlassian's 4,500 employees around the world will be working from home at least until the end of the year, Cline said.
The company is currently in the midst of its IT budget planning process, and so Cline could not comment about any shifts in IT spending yet. However, as an IT strategist, Cline did say that Atlassian strives for a balanced IT investment portfolio. When it's business as usual, the company invests in three types of projects -- scale projects that help the company grow, transformation projects that help the company change, and incubation funding. As the company goes through its planning process, decisions are made on how to balance investments in these three areas.
In a time of crisis like this one, you might think that it would be a good idea to cut that incubation funding. That's something for a time of abundance. During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, IT organizations are looking for places to preserve cash. But Atlassian's view of incubation funding may go beyond just a nice-to-have thing.
So far "there hasn't been any project that we've needed to stop," Cline said. Indeed, some of what the company spent on incubation funding last year, specifically on RPA (robotic process automation) has paid off in the current crisis, according to Cline. The company introduced bots for finance processes.
"We are able to take advantage of that this year," Cline said. "That helps us maintain scale and growth."