Not all companies were born digital, but they now have to attend to the digital demands of the current environment. As the wave of COVID-19 traverses the world, business resilience has emerged as a strategic avenue. CIOs are especially critical in this process, because IT strategies influence many important aspects of business: workforce, security, and automation. High-tech companies will need to evaluate the impact on all three fronts, preparing for the short-term while also developing new capabilities and new ways of working in long-term.
Recently, I had an opportunity to moderate a panel on business recovery and resilience in the high-tech industry with Rashmi Kumar, CIO of HPE, and Adhir Mattu, CIO of Marvell Semiconductor. The full 27-minute webinar is available on-demand at this link and embedded below. Here are some highlights about how CIOs can catapult their organizations beyond the current crisis with a coherent and comprehensive IT strategy.
The Challenges of Change
COVID-19 had a global impact on most organizations’ operations and workforce, particularly with regard to safety, mobility, productivity, engagement, and security. The biggest challenge CIOs face today is managing virtual work while balancing employee safety with company security. They must sustain secured operations and adopt new communication/collaboration strategies to maintain workforce productivity. The key is to combine productivity with capabilities. To do this, CIOs should focus more on cloud, manufacturing, and supply-chain capabilities to build a resilient enterprise. HPE’s Kumar said it’s now showtime for all the capabilities companies have built over the years.
The Proliferation of Remote Work
Many companies are reporting a rise in productivity and employee satisfaction as a result of remote working. For employees working remotely, collaborating with their peers can become difficult in the absence of robust and accessible platforms. Access to the requisite resources is necessary for the workforce to conduct operations as before. However, this can be hard to achieve when such resources are defined by work requirements and lie outside an organization’s current line of sight.
For organizations and Internet service providers, the challenge now lies in provisioning more connectivity to residential areas, where work from home is becoming the normal way to operate. Another key challenge is leveraging technologies such as cloud, which can run business-specific applications for employees to access from remote locations.
For jobs that prove difficult or are impossible while working remotely, a possible solution is collaborating with HR teams and sourcing common work venues. Companies need to take a hybrid approach where a part of the workforce is working remotely while the remaining teams could go work at a common place. This will ensure productivity while keeping the operational costs low. Marvell Semiconductor’s Mattu said moving workloads to cloud has brought agility and scalability to his company’s services, noting that dashboards and data analytics has improved their visibility into business operations. This becomes even more critical when support and operations staff are also part of the remote workforce.
CIOs across industries need to mitigate the security risks that come with additional exposure, self-service, and automation. Kumar believes enhanced monitoring, reporting, and controls give insight in user behavior that can help pre-empt possible security threats. An interesting approach that companies can consider is “Protection-Detection-Recovery.”
Mattu noted that cybersecurity is a board-level discussion but can’t be tackled one-way. Training modules for employees are equally necessary, alongside robust IT solutions that create a “human firewall.” CIOs should move from a reactive defensive posture to a proactive mode of cybersecurity.
A Partnership Culture
The COVID-19 crisis made every CIO struggle with delivering business results amidst cost pressures. Innovating with the engineering teams and maintaining collaborative relationships can give companies a competitive advantage. Strong internal and external partnership networks can increase productivity in terms of reducing cycle times and costs significantly.
Many companies have started rolling out partner programs to bolster simple and scalable IT strategies and avoid silos. Mattu suggests a “3C” model to co-innovation: Competency, Credibility, and Common Goals. This model helps companies to increase their competency by partnering with the right talent, earn credibility by delivering what is promised, and achieve cost and revenue targets by aligning common goals.
Proliferation of AI
Kumar said AI is not just a cost play, but a reliability play. Companies don’t have enough eyes, arms, and legs to do the amount of computation that is required today, so they need to make systems smarter. AI and automation play an important role in bolstering security, reducing costs, and helping enterprises remediate vulnerabilities and interruptions to their digital business operations.
It is fascinating to see how AI helps solve problems, including through digital virtual agents. If the problem exceeds the AI’s capability, it directs the inquiry to the appropriate human being. All of this is done virtually, seamlessly increasing the company’s overall productivity and automation while helping customers avoid long wait times.
Resilience in the High-Tech Industry
Looking ahead, companies must make business and IT resiliency a continuous process. This pandemic represents an opportunity for CIOs to make rapid, well-informed decisions and expedite arrangements to safeguard their workforce, mitigate business disruption, and ensure that critical operations continue. An informed decision could build trust, resiliency, and a culture of innovation; a poor decision could pose a real reputational risk. To enable a more resilient business and IT organization, today’s CIO must start thinking through what their next-gen IT strategy should look like and how to fund the journey. More on this in a future post.