5 Strategies for CIOs in the New World of Work

While some IT organizations were better prepared than others, none would have predicted just how vital remote working would be to the business in 2020.

Seven in 10 IT leaders are now saying remote working requirements are having a permanent impact on budgets, staffing and policies. Nearly 40% of CEOs say “improving the remote work experience” is the new top priority – tying the lofty and ever-present “digital transformation” at the top of the list. Perhaps that’s because without a workforce there is no digital transformation. And without a remote working strategy, it seems there simply is no way to get work done anymore.

As Softchoice kicked off our first Innovation Executive Forum (IEF) event of the year (held virtually, of course), this new IT imperative was made crystal clear. Inspired by the discussions of these senior-level IT leaders, we are starting to see the 5 key strategies CIOs are using to ensure a smooth and sustainable transition to a new world of working.

Closing connectivity and provisioning gaps

Many IT organizations benefited from existing business continuity and workplace flexibility investments. But, as our SVP of IT Jeff Reis pointed out in a recent interview, the solutions that were already in place were usually built for isolated, temporary disruptions. They were not created to support company-wide, long-term displacement.

Which is why we have seen CIOs make fortifying critical infrastructure and provisioning capabilities, to shore up existing remote working solutions. Numerous IEF members, for example, said they focused on updating legacy VPNs in the weeks following the pandemic. Others said they had to quickly determine how to provision new devices and hardware at distance, to overcome social distancing requirements.

Fighting for IT budget essentials

With economic uncertainties rising, IT spending is poised to see major cuts. While budget adjustments are to be expected the CIO needs to work on protecting critical investments in security and cloud collaboration.

CSO Online reports cloud-related attacks have risen as much as 1,350% since the COVID-19 crisis began. Now is not the time to cut spending on your cloud collaboration tools or security practices. The CIO must raise awareness about where IT investments are most needed, while also helping the business identify lower-priority projects that can be put on the back burner.

Building a culture of virtual leadership and wellness

In Canada alone, close to two million people are showing signs of “traumatic stress” due to COVID19. CIOs have a duty to promote virtual leadership and wellness initiatives, to help employees struggling with feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression.

One key CIO responsibility is to ensure technologies are adopted in a way that overcomes the unique challenges of distributed working. CIOs should provide leaders the tools to stay in touch with employees via casual, virtual drop-by’s. Video conferencing tools can also be leveraged to connect groups and departments for fun, morale-building “virtual socials.”

Privacy is another concern. Those in-person water cooler moments have been replaced by IT-managed collaboration tools. One IEF member worried employees would start to feel they are always being watched. The question for CIOs is: How do you encourage employees to maintain connections virtually, without fearing a loss of privacy?

Fueling IT with purpose

Speaking of stress, IT departments are facing spikes in support tickets and longer hours, while learning how to provision and maintain a new normal. Now is the time to remind everyone on the IT team just how crucial their work is to the ongoing success of the business.

For years, IT leaders have touted their critical role in enabling the business to prosper. Now, more than ever, that position is being made official. For your employees, knowing just how important their work is in keeping the lights on, and the business doors open, can be a powerful motivator in even the most difficult moments.

Countering Shadow IT

In the rush to adopt remote working, growing pains are inevitable. What IT can’t do is let things get out of control when employees become frustrated.

Ideally, CIOs can create an amazing end-user productivity experience, where adoption is easy, safe and secure. Making sure you are building solutions designed for real users, in real situations, is key. But you also need to plan for the inevitable temptation for users to go around IT when patience wears thin. Here, IT must work on building trust to combat Shadow IT. One effective approach: Use empathy. Tell your employees you understand their feelings. Then clearly outline the reasons behind policies and procedures. You want to create an environment where employees feel heard and eager to collaborate with IT when things get tough. Anything less will make the months ahead more difficult and less secure for everyone.

Helping IT in uncertain times

IT leaders are coming to terms with a new set of challenges and uncertainties. As new lessons and best practices emerge, we invite you to explore our Business Continuity solutions and resources.