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Laggard or leader? The CIO’s mission post-pandemic

Thu 4 Jun 2020 | Andrew Duncan

The CIO will be instrumental in making success happen after Covid-19, writes Andrew Duncan, Partner and Regional Lead at Infosys Consulting

Technology will be a critical enabler for businesses to run smoothly and to drive continued value in the future. However, top management, including the board, will have to find the balance between positioning their business for growth and innovation, while also remaining cost-efficient in the current climate. A lot of the weight is on the shoulders of the CIO. But where should they start?

Digital leaders vs. digital laggards

Before Covid-19, businesses typically took incremental steps towards rolling out digitisation programmes, and this phased approach would take place over a number of years. As a result, we are seeing a widening resilience gap between digital leaders and digital laggards — a gap that is likely to grow during the economic downturn.

Those companies with a digitized value chain, or an ‘asset light’ model, had a distinct advantage during the outbreak of the pandemic, with stronger capabilities in risk management, greater visibility over their supply chain, and the flexibility needed to make quick decisions and adjustments.

For businesses that were further behind on their transformation journey, the pandemic is likely to have exposed many shortcomings. It seems clear that their cautious approach to digitisation will have to be compressed, as smart and emerging technology will penetrate our workforces. Now, digital laggards that once mapped digital strategy in years will need to start rapidly scaling their initiatives across a number of weeks and months.

Balancing the books

Right now, leaders are focused on finding cost-cutting measures to offset declining revenues while remaining adaptable amid the changing business landscape. It will likely prove challenging for CIOs to fund the investments needed to drive digital enablement, as capital availability lessens and diminishes.

However, while the IT department must contribute to overall business cost savings, it must also optimise the performance of the business. This, naturally, costs money. By transforming parts of the infrastructure to build in flexibility, such as using cloud services to consolidate legacy solutions, CIOs can lower fixed operating costs and sustain these savings over a number of years, ticking both boxes.

Best foot forwards

In the face of the Covid-19 lockdowns, businesses had to make everything that was once physical virtual, or make their offerings accessible with minimal physical contact. Now, what every business has is a clear view of the activities and products that are no longer viable in the post-pandemic era.

CIOs should use these insights to assess their business-critical processes and prioritise what they can automate immediately. These prioritised assessments should also be extended to address inflexible parts of their technology stacks, such as ageing legacy applications as well as outdated infrastructure and architecture.

Every CIO should be considering how the use of advanced controls, technology and analytics can accelerate capital projects, while also ensuring more efficient use of resources and better decision-making. Again, this ticks the boxes of short-term cost savings and long-term resilience.

Building an ecosystem

As CIOs work to create a more resilient infrastructure, they’ll also want to draw on an ecosystem of digital solutions to reduce dependencies in vulnerable areas. This could involve aligning with partners that are more resilient to global risks, or working with suppliers across traditional industry boundaries.

As companies determine how to rapidly meet their digital requirements and objectives, opportunities for timely corporate development strategies may be available. For example, depressed valuations (as a consequence of Covid-19) may make sourcing additional digital talent and capabilities through mergers and acquisitions a more viable and practical option.

Given the sudden shift to social distancing and remote working, we are being thrown into a new era of technology, rife with solutions such as telehealth and connected devices, drone-powered deliveries, 5G networks, and IoT powered supply chains. Businesses that have delayed their journey to digitisation in the past will need to transform quickly, in order to close the gap and compete in the changing market. There’s a lot to consider, but one thing’s for sure: the CIO will be instrumental in making success happen.

Experts featured:

Andrew Duncan

Partner and Regional Lead
Infosys Consulting


cio strategy
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