During the COVID-19 pandemic, CIOs who scrambled to help remote staff are expanding their digital operating models with digital transformation activities and tools.
Enterprise IT executives have taken the measures required to keep their companies running during the coronavirus pandemic, but they also realize that their corporate IT systems can’t relax. Intent to emerge stronger than ever from COVID-19 outbreak, Many IT leaders are fleshing out their future-proofing strategies, speeding up innovative growth models and retraining their IT portfolios even as they deepen gaps.
Since COVID-19 shuttered businesses in the United States in March, shifts in purchasing habits have companies now as often as ever vying for digital sales. Accordingly, CIOs who are keen to keep as much momentum going as possible before any future budget cuts come for IT are adopting a quick step and building approach to things.
If there is any indication of a recent PwC survey of 330 CFOs, they need not worry: Thirty-two percent expect their technology-related spending to be driven by growth, including e-commerce and new products and services, for the next 12 months, according to a study conducted in early June.
- Reskilling reinforces the digital operating model
- Project management in the cloud
- Time to prioritize innovation
In light of this, CIOs are taking the moment to increase internal capabilities. After implementing its work-from-home (WFH) strategies, the IT department of the Lincoln Financial Group took a breath of fresh air to refocus its digital strategy and “push learning across the organization.” says CIO Ken Solon.
Lincoln recently launched a training curriculum in which subject-matter experts provide cloud and digital computing guidance, analytics, agile / DevOps, cybersecurity, and other skills that are at the heart of the new operating model of the insurance business, says Solon, who greenlit the program. The reskilling tool, called LeanIn and LearnIt, provides Lincoln’s 1,200 IT staff virtual sessions running through October, through Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx.
Solon is fortifying Lincoln for the long haul in these activities, Solon says, adding that he is partnering with Deloitte to refine a model of talent and leadership as the organization finalizes its preparations for a return to the office. “That’s going to be really different from how we left,” says Solon. “We have got to get it right.” The strategy is looking good. CIOs that have completed the business continuity plans in step one. Mark Settle, Okta ‘s former CIO, wrote in a recent Forbes column after boosting network capacity, shipping workstations to employee homes and building remote call center operations, IT leaders need to increase existing skill sets, prioritize the right projects and focus on business outcomes.
At the heart of Roy Varghese’s digital strategy at the federal agency NOAA Fisheries, which oversees 50 local fisheries, is achieving better business outcomes. Varghese, the agency’s CIO, has been undertaking organizational gap analysis since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, including establishing the right context for how IT goods and services are constructed and consumed.
On that front, the organization leans more on cloud software to centralize IT project management, an emphasis Varghese says has helped his organization complete projects on time and within budget. NOAA currently has 30 projects in its SmartSheet pipeline helping to rapidly track and identify risks.SmartSheet helps Varghese review three or four projects within 30 minutes; it had taken the same time to review one previously.
The “democratizes project management with all the rigor and none of the weight” software used by the company in previous project management applications, and it has helped NOAA become more data-driven, which Varghese says is crucial in these unpredictable times. “We know just where there are holes and where we are now, and where we want to go with data in the future,” he says.
It is important to use data to establish and maintain business continuity, although some fear overemphasis in these areas will leech innovation resources as companies weigh cost reductions, gage productivity and implement safety measures, McKinsey said in a recent report. The consultancy advises businesses to adapt aggressively to changing consumer needs, .Pursue new growth prospects and reassess their product portfolios to ensure correct capital distribution.
Facilitating innovation during the pandemic is a large part of Darren Dworkin ‘s role as CIO of Cedars-Sinai, which has developed custom algorithms to help the hospital system in Los Angeles track the dispersal of N95 masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment.
The hospital system also uses AI to maintain a snapshot of how many beds and equipment it has at any given time, as well as estimates of the beds and equipment needed on various days. The methods, used by the data analysis department at the hospital and located on a large data lake, take into account historical data on the average length of stay for post-operative patients,As well as what equipment each technique needs. “It helps us understand how much potential we have and how we need to scale up” capital, says Dworkin, adding that CIOs may argue that “we’ve never needed more creativity than we do right now.”
CIOs who have spent the past few months sprinting through WFH implementations are now buckling in for what they say will be a transformation marathon blending back-to-office tech deployments with the current remote-working scenarios, says Nirva Fereshetian, CIO of architectural design firm CBT. As CBT ‘s headquarters in Boston and other offices shuttered, Fereshetian saw Microsoft Teams acceptance skyrocket among the workforce of 230-plus programmers, some of whom had previously declined to use the communication tool.
Finding the best balance of technology to help to return workers and others who want to continue working from home, as well as how CBT will provide clients with a high-quality experience, is more difficult. Designers, for example, used virtual reality and augmented reality headsets like Microsoft HoloLens and Google Glass to demonstrate pre-pandemic designs to clients.With both shared VR / AR headsets and on-site consultations no longer being an option, Fereshetian is exploring how she could create a mixed reality solution based on software.
Challenges remain, though Fereshetian is proud of how CBT has transformed in the last three months more than it could in 12 to 18 months before. Now, she worries about maintaining the momentum: “With our learning processes and incredible successes, we don’t want to go backwards,” she says.