Six CIO Focus Areas for Phase 2 of Pandemic Response: Resiliency & Beyond

Matt Boone, Director of Strategic Research, ADAPT

Matt Boon, Director of Strategic Research, ADAPT

Many organizational roles deserve significant praise for business continuity efforts during the pandemic. Their business continuity plans (BCPs) kept operations going and ensured that employees stayed connected, secure and productive.

As an example, before the pandemic, enabling something like mass work-from-home capabilities would have taken months (if not years) to implement. During the pandemic, however, these leaders accelerated digital transformation projects in a matter of weeks, despite the challenging circumstances. Due to this success, many CIOs now feel more empowered to make the changes needed to succeed in the next phase.

Moving Into Phase 2: Resiliency & Beyond

If implementing BCP was phase one of the new normal, phase two is where plans come into place about:

  • What the future workforce looks like.
  • How the return to the office may proceed.
  • What legacy policies and practices need to be jettisoned.

Furthermore, as remote working and digital buying behaviors become the norm, leadership teams increasingly look to CIOs to:

  1. Build resilience into the organization.
  2. Ensure robust disaster recovery capabilities.
  3. Support and enable the scalability, tools and policies needed to succeed.

Twenty-one leading CIOs in Australia and New Zealand spoke to ADAPT about what they believe is the best path forward. Through these in-depth conversations, the CIOs identified six areas to help their companies look forward with more confidence and clarity.

1. A Chance for IT to Lead

Prior investments in virtualization, cloud and workplace transformation helped many CIOs get a head start on their response. Now is the time to continue innovating through new IT delivery models. According to the surveyed CIOs, IT leaders also need to maintain focus on initiatives that improve operational efficiencies and agility, such as process automation and infrastructure modernization.

Good strategies, good investments and where they happen in the journey matter for both core technology and digital transformation. When COVID-19 arrived, we were well-positioned to react both operationally and with remote working.

John Hunt, CIO, Woolworths Group

2. Rethink Business Continuity

This year, hindsight really brought new meaning to 2020. Business continuity plans are generally developed for short-term disruptions with predictable outcomes and identifiable timelines. What is clear is that we need a new approach to BCP, one that can simulate multiple scenarios from a disruption by capturing, integrating and analyzing organizational data. Today’s BCP must be tomorrow’s BRP: business resiliency plan.

We’re not just operating on a treadmill. We’re also running a marathon at the same time.

Patrick Carson, CIO, Cenitex

3. Redefine the Digital Workplace

Prior to the pandemic, tightly managed environments usually overcame the lack of organizational cybersecurity awareness. The transition to remote work opened new security flaws and vulnerabilities that employee training and awareness programs can mitigate. Remote work technologies should be further fortified. This means strengthening governance policies, tools and practices to ensure applications, devices and networks are secure by design.

Those who said remote working could work, but won’t work in our business, have now been disproved.

CIO, Anonymous Survey Participant from a Health Organization

We need to plan remote working and do security by design, not as an afterthought.

Joe Locandro, Chief Digital and Business Transformation Officer, Australian Energy Market Operator

4. Dismantling Silos for Good

The success of digital workplace deployment and digital service delivery elevated many CIOs in terms of proving value and demonstrating ROI. CIOs must continue driving strategic discussions towards building organizational resilience. These leaders should measure, monitor and report on the business impact of IT to build trust from leadership, stakeholders and employees.

It’s amazing how people come together in a crisis and the bureaucracy in making decisions is shifted.

CIO, Anonymous Survey Participant from a Large Bank

5. Putting People First

Employee safety and wellbeing is a key focus for organizations during the pandemic. It’s important to sustain the focus on mental health with empathy, frequent communication and staff surveys. For IT staff, setting the right expectations for timelines on delivery and support will be crucial in the months ahead.

“People are our biggest asset. If we don’t support them effectively as they work remotely, we have a big problem.”

CIO, Anonymous Survey Participant from a University

Staying in touch with people is critical. I have a 15-minute meeting with my immediate team every single morning, as well as a weekly update to the entire technology team, keeping them both updated and connected.

John Hunt, CIO, Woolworths Group

6. Shaping the Path Ahead

Clearly, the changes to our way of life are unlikely to fully disappear anytime soon, if at all. A hybrid workplace, where some employees continue to work remotely on a regular basis, will be commonplace, as will a concerted shift to digital business models. CIOs must understand the new demands and expectations shaping this future. While cost reduction is a priority, decisions should be made according to overall business impacts.

Health analysts have been collecting data on how we’ve been operating. In effect, we’re gathering evidence that this business operational model can work.

Michael Dickinson, Executive Director of Clinical Integration, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network

A Path Forward: Accelerating Toward a Digital-First Model

With these six measures in place and stability somewhat secured, organizations will begin shifting priorities to strengthen operations and increase business viability even in the face of economic uncertainty. This acceleration towards a “digital-first” model will build sustained competitive advantage and harden the business against future crises. This will allow companies to make investments with a focus on growth and innovation.

With the pandemic providing the catalyst for change, systems, processes and even company culture will be reimagined and re-energized. Resilient companies will press ahead with confidence while reshaping long-term customer engagement models, expanding the effectiveness of employees and even redefining their industries—all digital first.

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