Lessons from the CIO Watercooler: A Roundtable Roundup

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CIO Watercooler Digital Boardroom July roundup

Throughout July, RingCentral powered CIO Watercooler’s Digital Boardroom sessions. Digital Boardroom is a series of roundtable events on the state of digital in modern businesses.

The roundtables covered topics from the typical role of the IT leader to post-pandemic infrastructures and how to adapt to the new landscape. Technology leaders from a variety of organisations delved into the details of how to adjust to the new normal and build upon the momentous change which the global pandemic has triggered in the world of business technology.

Touching on some of our favourite topics, we’ve expanded on some of our key takeaways from the CIO Watercooler roundtables in terms of how to survive and thrive through the ongoing pandemic and its aftermath.

Maintaining the momentum of change

The COVID-19 pandemic proved there are many benefits to working from home. For employees, an improved work-life balance and more flexibility during the lockdown period means their expectations of the workplace in a post-lockdown world have changed. The recent influx of remote working has helped to break the stigma around remote working as a more ‘informal’ way of working, with employers now recognising its advantages and planning forward for a more remote-first approach in the future.

Tech leaders looking forward into a somewhat tumultuous economy must therefore keep their eye on the ball, plan strategically and focus on making smarter investments so as not to fall behind the curve.

With employees now possessing more control over their tech applications and how they work, IT leaders need to take a steer from working groups to figure out a new approach to avoid a surge in shadow IT, taking the lead in enabling staff to work effectively and collaboratively.

It is now expected that employers will implement the technologies which can help to drive their success during the next two years whilst also keeping employees safe and engaged on a daily basis, whether they work from home, the office, or a combination of both.

Advising on ways to plan the best infrastructure for your business John O’Donovan, CTO at Allen and Overy says:

“Build from simple scalable blocks that are used consistently to create patterns that solve our problems over and over again.”

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Changing the view of technologists in the workplace

Where IT leaders were previously viewed as ‘fixers’, technologists must work to bend this perception of themselves as being more ‘short term’ technicians. The new normal workplace environment means that technologists are no longer just the ‘hero of the hour’, they become the pivotal department in terms of change management and progression. Commenting on this topic was Victoria Higgin, CIO and Executive Director at Highways England:

“If you have been with an organisation for several years and your persona of the fixer is engrained, it may be hard to suddenly the next day come back with a new strategist persona. You can still bring your cape to the table but demonstrate new ways of engagement.”

Shifting management styles to focus on trust and performance

Many businesses will see a culture change emerging in the new era, with managers having to adapt their style away from micromanagement or ‘command and control’ type situations to a remote-first ethos of trust and a focus on employee enablement and output.

Organisations that choose to invest in the technology to enable this change will see clearer benefits in the long term. That means investing in unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and cloud solutions, and providing tools which integrate with business applications and enable more streamlined workflows, will be the make-or-break for employers in the wake of the pandemic and its economic repercussions.

Transferring to a hybrid model 

Moving to a hybrid model (whereby some employees work remotely and some return to the office) takes a lot of planning and foresight, and tech leaders have the task of designing a manageable solution for teams in terms of call routing, security and compliance.

Taking a step back at this stage is important in establishing what teams truly need from their communications solution whilst also ensuring staff health and wellbeing remains paramount.

Moving to a hybrid model can help future-proof your business, as building new workloads in the cloud makes it easier to establish what works for each team. This should in turn mean future migrations are more friction-free. Adopting cloud solutions makes it easier to scale up or down according to demand, which equates to cost savings in the long run.

This forward-thinking approach means business leaders should also consider total cost of ownership when weighing up the tech infrastructure options for a remote-first future. While many previously wanted to sweat the asset of an on-premises system, IT professionals across the nation have opened their eyes to the scope of cost savings afforded with a UCaaS solution. From the more efficient scalability of a cloud solution, to the regular cyber security updates as part of a service, IT leaders should look to their cloud-based alternatives to help shave down costs while they connect their employees in the wake of a pandemic.

That’s about it for July. The Digital Boardroom sessions continue in August. Get in touch with CIO Watercooler to make sure you don’t miss out.

Restructuring a nation through technology: How UK businesses are facing a post-pandemic future

Originally published Aug 21, 2020, updated Jan 17, 2023

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