Not all companies were born digital, but they must now adapt to the digital demands of our world’s current situation. As the wave of COVID-19 traverses across the world, business resilience has emerged as a strategic avenue. CIOs are especially critical in this process because IT strategies influence many important aspects of business like the workforce, security and automation. Going forward, Hi-Tech companies must evaluate the pandemic’s impact on these three fronts and prepare for the short-term while also developing new capabilities and ways of working for the long-term.
Recently, I had an opportunity to moderate a panel on business recovery and resilience in the Hi-Tech industry with Rashmi Kumar, CIO of HPE, and Adhir Mattu, CIO of Marvel Semiconductor. Here are some highlights about how CIOs can catapult their organizations beyond the current crisis with a coherent and comprehensive IT strategy.
The Challenges of Change
COVID-19 had a global impact on most organizations’ operations and workforce regarding safety, mobility, productivity, engagement, and security. The biggest challenge CIOs face today is managing virtual work while balancing the safety of the employees with security aspects for the company. They must sustain secured operations and adopt new communication/collaboration strategies to maintain workforce productivity.
The key is to combine productivity with capabilities. CIOs need to focus more on cloud, manufacturing, and supply-chain capabilities in order to build a resilient enterprise. “It’s showtime for all of the capabilities that companies have built over the years,” says Rashmi.
The Rising Remote Work
Many companies are reporting a rise in productivity and employee satisfaction as a result of remote working. For employees working remotely, collaborating with their peers has become difficult in the absence of robust and accessible platforms. Access to appropriate resources is necessary for the workforce to conduct operations like before. However, this can be hard to fulfil, since these resources are defined by the requirements of the work at that moment and can lie outside of an organization’s current line of sight. For organizations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the challenge now lies in provisioning more connectivity to residential areas, where the work from home influx is higher. Another key challenge area is leveraging technologies such as the cloud, which can run business-specific applications for employees to access from remote locations.
For work that’s ineffective or impossible to perform remotely, a possible solution involves collaborating with HR teams and sourcing common work venues. Companies need to take a hybrid approach where a part of the workforce is working remotely while remaining associates can work at a common place. This will ensure productivity while keeping the operational costs low. “Moving workloads to the cloud brings agility and scalability to our services,” says Adhir while talking about dashboards and data analytics that provide improved visibility into business operations.
CIOs across industries need to mitigate the security risks that come with additional exposure, self-service, and automation. Rashmi believes enhanced monitoring, reporting, and controls give insight in user behaviour, which helps in pre-empting possible security threats. An interesting approach that companies can adopt is ‘Protection-Detection-Recovery.’ Cyber-security is certainly a board-level discussion, and it can’t be tackled one-way. “Training modules for employees are equally necessary alongside robust IT solutions to create a ‘Human Firewall,’” explains Adhir. CIOs need to move from a reactive defensive posture to a proactive mode of cyber security.
A Partnership Culture
The COVID-19 crisis has made every CIO struggle with delivering business results amid cost pressures. Innovating with engineering teams and maintaining collaborative relationships can give a competitive advantage to companies. Strong internal and external partnership networks can increase productivity in terms of reducing cycle times and costs significantly. Adhir suggests a 3C model to co-innovation: Competency, Credibility, and Common Goals. Increase competency by partnering with the right talent, earn credibility by delivering what is promised, and achieve cost and revenue targets by aligning common goals. Many companies have started rolling out ‘Partner Programs’ to bolster simple and scalable IT strategies and avoid silos.
Proliferation of AI
AI and automation play an important role in bolstering security, reducing costs, and helping enterprises remediate vulnerabilities and interruptions to digital business operations. “AI is not just a cost play -- it’s a reliability play,” says Rashmi. Companies don’t have enough eyes, arms, and legs to perform the amount of computation required today, so they need to make systems smarter. It is fascinating to see how AI helps in solving problems at first place, and if it exceeds its capability, it directs the problem to the right human being. All of this is done virtually, increasing the overall productivity of the company and avoiding long wait times for customers. Many companies have started using digital virtual agents to communicate with bots to achieve higher levels of automation and productivity gains.
Companies must focus on business and IT resiliency continuously. This pandemic represents an opportunity for CIOs to make rapid, well-informed decisions and expedite arrangements to safeguard their workforce, mitigate business disruption, and ensure that critical operations continue. Informed decisions can build trust, resiliency, and a culture of innovation, while poor decisions could pose a real reputational risk.