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Transforming Role of the CIO in Organisations post COVID-19

July, 16 2020

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Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented disruption in life and livelihood across countries all over the globe. With an overnight surge in demand for digital solutions and robust IT infrastructures, businesses with limited digital footprints are struggling to adapt to the changing times. 

The role of the CIO has never been this indispensable as enterprises turn to technology being the only saviour to sustain businesses. As companies try to cope with the increasing need to digitize processes and operations, the CIO’s role becomes even more integral to lead the business transformation from the forefront.

CIO’s Dilemma

Today's CIO faces a precarious situation, with the need to manage ambitious transformational business objectives with minimal budgets. The CIO needs to prioritize myriads of digitization projects systematically to ensure business continuity and safeguard the interests of the company. At the same time, one needs to ensure IT security and data confidentiality policies are robust and aligned with the new ways of working while enabling virtual collaboration across employees.

“Every CIO today is facing a similar challenge – Managing the requirement to digitize businesses with the highest security standards while keeping costs to a bare minimum”

A few ways in which we believe the role of the CIO to be transformed post the pandemic: 

  1. Adapt to the New Normal: The first and foremost priority for the CIO will be to adapt businesses to continue working virtually in the current circumstances. The CIO’s office must set up the right tools to allow secure sharing of data and collaborative working within teams virtually. The office of the CIO will need to ensure scaling VPN concentrators, portals, and gateways to handle the additional load of remote working that comes with all the employees connecting online.

    The customer-facing applications and digital process infrastructure should also be scalable to adapt to the increasing volume of business going digital. The CIO’s team will have to monitor the performance and alter customer journeys online to scale and ease the load.

    "As more processes become touch-free, the CIO would have to re-evaluate supply chain processes and consider adopting IoT/RFID based solutions for automation."
  1. Business Continuity & Employee Safety: As the restrictions on the lockdown ease and businesses start ramping up, the CIO’s priority is shifting towards employee health and safety in the workplace. Sufficient precautions need to be taken to ensure a safe return to work.

    Collective health management will be under the radar to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak within the organisation. This shift means more focus on rostering and scheduling to maintain social distancing, investing more on data analytics or AI/ML-backed technology to predict the risk of spread.

    The CIO, along with the company's senior managers, will need to invest time, resources, and effort in retraining and re-skilling the workforce to adapt to the new ways of working.

    “Upskilling employees is a mandatory investment to equip the workforce to embrace the new normal of remote working and virtual collaboration.”
  1. Workflow Digitization: Just adopting the latest technology will not be sufficient. The CIO will need to weigh in on the digital reengineering of current processes to align with what could potentially be the new normal until a vaccine is discovered.

    The CIO will have to realign internal processes to allow Touch-free attendance, digital signatures, and online validations for compliance or security checks in critical operations.  Businesses would have to evaluate OCR/RPA based digital transactions processing as well to minimise the handling of physical documentation for vendor invoice processing and other support services. 
  1. Information Security: One of the crucial aspects the CIO will become responsible for is safeguarding data security and network management while enabling smooth remote working for the employees. It is vital to equip the systems and infrastructure with in-built safety and security. Encrypted hard-disks, securing access through VPN are some of the bare minimum steps that must be taken to ensure information security.

    Data protection is equally critical. Several companies are adopting Desktop as a Service to ensure sensitive data cannot be downloaded in private systems. Apart from the basic rules of data confidentiality, there should be proper checks to monitor inappropriate usage of classified information through the company enabled workstations.

    Most new-age companies today have switched to agile technology solutions that can evolve with changing business contexts.

    “With more focus on keeping the fixed costs under control, several CIOs are looking to work with forward-thinking tech partners that offer adaptive solutions that help mitigate unforeseen crisis.”

    Darwinbox has also provided a special care package, Darwinbox Evolve, to equip its existing clients with features necessary to support a safe return to work for their employees.
  1. Leading Business Technology from the Boardroom: One thing’s for sure, the backstage tech-driven role of the CIO is no longer going to remain the same. The CIO’s position within the company will shift more to a strategic role as enablers and drivers of future business growth.

    Responsible for owning Business Technology end-to-end, the role of the CIO will be to break down the silos between business and IT and build a collaborative set-up for success. The CIO's role will need to work hand-in-hand with the CEOs to provide them with the right guidance on IT support to navigate the current pandemic.

With the changing landscape of tomorrow's businesses, the role of the CIO is evolving to be a dynamic visionary within organisations to help enterprises to switch course and thrive in uncertainty.

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