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The new role of CIOs in the post-pandemic world 


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The role of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) has changed hugely in the wake of the pandemic. Until now, the role of the CIO (and sometimes the CDO, Chief Digital Officer) was often focused more on technology than on business models. But times are changing, and the roles of technology leaders and business leaders are more linked that ever before. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an already increasingly digitized business ecosystem has entered into rapid and all-consuming processes of digital transformation. 

Today, technology is business. 

And in the post-pandemic world, CIOs are calling the shots and becoming a key voice within the C-suite.  

Now that digital channels have overtaken physical platforms as our primary communication, collaboration, and transactional platforms, IT is taking center stage.  Almost every aspect of an organization – from management to marketing – now relies on digital processes. And that means CIOs are fast becoming primary decision-makers.

Post COVID-19 pandemic, the new role of the CIO is set to become increasingly multifunctional and leadership-oriented. And though, for some, this marks the “opportunity of a lifetime” it will necessarily require a great degree of adaptation, learning, commitment, and responsibility. 

How the coronavirus pandemic changed the CIO role

As technology becomes increasingly critical to business operations, new challenges have risen, from resource management to resiliency planning, reskilling, and remodeling the workplace for long-term remote working in the new normal. 

1. Health management post-COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has catapulted healthcare to the top of everyone’s agenda – and rightly so. In the post-pandemic world, businesses will need to continue prioritizing the health and wellbeing of their employees. That process is set to become increasingly data-led in nature. In the short term, CIOs and IT leaders will be responsible for collating and digitizing real-time critical health data (such as mandatory temperature measurements for employees) in order to identify and mitigate health risks. 

2. Resiliency planning for business continuity

The pandemic caught us all off guard. Businesses with the foresight to start digital transformations prior to the COVID-19 outbreak had a competitive advantage. As such, businesses have experienced a stark reminder of the importance of resiliency planning. 

In fact, according to research conducted as part of IDG’s COVID-19 Impact Study, 49% of IT-decision makers credit resiliency planning as having helped prepare them for the current health crisis and onward ramifications. And at the heart of it all? Digital transformation. 

For CIOs, digital transformations are forming the heart of resilience planning strategies. To ensure that every business strategy is equipped for continuity – in spite of adversity – CIOs must prioritize the effective adoption and implementation of those technologies that can set businesses up to bounce back quickly. That means out with the legacy systems, and in with cloud computing technologies. 

3. Digitally transforming towards remote working 

The pandemic made CIOs more open to remote work—and this will only continue. Unsurprisingly, this puts IT at the helm. Remote working success depends heavily on technology and accessibility. CIOs and their IT teams will be responsible for supporting an increasingly vast remote workforce. 

Organizations will require total digitization. Digitizing business requires investment in seamless cloud-based software solutions, nextgen technology, and data centers. Cloud-first policies are fuelling the way towards online business continuity, and ushering in increased demand for rapid data migration processes. 

4. Reskilling

With digitization and automation at the helm of forward-thinking business technology models, training and reskilling are going to be high on the agenda in most business strategies. It’s not just CIOs that the pandemic changed the role of. From employees to IT leadership teams, partners to vice presidents – there’s a learning curve in everyone’s future. Whether it’s adapting to new software or venturing into low-code app development, these digital learning curves will be central to resilience. 

5. Financial efficiency

With the initial shock of the pandemic gradually ebbing, businesses are starting to implement budget cuts. In research conducted by Deloitte 66% of respondents admitted that their businesses are trying to cut their costs within the next 12 months. And that means CIOs must learn to adapt to this financial deficit by putting in place business processes and systems that both increase efficiency and limit costs. 

6. The new CIO role means putting agility first 

Over the last year, we’ve all learned that things can change. And they can change fast. Agility is imperative to business survival. Whether that’s through changing up internal structures, switching product development, or bringing in new policies, business leaders need to be able to think on their feet. IT is an essential part of this.

Fast, decisive decision-making by CIOs is now make-or-break during disruption. To achieve faster results, CIOs must prioritize responsivity and agility for the future.

7. Prioritizing customer experiences

Customer expectations are always in flux, but the pandemic has had a marked impact on what our customers expect. With face-to-face consumer interactions at a standstill, today’s customers crave personalized, creative, and seamless online communication experiences. However, with new interactions come new concerns – customers find themselves asking ‘will this company sell my personal info’ and ‘is my data secure?’

Fueled principally by new technology, CIOs must prioritize consumer experience as a mission-critical factor in any digital transformation process. Of course, it’s vital that this isn’t done at the expense of the employee experience, and that’s a tricky tightrope CIOs will have to walk.

A big step for CIOs 

The pandemic has been a big step for man. And a giant leap for CIOs. Chief Information Officers are redefining the future and becoming increasingly critical to business operations. The way the working world works has been well and truly flipped on its head, leaving us just one way forward. The future of business intelligence is in digital technologies

That means cybersecurity solutions, data-driven processes, artificial intelligence, and remote digital solutions are fast becoming the norm. In order to facilitate continuity, CIOs post-pandemic have had to mobilize digital transformation plans for the future. 

As we move into a post-pandemic world, it couldn’t be clearer that IT leaders are the new business leaders. CIO priorities increasingly reflect business priorities. The CIO role is critical – both to business transformation and survival. 

Originally published May 25, 2021, updated Jan 18, 2023

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