If we learned one thing about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the midmarket, it’s that it is impacting some midmarket sectors much more harshly than others. The pandemic’s effect on midsize organizations—private, non-profit, public sector and everything in between—cannot be generalized or painted with one brush. As strange as this sounds, on a recent Midsize Enterprise Perspectives: CIO Leadership In Challenging Times Webinar, three prominent senior IT leaders said they were managing through unexpected growth and demand for their organization’s services and products. It was startling to hear given the media coverage and headlines over the past few months. This was especially true at one of the companies represented, 1-800-Contacts, where consumers have flocked to the its web site to purchase contact lenses or renew vision prescriptions due to local doctor office closures. The company’s senior IT leader said the company’s biggest challenge now is retaining all those new customers once the COVID-19 crisis subsides and the nation returns to business as usual. Of course, there are midmarket sectors such as manufacturing which have been hit hard amid plant closures and supply chain restrictions. To gauge the crisis’ impact on the middle market the National Center for The Middle Market conducted a recent survey that found the pandemic will derail middle market performance. The vast majority of midmarket leaders had high expectations coming into 2020 for increasing sales, profits and market share. They were also preparing to invest more in technology and other capital expenditures to drive growth. But the pandemic certainly disrupted those plans, at least temporarily. However, the center’s COVID-19 business survey found that this year “could ultimately prove catastrophic for some” midsized organizations. That news should not be taken lightly by anyone as it will have a ripple effect on suppliers and local economies. Of the 260 executives surveyed, one quarter said the impact will be devastating for their companies. Negative impact is sweeping through such key operational areas as payrolls, supply chain along with diminishing working capital. That is not surprising given the government-ordered lock down that started in March which, for the moment, seem to be easing. It may almost be too late to save the year as most leaders said the ongoing uncertainty makes it so difficult to make decisions for the future of their business. The one area not explored in the initial survey by the National Center for the Midmarket which operates out of The Ohio State University was the COVID-19 impact on technology spending. We did not gain insight into leaders’ thoughts on how IT is helping to cut costs, raise productivity or bringing efficiencies to the table. But with 66 percent of the survey’s attendees saying they will delay capital spending, there is very little doubt it will impact the tech and services budget of midmarket CIOs. When we shared the survey with one prominent industry CIO, he said tech is playing a role to save money while keeping his company moving forward. “We have had many opportunities to help the business be more effective or continue to remain productive during the COVID crisis. Our workload is up 30 percent driven by remote work and productivity challenges,” he said. While it may be hard to generalize about the pandemic’s impact on the midmarket which has traditionally accounted for about one-third of U.S. GDP we know it is resilient. The survey supports that observation with this statement: “Many middle market executives believe underlying demand will persist, and they see opportunity for capitalizing on that demand when the pandemic’s grip on the nation and the world begins to loosen.” Robert Demarzo, SVP Strategic Content, The Channel Company
With a global pandemic sending shockwaves across the world, we are faced with a host of unforeseen challenges threatening to permanently alter life as we know it — both personally and professionally. The Channel Company, parent company of CRN, reached out to Midsize Enterprise Strategies board members for their insight into the effects of COVID-19 on the IT industry, and to learn about the steps they are taking in reaction to big changes in their respective industries.
Some organizations were already in the early stages of digital transformation when the virus hit, having adopted cloud-ready solutions, remote capabilities, and virtual features. These organizations are no doubt fast-tracking their continuing IT evolutions, but their preparedness for remote operations has made their transitions easier than the changes that other organizations are now forced to consider.
Juliette W. Samson is the Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Supply Chain at World Finer Foods. She is responsible for implementing new technology into the supply chain process to improve speed, service and profitability. Juliette’s experience in planning and executing program delivery across consumer-packaged goods, financial, communications and information technology industries makes her ideally suited to guide World Finer Foods’ efforts in this area.
Prior to joining World Finer Foods, Juliette held leadership roles at Pfizer and was responsible for delivering complex, large scale programs for Pfizer's Worldwide Technology organization. She also worked to implement large scale enterprise programs at Merrill Lynch and led customer delivery and operations at Lucent Technologies. She also opened AT&T’s Brazil/Latin America market during her tenure there, achieving growth of over 200%.
Adrian Porter, Sr. Manager, Data Operations, 1-800 Contacts
Adrian Porter is the Senior Manager, Data Operations at 1-800 CONTACTS, the world’s largest contact lens store. Through its call center, website, and award-winning mobile application, 1-800 CONTACTS has pioneered a better buying experience and backs it up the best customer service in the industry.
Porter has worked in the IT department for 1-800 CONTACTS for 21 years and his experience has ranged from help desk, programmer, systems operations, to DBA, and management. His current role is tasked with overseeing the data infrastructure, security, and data performance for the enterprise. He believes a leader’s success relies on their ability to surround themselves with talented, passionate individuals and removing obstacles from their path, thus allowing them to flourish and succeed. He has a love for the intricacies and untapped value of data and how they truly are the foundation upon which all organizations reside.
Porter received a B.S. in Business Administration from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Western Governors University.
The assumption is that midmarket organizations are falling behind larger corporations when it comes to embracing and executing their own digital transformations. The survey results tell a different story about a motivated midsize market willing and able to modernize and thrive alongside their larger counterparts, leveraging new technologies and strategizing for the future of IT.
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