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IT Leadership, Leadership

Being a CIO in a Covid-19 World……

What is it like running IT in this bizarre new World. How has Covid-19 changed things?

We all know that our World has been rocked by Covid-19 and a lot has been written about it.

Thousands have died, businesses have collapsed, numerous people have lost their jobs, and many of us have been working from home (WFH).

Some countries have been better at controlling the spread than others, some have lifted restrictions too early and are now seeing a second spike. In the case of the US, things are growing dramatically, much worse than the first time round.

Need for Technology – transition to WFH

Amongst all of this chaos we have had to rely more and more upon technology. This is especially true for many businesses where they have had to suddenly transition to everyone working from home.

I heard stories of staff being sent out to local stores with corporate credit cards to buy up every laptop they had, plus monitors and associated peripherals. There are also numerous stories of IT teams hastily standing up new servers, expanding cloud services to be able to cope with the added demands, and couriering hundreds of laptops and other equipment to people’s homes.

One way or another though, most companies got themselves sorted out and adapted to doing business without everyone in offices.

Oh look – the business still runs with people working from home….!!!

Before Covid-19, various companies already allowed people to work from home, however, there were still many that were against it and did not trust their employees. Then Covid-19 struck and everything changed, with businesses being forced to have everyone work remotely or close down.

One “aha moment” that has come from Covid-19 is that companies have suddenly realised that they can still run the company with people working from home, and that people can be trusted and that they are getting the job done (and quite likely are putting in more hours than before!).

Landlords and commercial real estate owners are getting very worried about who will fill this office space in the future. Will all of it be needed, or will a large part of the workforce remain at home in the future?

It remains to be seen whether this will continue once Covid-19 receeds, but at least for now it is the “new normal”.

Has Covid-19 changed the CIO role?

The CIO role has always been extremely challenging with some people joking that CIO stands for “Career Is Over”!!

With recent happenings the job of the CIO and the IT team has become even more difficult with the need to suddenly scale remote working infrastructure, provide extra equipment, and train staff how to use it, all while everyone is remote. Covid-19 has been a great test of who was properly prepared and able to adapt.

At the same time Covid-19 and the need for everyone to work from home has really focused senior executives on the value of technology. All of a sudden IT has been thrown into the spotlight and not just as a necessary evil, but as a key enabler for the business to function.

The key question is amongst all of this chaos has the CIO role changed? (Many would argue that it has been constantly changing and evolving, so this is nothing new. The question is whether Covid-19 has led to an even greater change).

Well, yes and no!! If we look at the key deliverables and functions of the CIO, they are much the same (delivering tools and technology to enable the business), however, some of them have been become even more critical yet at the same time more difficult to deliver. Think collaboration and core systems. Providing support when everyone is remote and you cannot send someone to review their machine etc.

What has changed is how the CIO (if they weren’t already) needs to step-up and use this increased business awareness and customer need for online tools to drive digital transformation across the enterprise.

Digital Renaissance

Does this pose the end of Digital resistance and the start of a Digital renaissance? I doubt that it will remove all resistance, but the added focus, especially from CEOs is helping to reduce resistance and move things forward at a greater pace than ever before.

With customers being forced to stay home, the need for doing business online has increased exponentially, this has kick-started many digital initiatives, with companies looking for new ways to do business, provide improved self-service tools and accelerate their Digital change.

A recent TCS survey found an “increasing interest of company boards about these digital transformations”. “The CIOs are leading those discussions for those companies. And that support of boards is a very good thing for CIOs.”


Good CIOs with the right strategic mindset will see the current global Covid-19 pandemic as a massive opportunity and will help the business to drive forward with digital transformation. Others will see it as a continuing crisis and will run from one problem to another without making real headway.


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