We have all heard the phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” and for many companies during COVID-19, this is exactly what they did. Entirely new service industries seemingly erupted overnight in response to country-wide lockdowns. Healthcare, entertainment, professional, and even religious services became available online. In many cases, people paid a premium for these new services, and new sources of revenue for existing companies and opportunities for start-ups were born.
Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, and humans have proven themselves to be indomitable at finding new and creative ways to get what they want. If the demand is there, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be a company or individual happy to meet it with supply. In short, someone will make lemonade.
Unlike the global pandemic, which generated a great deal of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity, an economic recession invokes a sense of resignation. Optimise, synergise, streamline, maximise, or plain old cut costs – a typical response is to just squeeze the lemon harder. Inflation becomes the enemy of established markets. Squeeze the lemon harder and buy cheaper lemons. Cut costs and/or do the same with less.
But hang on a minute, during the global pandemic, companies did more with less, so why is an economic shock any different? I’m not an economist, so I will not attempt to speak to the financial why. Instead, I will look at our current situation from the technology perspective.
I have bobbed the waves of the economy for many years, always going with the flow. As a cost centre within a business, that just seemed to be what you had to do. When times were good, you made technology investments. When they were tough, you sweat every technology you had. Tech debt simply grows and grows.
So, how should technologists respond to economic shock?
Become lemon experts! I cannot stress this one enough. Invest in your people, they are the lifeblood of your organisation and your greatest asset. If the pandemic taught me anything, it is that, when given the opportunity and the right conditions, a technology team can achieve miracles. My own teams became masters of automation, rising to the economic challenge and saving a fortune through productivity gains. Build experts in-house and grow more of your own lemons rather than buying them from outside.
Lemons on demand! Many of us have embraced the cloud as a lift and shift move. Very few have made the change to immutable infrastructure. Even fewer have made the move to on-demand microservices. In my experience, combining FinOps and DevOps practices can result in savings of 40% or more. Turn things off when you do not need them and scale them when you do. Reduce costs by adopting scaling and on-demand services. It’s lemons on-demand, without all the overhead of lemon storage. Don’t keep operating private data centres as lemon storage.
Save on lemons! Make the internet the corporate network by adopting a security posture that works over any communication medium. Cut MPLS costs and expand beyond SD-WAN. Step into the software-defined world by shedding your dependency on legacy routable networks and all the boxes they entail. Doing this will enable you to deploy almost anywhere with very little overhead. Redeploy the savings you recoup from simplifying your tech stack to where money is tightest. Zero trust architecture can be the silver bullet to selling those lemons in new markets quickly and safely.
Diversify the lemonade! In economic shifts like today’s, companies often look to penetrate new markets, consolidate, and strengthen their portfolios. This typically means divestitures, acquisitions, mergers and/or exploring new territories. Being lean with your technology results in much more nimble, adaptable rollouts. Complexity and sprawl are enemies of good technology strategy. Mirror the business in its aim to be nimble and spend time reducing that complexity. Maximise investments in existing technology by bolting on features and removing duplication elsewhere. The SaaS and the cloud generally can assist with turning on new features when needed without additional overhead.
Secure those lemons! It is not often that security and business acceleration go hand in hand, especially during economic downturns. But zero trust architecture can offer the chance to reduce your attack surface, prevent lateral movement, and avoid data loss.
Initiating a transition from castle-and-moat, hub-and-spoke networks to zero trust security with economic storm clouds looming may seem crazy at first. But, for the reasons I explained above, it can be the technology equivalent of making lemonade with the lemons life gave you. And, at least for the time being, lemons are what we have.
Time to make some lemonade.
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