Rapid change and the law of unintended consequences

Covid drives tactical deployments

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps across the world, organisations have had to adapt to a changing way they need to do business. From furloughing staff to increasing remote working capabilities, business certainly isn’t as usual for many.

Indeed, the near-term future of the working world currently remains uncertain, yet we can be sure that it won’t automatically return to how things were before Covid-19. The end of lockdown measures is not currently in sight and organisations must consider that stay-at-home procedures may need to be gradually eased off over a long period. What’s more, traditional office-based work may well now be a thing of the past as we adapt to new ways of working, potentially changing working practices for good. Business leaders are also likely reassessing priorities and looking at how to adapt to changing behaviours, including employee expectations that a level of flexibility should be maintained in their working week with no desire to return to the office at all.

Some software vendors have taken an empathetic view to this changing world of work, offering their products and services for free for a limited time period. Organisations are taking up free-to-use limited-time offers from leading vendors to quickly facilitate homeworking, an increase in applications shifting to the cloud, and support those working on the frontline. Microsoft, for example, has offered its collaboration tool Teams free-of-charge to all NHS workers. IBM is offering free tools and services through its public cloud platform for those struggling with remote working, and Cisco Webex is offering free 90-day business licences for its video conferencing tool.

For the moment, the response of software vendors has been laudable as these free-to-use offers are certainly doing a lot to help keep organisations going in the short term as they adapt to a new normal and try to ensure operations run as smoothly as possible. However, it’s highly likely that organisations will face massive problems further down the line and the goodwill Covid-19 software rush could very well result in a huge fallout of unintended consequences.

Post-Covid audit activity

Undoubtedly, organisations will have to address the repercussions of the changing world of work and how signing up to new sets of software to accommodate them will affect them in the long run, whilst doing their best to minimise their costs in other software related areas.

One of the most important factors that organisations must take into consideration is the potential for the post-Covid audit. While it’s difficult to know for certain, experience has shown us that in all likelihood, there will be a peak in audits as vendors seek to recoup lost revenue from those audits currently being postponed as customers struggle to find the resources to accommodate them. On the flip side, some vendors haven’t slowed down their audit activity at all, even increasing it in some cases, as they seek to keep momentum going in the face of a very likely economic downturn. Either ways, vendor tactics post-Covid may become more aggressive and they will undoubtedly be particularly eagle-eyed about any software integrations made during the coronavirus period.

One of the pitfalls organisations could find themselves in during a post-Covid audit, is having a mismatch between licenses and their usage. It’s unclear how vendors at the end of the free-to-use trials will react, and if a company signed up for a free trial on a video conferencing platform to support their remote workers, or an organisation decided to continue on past the free trial, but hasn’t correctly licensed the tools, they could find themselves in some trouble with future on-going subscription costs or costly extra license fees.

The effects of rapid change

Outside of the free offers, organisations must also consider the implications of the rapidly changing workplace across their wider IT and software estate. Rapid changes that took place to keep key operations running during lockdown – systems moving into the cloud for example – or evolutions that have occurred as a result of lockdown such as a higher percentage of permanent remote workers, will make their effects known later on. It’s vital that organisations assess the impact of these changes and have an action plan in place for mitigation and negotiations with vendors when things return to a new norm, as any outstanding user and compliance issues may come back to haunt them in future audits.

It is totally understandable why organisations would take advantage of the services currently on offer with the expectation it is only required for a limited period – especially if they are struggling to cope under the current circumstances. The detail will come in the rework of their existing infrastructure to support new ways of working, where they must also be aware of the unintended consequences that could be hiding in plain sight.

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Author: Chris Gough, Chief Strategy Officer, Livingstone

Chris has worked in the IT Industry for over 20 years, starting as a consultant he then took on more senior practice management roles, focusing on networking, security, data centre and unified communications and in recent years specialising in data centre optimisation and particularly in software licensing. Having worked with large enterprise organisations, Chris understands the challenges faced in data centre licensing and the lack of expertise in the marketplace.

Having founded the Derive Logic business until its acquisition by the Carlyle Group in April 2019, Chris is now on the senior executive board for the world’s largest independent IT Transformation Assurance and Software/Cloud Risk Management business, Livingstone Group.

Chris continues to act as the Chief Strategy Officer for the Livingstone Group.