The CIO and COVID: How to Reopen While Sustaining IT Ops
Part 1 of 2: Short-Term Actions & Recommendations
The fallout from COVID-19 has forced IT organizations to completely revamp how they do business. There are both short- and long-term implications for CIOs as they struggle to adapt to the next normal.
In the short term, it’s all about the rebound – reopening businesses and reigniting revenue streams. For the long term, it’s about driving growth while sustaining IT ops and increasing resilience against future crises. In part one of this two-part post, we focus on the short-term recommendations for CIOs as they begin to reopen. Then, in the next installment, we’ll look at the long-term goals.
In March, Gartner published an innovative new research report titled “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak: Short- and Long-Term Actions for CIOs” that sets the tone for addressing the pandemic. Let’s break down the challenge associated with each situation that Gartner highlights and then review the recommendations to address each one.
COVID Challenges & Recommendations for the CIO
Remote Working is Here to Stay
- Challenge: COVID has forced IT organizations to maintain business continuity while trying to adapt to a largely remote workforce. This has resulted in an increased dependency on collaboration tools to support remote working capabilities.
- Recommendation: In light of the urgency to get remote working capabilities in place, it is necessary for CIOs to implement interim solutions quickly. As this effort gets underway, security policies and networking demands need to be taken into account. For example, it’s necessary to review use cases and workflows to prioritize which business processes need to be brought online first. It’s also essential to conduct workforce planning to assess risks and address staffing gaps that support needed services.
Dramatic Swings in Market Forces
- Challenge: Customer demand and revenue generation have been impacted by COVID-19 in different ways based on the kind of activity in which a business engages. There is wide variation, with some businesses facing a complete loss of revenue while others can barely keep up with demand. In both cases, there has been a spike in call center activity as customers make inquiries and seek clarifications.
- Recommendation: To cope with the increased activity, businesses must expand self-service options and engage customers through multiple digital touchpoints and technologies. Offline processes need to be migrated to online models as interaction with customers are now completely Web-based. Such changes must include adaptations to products to address changes in demand and expand selling through digital channels.
Rising Anxiety Levels
- Challenge: As the uncertainty continues, confusing and conflicting information about COVID-19 is rampant. This leads to widespread anxiety amongst remote workers and customers. In addition, it makes business decision making error-prone, resulting in additional barriers to resuming operations.
- Recommendations: As with any crisis management strategy, a cohesive communication plan needs to be in place. CIOs must establish leadership with a single source of truth and maintain consistency across messaging. As fresh developments come into play, they must be promptly analyzed to facilitate decision making and establish clarity of actions that can be shared with both employees and customers.
The uncertainty and disruption caused by COVID results in IT organizations having to rapidly respond to constantly changing priorities in a volatile business environment. The economic implications mean IT organizations are forced to operate with shrinking budgets even as they struggle to mitigate the risks around the infrastructure that supports key business activities.
It is paramount for CIOs to reduce the gap between the business requirements and the IT organization’s ability to deliver. From an IT ops perspective, particular attention must be paid to the two following actions:
- Maintaining a superior customer experience: As the struggle to grow sales continues, it has never been more important to retain existing customers. Customer experience is correlated closely with retention rates, and it is directly driven by the online experience and digital journey customers take in all interactions with a company. People, processes and tools need to be optimized to support this overarching objective.
- Expanding and exploiting collaboration and communication technologies: The sudden transition to remote working has brought the need for unified communications to the forefront as an essential technology to maintain even the most basic levels of operational effectiveness.