We have all heard it countless times over the past several weeks: “We are in unprecedented times.”
In my career, I have executed on business continuity plans for a multitude of different reasons, from tsunamis to market crashes, but nothing has caused the global disruption close to what we are facing with COVID-19. Global pandemic wasn’t at the top of any of our lists. This scenario is bringing up lots of different challenges for businesses and specifically CIOs.
In the short-term, you have two jobs: make sure your employees are safe and have everything they need to do their jobs, and making sure as a C-suite you are communicating confidently and consistently about the current state of affairs and how you are moving forward.
But once you have covered those two immediate needs, there are five areas to focus on to make sure your business can ride through disruption and come out stronger on the other side.
Focus on your people
This relates back to your number one focus to start, your greatest asset that doesn’t show up on P&L— your people. How do you know they continue to stay safe? Do they have what’s needed to work from home comfortably and effectively? This may mean investing in new technologies for collaboration or increasing usage. It could also mean changing some internal processes to be completely digital so your people can do their jobs are as efficiently and effectively as possible. This is all preparing teams for the new business reality, and your job is to keep them motivated, feeling supported, and aligned.
Shift your focus while protecting your core
One of your biggest challenges will be the shifts in business process in this new reality. There will be changes in demand on different platforms, causing you to rethink your priorities. But while managing these changes in this disruptive time, you cannot forget to stay the course on your strategic initiatives.
Additionally, it is essential to be proactive about protecting your organization and focusing on information security. New threats are appearing daily, it needs to be top of mind for everyone. Afterall, without stable core systems up and running for all your operations and processes, it becomes impossible to ensure your employees and customers are having their needs met.
Look for ways to be more agile
Shifts in business priorities and changing demand across platforms will require greater agility from your organization. For example, is there an issue with manufacturing in China or Italy?
This will shift demand to different parts of your business and how quickly you can respond is important. As a result, you may need to make changes to drive that agility, like adding an incremental policy to your tech stack on utilization inside your enterprise.
If you are finding that you cannot respond quickly, look for specific processes in your business you can streamline to be more agile, while equipping people throughout your business to do the same.
Diversify and duplicate
When we look back on this time, we will be looking at ways to prevent this type of disruption in the future. In addition to enterprise agility and the ability to move quickly, another key theme that will emerge is diversifying and duplicating the most critical processes in your business across locations and people. Companies are going to need to change their frameworks very quickly, looking at key components of their supply chain, including sourcing ingredients and either diversify or duplicate those processes.
For example, if all your manufacturing capabilities are being done in one geographical region—think of a pharmaceutical company that might create key elements of a medication in one location—it's worth considering diversifying those capabilities across locations outside of that area.
Build capabilities across the enterprise
Outside of the core work of the business, companies will also need to expand their capabilities across the enterprise. For example, having software development in one country or location can pose a risk during times of disruption. But instead of simply moving development teams across the globe, I recommend a different approach: enabling the edges of the business, the actual business users, with low-code technology. When you empower citizen developers in different geographies, you have more hands on keyboards being able to serve the business in a diversified way, avoiding the risk of capabilities being wrapped up in one location.
By focusing on your people, protecting your core while shifting focus, building business agility, diversifying and duplicating critical process and extending capabilities across the enterprise, CIO’s will be well equipped for any disruption to come. We will never be able to prepare for everything, but if we focus on these key components, we will be in the best shape we can be to be successful.
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