These are the times that test the mettle of every business leader.
Some will use COVID-19 as an excuse for why they can’t possibly hit their 2020 goals, and trust me, I understand that instinct.
But as a leader, our job is to be what the Navy Seals call “all in, all the time.” Yes, COVID-19 knocked all of our plans miles out of alignment. Yes, hitting our 2020 goals got a lot harder. But, no, we won’t let any of that stop us.
This is a career-defining crisis. The CIOs who hit their goals in spite of COVID-19 will earn the gratitude of their CEO, inspire their teams to reach new heights, and have amazing stories to tell their children and grandchildren. If those things aren’t worth fighting for, I don’t know what is.
Here’s what happened when COVID-19 hit Wipro.
We started the new year with four bold goals: improve the employee experience; ensure that CIO functions are completely aligned with business value; improve security and trust; and build the pride of our team. But of course, there’s not a CIO on Earth whose goals accounted for the worst pandemic in a century.
In March, when the pandemic hit, it hit hard.
Fortunately, investments we’d been making for the past several years cushioned the blow.
The first of those investments was time we’d spent building relationships within the company. From day one, every one of our CXOs has worked with us side-by-side to regain our balance. We ran a very tight ship, communicating every few hours to create a solid game plan – what would work from home (WFH) mean to Wipro as a company?
The second key investment was in technology. Because we had key technologies already in place, we were able to quickly get 93% of our 180,000+ employees to start working from home. We’ve been working for years pushing for employees to have the best collaboration tools, and useful automation at the fingertips of every employee. Decisions and implementations were easier, because employees were empowered to do a lot on their own. If we hadn’t done all that in advance, we would’ve had a much tougher time of it.
Still, challenges were — and still are — everywhere. These drive our priorities.
Threat vectors had been growing multifold even before the pandemic — ransomware, data breach, network intrusion, and more. Now, with people working from home, security threats are at an all-time high. We have taken a two-pronged approach of leveraging technology to ensure endpoint compliance, using MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication), VPN, VDI, and firewalls, etc., as well as inculcating a culture of assessing threats and safeguarding information amongst our employees via IEC (Information, Education and Communication) drives.
We’re thinking hard about new employees, too. As we onboard them it’s more important than ever to help them feel comfortable and productive from their very first day.
The long, continuing journey to re-opening means everything from equipment (more laptops, or more desktops?) to real estate and collaboration without being on-campus and beyond needs to be reconsidered. We’re using the next 6-9 months as an opportunity to future-proof ourselves, because the hybrid workplace — sometimes in the office, sometimes remote — is unquestionably what’s next.
First, always invest in building strong teams, strong cross-functional relationships, and don’t skimp on technology. When a crisis hits, you will need those more than ever.
Second, when the entire company is stressed, they need a CIO who isn’t. In a crisis you can work 24 hours a day, but don’t. Take breaks, take deep breaths, take care of yourself. Aim for daily progress, not instant perfection.
Third, plan for the future. Accept that remote working will be part of every company’s workforce and plan accordingly. While some employees return to the office and some stay remote, you’ll need to ensure that both groups can collaborate effectively. Video conferencing, cloud file sharing, instant chat, and other tools that have been invaluable during the past few months will need to be in place permanently.
We’re building on our digital transformation, increasing our productivity, and reimagining our workspaces to comply with safety and social distancing regulations. Our digital transformation work is infusing data and design thinking into every business decision. We’re also using Wipro HOLMES™ and our Agile Anywhere methodology to make Wipro more productive by automating manual processes and uncovering insights and new ways of working so that we can accomplish client projects in much shorter timeframes. We’re using AI to determine how to best lay out our new office, meeting, and cafeteria spaces for social distancing as well as developing new solutions to detect potential infection and keep employees.
Lastly, focus on what’s good. Our IT team has been pushed to the limit, and it has been inspiring to watch our people step up and grow stronger and wiser almost daily. Our entire Wipro team, spanning the entire company, has pulled together admirably. The technology capabilities we’ve been building for years have handled this torture test amazingly well.
The goals we had in January are still worthy ones, and we fully intend to reach them.
I’m confident you can, too.