As a CIO, how can you continue to create growth during these tough times? The COVID-19 pandemic has become the catalyst for massive shifts in human behaviour, both physically and in terms of online activity. A significant part of the workforce is working from home instead of the office. Many industries have physical restrictions in place when it comes to interacting with customers in stores and businesses. There has also been an increase in online traffic and commerce, and a concurrent rise in internet fraud and cybersecurity threats.
In the first phase of the crisis response, CIOs were faced with providing immediate and urgent solutions to support a remote workforce: setting up teams with collaborative tools; driving cultural change and adjusting operating norms to allow for flexibility; communicating consistently and with transparency; and ramping up infrastructure needs and cybersecurity.
As we enter a new phase of business re-openings and the potential for new restrictions in response to coronavirus case spikes, the “next normal” is hard to predict. How can CIOs get out in front of the uncertainty and chaos of the pandemic, and put strategies in place that will build up resiliency for the long-term?
Redirect budgets towards value and efficiencies
The downturn in the economy will prompt companies to adjust technology budgets, with an emphasis on cost cutting and finding greater efficiencies. It’s also worth examining what solutions generate value and cash for the business. How can resources be invested in initiatives that support those solutions to ensure a competitive position both now and down the road?
Companies that continue to invest in long-term digital strategy, rather than solely on the short-term operations, will be better placed when the economy does rebound. And don’t forget to stay laser-focused on the customer. Eventually, when pent-up demand needs servicing, CIOs that have positioned businesses to respond to this upsurge will be best placed to take advantage of it.
Prioritize technology solutions
To support their organizations, CIOs are having to act rapidly on technology challenges, which means enabling changes in technology processes. A report by KPMG stated that digital operations and services will be responsible for 80% of revenue growth by the year 2022. The global pandemic has simply sped up this trajectory.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an increase in customers making online purchases. Attentive CIOs are actively transferring resources to support this demand. This could include expanding network capacity, and bolstering resources for consumer-facing call centres, help desks, websites and apps.
One way to get ahead of a surge in customer support demands is to track the nature the requests to determine if there are patterns, and decide whether a different or increased response is needed. Additionally, solutions need be offered to facilitate B2B sales in a remote, digital environment as well.
Migrate to an XaaS model
Foster agility in your business by shifting to an XaaS model—in other words, Anything (and everything) as a Service model—the principle of which is that any and all, IT functions delivered via the internet may be turned into a service for business use, and paid for using a flexible model. The XaaS model allows a transition from a fixed capacity budget model to one of variable costs that can be scaled horizontally across the enterprise.
The cloud services model can be a more efficient and affordable way to run IT services, from email to CRM, computing infrastructure to storage, and IT help desk support to networking. With an Xaas model, CIOs have the ability to simplify IT deployments, and cut costs related to physical IT infrastructure, as well as the premises and overhead required to house it.
Another strategy is to optimize service delivery by implementing self-service platforms, such as chat bots, to help employees and customers find and get the things that they want without having to overly burden a busy IT department.
De-risk security threats
Now that greater numbers of the workforce are operating from home, cyberattacks are becoming more common. Email phishing scams exploit staff working remotely by impersonating help-desk teams. As well, employees may opt to dodge around security portals and controls to work remotely.
CIOs must be primed to respond by paying careful attention to security operations, particularly when workers are trying to access sensitive data remotely. Employing multi-factor authentication protocols, training staff to identify potential threats, and escalation procedures are of high importance to prevent a cybersecurity failure. Test systems, and have robust plans in place to launch disaster recovery and technology backups.
Although the next economic phase is unclear, CIOs can prepare for a better future now by embedding resiliency, retooling and transforming technology processes, and leading with innovation in a time of crisis management.
About the Author
Ashiq Ahamed is the Founder of SolvedAF Consulting Inc., a boutique consulting firm providing fractional CIO and digital transformation services. As Principal, he leads the implementation of various programs and projects that increase innovation across businesses. Learn more about SolvedAF at www.solvedaf.com.
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