The thoughtful CIO will give priority to planning for fully reopening the organizations after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. The new normal in the new world will not be the old normal. The changes will go well beyond customer and staff expectations for personal safety in places of business.

Successful organizations in the post COVID-19 world will be the ones that proactively think through what:

  1. Current work will have to be performed differently to keep customers, staff, and suppliers healthy while containing costs.
  2. New work they will definitely need to start performing to reduce risk and survive.
  3. New initiatives they can start to succeed and grow in the new world.
  4. Current work that should stop because it turned out not to be important during the time of crisis.

How can the IT department best support its organization in the emerging new world that is being significantly reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic experience?

Effective remote work

When the COVID-19 lockdown loomed, almost every organization expanded its use of remote work at warp speed as many employees rushed home into self-isolation and social distancing. The supporting IT infrastructure was cobbled together just as quickly.
Post COVID-19 the likely CIO actions for effective remote work include:

  1. Upgrading the supporting IT infrastructure for improved performance and reliability.
  2. Educating employees on best practices for successful remote work.
  3. Strengthening security, remote collaboration capability, document sharing and training.

The CIO can also encourage the organization leadership to:

  1. Recognize that the social dynamics of in-person work are important to the culture of the organization and plan for in-person events to sustain this culture.
  2. Enhance HR policies to better define expectations for remote work.

These workplace actions will increase employee engagement and productivity while reducing turnover.

Enhanced ecommerce platform

Before COVID-19, many organizations conducted at least some of their business on an ecommerce platform. During the COVID-19 disruption, as in-person commerce became impossible, the percentage of business conducted on ecommerce platforms shot up dramatically.
Post COVID-19 the likely CIO actions to enhance the ecommerce platform include:

  1. Increasing capacity and reliability to reduce risk of poor customer experience.
  2. Enhancing functionality for better customer engagement and to handle more complex products.
  3. Implementing contactless operations to the greatest extent possible.

The CIO can also coach the organization leadership to:

  1. Expand the range of products and services available on the ecommerce platform.
  2. Commit more operational resources to improve customer service.
  3. Rationalize staff safety practices at fulfillment centers to contain cost without sacrificing safety.

These ecommerce platform actions will increase revenue and create awareness of the organization in new markets and among new customer segments.

Digital transformation

Most organizations are plodding along the path to digital transformation even if they’re not conscious of it. Then the COVID-19 disruption suddenly made manual data capture and sneaker-net communication of bits of data impossible. The disruption glaringly highlighted the potholes and missing pieces in digital data management at all organizations.
Post COVID-19 the likely CIO actions to advance digital transformation include:

  1. Expanding the use of enterprise content management (ECM) to reduce remaining use of paper.
  2. Expanding the use of existing applications to improve automated support for the remaining manual processes.
  3. Improving data integration among applications to enhance data sharing and analytics.

The CIO can also encourage the organization leadership to:

  1. Strengthen data stewardship practices to improve data quality.
  2. Sponsor projects to fill in gaps in the application portfolio to improve data accessibility while reducing the overuse of Excel.

Digital transformation will improve the conduct of business, support the move to more data-driven decision-making and reduce operating costs.

Revised supply chain objectives

Before COVID-19, organizations optimized their supply chains mostly to achieve low cost. That cost goal resulted in few or even just one supplier for each component or service. Worse, many of those few suppliers tended to be far away. The COVID-19 disruption demonstrated how risky this supply chain strategy can be.

Post COVID-19 the likely CIO actions to achieve supply chain objectives include enhancing applications that:

  1. Support procurement to improve inventory management.
  2. Smooth the management of documents required for shipments to cross national boundaries.

The CIO can also encourage the organization leadership to:

  1. Contract with more suppliers for more flexibility and redundancy.
  2. Opt for shorter supply chains to reduce transportation costs and elapsed time as well as the risk of disruption.
  3. Build more visibility into who the suppliers to its suppliers are to better understand risk.

In the new world, these actions will add resilience, efficiency, and reduce distances in the supply chain while cost will remain important.

Restructured organization of work

Before COVID-19, organizations used many meetings, often with too many participants, to achieve a consensus on direction and decisions. During the COVID-19 lockdown, out of necessity or desperation, decision-making accelerated and involved far fewer people. To the surprise of some, the organizations did not collapse as a result.

Post COVID-19 the likely CIO actions to revise the organization of work include:

  1. Sponsoring analysis of business process improvement opportunities.
  2. Implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for contactless digital transactions processing.
  3. Strengthening collaboration capability and related training.

The CIO can also encourage the organization leadership to:

  1. Drive decision-making lower into the organization, especially day-to-day decisions.
  2. Organize work more through small teams rather than hierarchal groups.
  3. Encourage agility to revise processes, move people, and implement the technology.
  4. Evaluate the real estate needs that have likely decreased.

Organizations that move earlier, faster, and more decisively outperform their peers in terms of important measures such as revenue growth, margins, and customer satisfaction.

What strategies would you recommend that will help organizations succeed and grow in the new, post-COVID-19 world? Let us know in the comments below.