The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has led to business interruptions, with ongoing effects on business continuity, operations, and growth. CIOs need to respond to the crisis with both short and long-term measures to provide rapid relief, increase resilience to future disruptions, and prepare for growth.
An exclusive Quality Leadership Circle (QLC) meet was held remotely for the first time to deliberate on the current situation. The executives utilized the QLC platform to share their experiences and best practices via video conferencing. The discussion focused on questions such as:
- What is the role and responsibility of digitization managers in the current crisis?
- What opportunities does IT offer to remain agile and competitive?
- What short-term measures should CIOs implement?
- How will the pandemic impact future IT or digitization strategies?
COVID-19 and the special responsibility of IT
The initial shock and panic caused by the government‘s restrictions subsided after a good four weeks in quarantine. The virtual discussion brought out an interesting positive aspect: the chance for CIOs to emerge stronger from the crisis, provided the 'digital homework‘ is in place. Wherever they are well-positioned and have 'digitally transformed‘ and modernized their IT infrastructure, business processes, and organization, IT has become an enabler for business continuity in the crisis and is earning its due acknowledgement and recognition.
Digital workplace and flexwork
In this context, the cultural theme of 'new way of working‘ or 'digital workplace‘ plays a major role. Everyone agreed that remote working does not replace personal contact, but - if done correctly - is the perfect complement.
As soon as the crisis unfolded, IT had to create the essential prerequisites in the shortest possible time. This included providing VPN access, increasing line bandwidths, procuring new hardware (notebooks, smartphones) and setting up the necessary authorizations (e.g., Active Directory) and accounts (SaaS). The panelists were hopeful that some of these mobile and flexible working ways would be retained even after the crisis, especially in very traditional companies where a home-office was unthinkable till before the crisis.
The topic of 'remote leadership‘ was discussed extensively. The participants shared their experiences, which established the importantance of direct communication and trust within the team. This is especially crucial during such times of crisis (output-based vs. time tracking). Agile and flexible cooperation in cross-functional and decentralized teams is acknowledged as a reason for success and survival in the current situation. Companies with established agile working and a corporate culture based on co-creation, have a clear advantage and a strategic asset over those which lack it.
Cloud is the trump card
Participants whose companies are already well into cloud computing displayed clear strategic advantages during the current crisis. For example, they benefit from an on-demand pricing model in the event of declining sales or access, as they have to pay only for the IT capacities they used. The high degree of flexibility in using individual services and APIs is also seen as a competitive advantage, as it helps to innovate even in times of budget cuts. While on this topic, I’d like you to also check out the Quality Leadership Circle in February 2020, which was held on this topic.
How COVID-19 aided digitization
The Coronavirus pandemic is seen to have turbocharged the adoption of digitization. Some have sorely lacked in digitizing products and services for the end customer and for internal processes. The participants agreed that products with high digitization do much better. For example, in increased e-commerce trade as compared to a stationary one. Likewise for companies that have gone digital with their customer service by using chatbots. If you have any doubts on this, just ask all the latecomers have now realized how important it is to catch the digitech bus to avoid getting left behind. There is also hope that internal processes, such as approvals, will continue to be handled digitally even after the crisis, which was unthinkable before.
What remains is a positive outlook
The participants saw the opportunities from this crisis as the focal points of their current activities. For example, they can focus on generating and implementing new business ideas or facilitating everyday life through digitization. But only time will tell how much of this COVID-inspired remote collaboration and cultural exchange will continue to exist after the pandemic is behind us. Having said so, everyone did agree on one thing: CIOs and those responsible for digitization should be prepared for crisis situations, such as the Coronavirus to occur again, and such scenarios could be more a norm than an exception. Our preparedness and proactive approach will be reflected in the realignment of our IT and digital strategies.
As a CIO or digital executive, are you interested in a further exchange? Submit an application to join the Quality Leadership Circle - we will be happy to get in touch!