It is essential for these leaders to proactively address business challenges to stay ahead, according to a panel of executives.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the global workforce, business leaders must meet the challenge—not only by responding to the disruptions, but by being proactive and creating a post-COVID-19 workplace strategy.
On Tuesday, Gartner released the results of its May 2020 CIO Research Circle, which surveyed 58 chief information officers. According to the survey, while CIOs have proved to be successful in managing operations during the crisis, "there are more complex challenges that CIOs must tackle during the recovery to sustain their elevated value," Gartner said. And while under half (43%) of those surveyed signaled that plans for a post-COVID-19 workplace are underway, 38% have not yet turned to this recovery strategy.
As the workforce quickly transitioned to remote during the coronavirus, CIOs played a pivotal role in handling the new work environment.
"CIOs, in many organizations, were instrumental in dealing with the initial impact of COVID-19. Enterprises continue to operate with a heavy lift from IT organizations, especially in enabling a newly dispersed workforce to work from home," said Andy Rowsell-Jones, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, said in a press release. "Consequently, many CIOs have a new opportunity to take a seat at the table when senior leaders decide enterprise strategy and which lines of business to ramp up and which ones to reduce," he added.
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The Gartner CIO circle revealed that CIOs and business leaders have strengthened their relationship. Nearly 75% of those surveyed indicated that they helped senior leaders manage the crisis—and two-thirds of respondents said that they had the unexpected benefit of learning more about business operations at their workplace.
"The improved engagement with the CEO stems from business capabilities delivered by IT during the initial COVID-19 response," said Rowsell-Jones. "For example, 67% of CIOs said they 'assumed leadership of high-impact initiatives' during the response. That likely refers to supporting working from home for employees as 70% of CIOs listed support for working from home as their proudest accomplishment in the pandemic response. However, this goodwill with the CEO will fade quickly unless CIOs can extend it by helping the business deliver on other high-impact initiatives required during the recovery."
COVID-19 meant that many organizations that were moving to a product-centric delivery model were forced to find a more instant solution. This, however, is not necessarily a good long-term business plan. According to Gartner, CIOs must "make substantial changes to help their enterprises achieve their top business objectives during the recovery."
During COVID-19, many CIOs reprioritized tasks, for instance, putting more emphasis on organizational culture. But, as Gartner noted, it's important for them to understand how significant the changes must be.
CIOs have undergone a transformation in recent years—as IT budgets expand, the position has taken on new leadership roles—but COVID-19 seems to have pushed this transformation into high gear.
The Gartner survey makes it clear that the role of the CIO will continue to grow, especially as enterprises increasingly rely on the cloud and other remote applications. Rowsell-Jones explained what he sees for the future of the CIO in the release: "A business-oriented IT strategy would likely involve the construction of a digital business technology platform—a long and complex undertaking."
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