CIO’s Take Central Stage as a Result of Coronavirus Crisis!

“We spend too much money on IT, and we need to find ways to reduce IT spend.” 

Throughout my several years of experience in leading major IT and digital transformation programs for various scale and complex organisations, I have always heard the above common statement from senior leadership teams.

Every time I have presented a business case to fund transformation that supports the business goals, I have always faced challenges to get funding approved for the business case.

Like a warrior, I have always fought for what I believe is right for the company.

Several of that senior management who thought I was crazy must be thanking me now – the reason, when the coronavirus crisis hit, technology came to their rescue. With digital platforms already in use, several businesses could operate remotely in the Business-as-Usual (BAU) mode!

Almost every leader in an organization needs to be creative and think laterally in this global crisis; the CIO faces some of the most pressing challenges.

Critical and essential business processes must operate continuously, flex and scale to meet unprecedented and unpredictable workloads, and the majority of the responsibility resides with the CIO’s organisation.

I have interacted very closely with several Chief Information Officers (CIOs) over the years, and many of them have shared their frustrations – though IT is the backbone for most businesses today, the respect and recognition IT colleagues receive is undoubtedly less than what they deserve.

Thanks to the coronavirus crisis, suddenly people realised how important the role of IT is to ensure they can continue to work in the business as usual mode without any significant issues as long as you have a decent internet connection to your laptop, PC, tablet or smartphone!

In one of the articles from Gartner, Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner has quoted:

“The value of digital channels, products, and operations are immediately evident to companies everywhere. This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Companies that can shift technology capacity and investments on digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

I am hopeful that the outlook towards investment requests by way of new business cases/initiatives from the CIO would change in the future.

Another article from McKinsey states that “It’s already clear that CIOs during the coronavirus outbreak are playing a central role in navigating the crisis, even as companies grapple with the implications.”

As the CIOs take center stage during this crisis, they had to work hard to keep their staff motivated to work extra hours to meet the sudden spike in demand. The CIOs had to decide on the fly to deal with situations such as infrastructure breakdowns, update policies, and access rights, provide new capabilities, denial-of-service attacks, protect confidential information, sites going down because of traffic load, and name a few.

“COVID-19 is taxing most organisational systems and norms and—in particular—the technology infrastructure, backbone, and resiliency plans,” says John Tweardy, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Many company disaster recovery plans are outdated; even when current, they often focus on the resiliency and availability of critical systems, and not on total business continuity.”

Today’s leaders in IT and elsewhere face a multidimensional challenge, says Jagjeet Gill, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP. “There is still too much uncertainty, and executives have to take care of not just the business but also themselves and their people. We’re all trying to learn day today as the pandemic continues to unfold.”

In a Service Now survey of C-suite executives working with more than 350 organizations, nearly half (46%) of CIOs believe they play a “major role” in increasing their organization’s enterprise’s efficiency and reducing costs.

Just 23% of CEOs agree; In part, this is a visibility issue.

“Most of the CIO’s work goes unnoticed, and that’s by design,” says Pablo Stern, senior vice president and general manager of IT workflow products at Service Now. “But it’s critical that they begin to come forward and deliver visible innovation to highlight and celebrate their team’s wins.”

As various industry experts share their views on the current situation, one thing I firmly believe in is that geography is history- where you work from should be immaterial as long as you can deliver what your customers demand.

To make this work, it is imperative that you invest wisely in your organisation’s technology capabilities and use technology as leverage to gain a competitive advantage. Building agility in your business model to quickly adapt to changing business needs should be your topmost priority in the current economic climate. Your information technology capabilities can help you deliver the required agility.

The corona crisis is not over yet, and businesses will need months and years to recover fully from the impact. Most countries also fear a second wave, and though the first wave has taught us quite a lot, companies should not lose their feet on the pedal and continue to transform their business model to face any future crisis.

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity” —John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. president.

As culture change is becoming an even more critical requirement to achieve digital transformation, Gartner predicts that by 2021, CIOs will be as responsible for culture change as chief HR officers.

CIO’s, let’s continue to be in the limelight for the right reasons of steering the business improve topline underpinned by agile and digital IT. We have taken center stage, and let’s continue to do so. I believe people in IT should also be classified as “key workers” and those reading this article, please take a few minutes to applaud/clap for all those who work in the IT departments and have silently contributed to ensuring we continue to serve our customers through this global crisis!


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