CIOs’ COVID-19 performance provides an opportunity to contribute to the business strategy during recovery
CIOs have increased their organizational credibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are more complex challenges that CIOs must tackle during the recovery to sustain their elevated value, according to Gartner.
A Gartner CIO Research Circle (a Gartner managed panel) survey of 58 CIOs in May 2020 revealed that 43% of respondents said planning for their enterprises’ post-COVID-19 strategy has begun, while 38% were still dealing with the effects, but will turn to recovery soon.
“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. 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,” said Andy Rowsell-Jones, distinguished research vice president at Gartner.
The Gartner survey showed that the COVID-19 crisis has improved CIOs’ relationships with business leaders and the benefits flowed both ways. Almost 75% of respondents said they educated CEOs and other senior leaders during the crisis, while two-thirds of CIOs said they gained knowledge of business operations.
“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.”
Focus on the Next Set of Business Challenges to Sustain Momentum
The COVID-19 pandemic did not trigger a major IT reorganization and may have delayed one that was already underway. Many IT organizations were in the process of moving to a more product-centric delivery model when the pandemic struck and replaced these plans with something much more immediate. However, what worked well during the initial response to the pandemic will not carry the enterprise to success as organizations reset their strategy.
CIOs will have to make substantial changes to help their enterprises achieve their top business objectives during the recovery. The survey showed that CIOs already recognize some of the changes they need to make to the IT organization but may not realize how far they need to take the changes.
The Gartner survey asked respondents about changes in priority they made in response to COVID-19. A large percentage of CIOs did make some things a higher priority, including changing the organizational culture and aligning to business priorities. However, most CIOs who changed priorities did so only to a small degree, just enough to deal with the immediate crisis.
“For the IT organization to play a larger role in developing and executing the business strategy, CIOs will have to make a much larger degree of change in many areas. For example, using cloud services to deploy applications faster to remote workers may represent a significant change in platform for some enterprises, but it remains within the realm of operations,” said Rowsell-Jones. “A business-oriented IT strategy would likely involve the construction of a digital business technology platform — a long and complex undertaking.”