CIOs need to have proper preparations in place to handle Coronavirus disruptions

(Image credit: RawPixel / Pexels)

Chief information officers (CIOs) need to focus on three short-term actions to increase their organisations’ resilience against disruptions and prepare for rebound and growth due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) which has disrupted business continuity, mode of working and growth patterns, an industry expert said.

When traditional channels and operations are impacted by the outbreak, Sandy Shen, senior research director at Gartner, said the value of digital channels, products and operations becomes immediately obvious.

“This is a wake-up call to organisations that focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience,” she said.

The three short-term actions are sourcing digital collaboration tools with security controls and network support, engaging customers and partners through digital channels while maintaining sales activities, and establishing a single source of truth for employees.

In organisations where remote working capabilities have not yet been established, Shen said that CIOs need to work out interim solutions in the short term, including identifying use case requirements such as instant messaging for general communication, file sharing/meeting solutions, and access to enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management, while reviewing all security arrangements to ensure secure access to applications and data.

Many tech companies and telecom operators globally are offering their communication tools to enterprises, educational institutions and NGOs for working and learning remotely as various quarantine measures and travel restrictions undertaken by organisations, cities and countries have caused uncertainties and disruptions as business operations are either suspended or run in a limited capacity.

However, Shen said that organisations also need to deal with staffing shortages to maintain basic operations. CIOs can work with business leaders to conduct workforce planning to assess risks and address staffing gaps, such as identifying mission-critical service areas.

Leverage data to support better decision making

“CIOs can see how digital technologies such as AI can be used to automate tasks, for example, candidate screening and customer service. Workplace collaboration, video conferencing and live streaming solutions can serve various customer engagement and selling scenarios. Organizations should also enable customers to use self-service via online, mobile, social, kiosk and interactive voice response (IVR) channels,” Shen said.

Even though many organisations still engage customers over digital platforms, she said that offline face-to-face engagement still plays a big role but the value of digital channels becomes obvious as market demand shrinks and as people rely more on online platforms for daily supplies.

“Organisations can leverage digital channels, such as online marketplaces and social platforms, to compensate for some of the demand loss. They can set up official pages/accounts and integrate commerce capabilities to enable online selling. They should also quickly adapt products to make them suited for selling through digital channels,” she said.

However, she said that confusing data from unverified sources — or the sheer lack of data — can lead to ill-informed decisions being made, escalating employee anxiety and making organisations underprepared for returning to normal operations.

“Such anxiety can be somewhat relieved if organisations can leverage data to support better decision making and communicate progress more efficiently to employees. Organisations can offer curated content, drawn from internal and external sources such as the World Health Organisation, HR and corporate communications leaders, to provide actionable guidance to employees,” Shen said.