Beyond Coronavirus: What Does the Future Hold for CIOs and IT?

When we extend our gaze beyond coronavirus, what does the future hold for CIOs and IT departments? 

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically impacted businesses across the globe, both large and small. 

The outbreak has certainly hit some industries harder than others, but the financial crisis that resulted from the pandemic has resulted in massive shifts that will have long-lasting effects on the world as we know it.

Many major research firms, such as McKinsey and Deloitte, suggest that the post-virus era will look very different from the previous years, at least in certain respects.

In this article, we’ll explore what this new normal will look like and, in particular, how this transition will impact the digital side of businesses.

Beyond Coronavirus: Predictions for CIOs and IT Departments

At first glance, predicting the what the world will look like beyond coronavirus seems difficult, if not impossible. 

Given the complexity and uncertainty that we have experienced so far, some may conclude that the future is unpredictable – but this conclusion will only lead to inaction and it is ultimately unproductive.

By examining the current crisis, it is possible to accurately estimate that certain types of trends will have a lasting impact.

Of those, the most profound is the effects we are seeing on digital technology, which has become even more important during the current crisis.

For instance, certain digital trends – such as telehealth, telecommuting, robotics, and online education – have all seen major upticks in their adoption and implementation.

By projecting such trends forward, we can expect to see:

A more digital world

As mentioned, many digital trends are significantly accelerating, which will ultimately help to create a world that is more digital than the one we are used to.

Many trends which seemed far-flung in 2019 will be far closer and more accepted, such as contactless payments, remote working, and telemedicine.

The business landscape will also rely more heavily on digital technology, which will require businesses to become more digitally mature, as mentioned below.

A different competitive landscape

The outbreak and the resulting financial crisis have already altered the current economic landscape.

Travel, tourism, and food services, for instance, have all been hit hard by the crisis and many businesses have been unable to survive. 

In many other industries, the same story holds true: some businesses will adapt by going lean and cutting costs, while others will fail.

As we emerge into the post-COVID world, we can expect to see a competitive marketplace that, for certain industries at least, looks quite a bit different from the one we knew.

Larger talent gaps

Since the need for digital skills has vastly increased, the skills gap will also grow.

Even before the outbreak, skills shortages were inhibiting business productivity and innovation.

After the outbreak, this gap will be even more pronounced, unless organizations take action early in order to mitigate this issue.

More telecommuting

Remote working became the standard operating procedure for many businesses, almost overnight.

For virtual businesses and those who already worked remotely, this was not such a great shift.

But for the vast majority of businesses, this represented a new way of working, and not all were prepared to accommodate such a massive change.

In the coming years, we can fully expect more telecommuting, for several reasons. Not only will employees and businesses be far more health-conscious, they may also use remote working as a way to save costs in a lean economy.

How to Prepare for the Post-Viral “New Normal”

The crisis has vastly accelerated such trends, which means that when we do emerge from this crisis, businesses will need to be prepared in advance. 

Predictions around the timeline vary from institution to institution, but, to a certain extent, that timeline is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that businesses must be ready for the new normal before it arrives, whether it arrives in two months (unlikely, at the time of this writing) or two years (more likely).

Organizations will need to prepare on multiple fronts for the arrival of the post-COVID era, and one of the most important areas to focus on will be the digital front.

Here are a few ways that CIOs and IT teams can prepare their organizations for an economy that is more digitally mature:

Develop a digital adoption mechanism

Global digital transformation has dramatically accelerated, which means that businesses must also accelerate their own transformation efforts.

In almost every case, digital transformation requires the adoption of new technology, software, or infrastructure.

The adoption of these new products inevitably requires employee training – if employees are not trained, then new products will not yield their full potential returns.

In fact, many digital transformation efforts fail to yield their expected results, precisely because employees cannot leverage new technology to its fullest extent.

To overcome this barrier, it is important to implement digital adoption strategies and digital adoption platforms (DAPs) that can automate training and accelerate time-to-productivity.

Modernize IT functions

As mentioned above, an organization’s digital maturity depends directly on users’ digital skills. 

However, the tools themselves form the foundation of an organization’s digital capabilities, and without modern tools, a business cannot keep pace with the rest of the market.

IT modernization means adopting:

The right technology, combined with the right digital skills, will help organizations build a company that is more digitally resilient and capable, especially in the years to come.

Develop integrated digital business processes

An organization that is digitally mature will also continue to modernize and standardize business processes.

The digital workplace, that is, should be built upon modern tools, skilled workers, and efficient processes.

Larger organizations should develop permanent resources dedicated to business process management, with a particular focus on digital workflows and processes.

After all, in the digital economy, the world is continually evolving and changing – and in this type of environment, continually improving business processes has practically become a necessity.

Final Thoughts

The current situation is unprecedented and planning for an uncertain future is certainly not easy. 

Businesses must develop multiple plans that address several possible scenarios, all against the backdrop of a future that is unpredictable and economically strained.

However, with the right strategy and the right plans, CIOs and IT teams can help improve their organizations’ ability to survive and thrive during the coming years.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.