04-30-20 | Blog Post

Java with Otava: CIO Recommendations during COVID-19

Blog Posts

In the latest installment of the Java with Otava series, Product Director Jeremy Bigler discusses recommendations from Gartner and 451 Research for CIOs and CTOs in the wake of COVID-19. See below for the video and a transcript.

JEREMY BIGLER: Hi there. Thank you for joining me on his edition of Java with Otava. I hope you’ve had a chance to grab a cup of your favorite blend. I”d like to take a few minutes today to talk about some of the focus areas for CIOs and technology leadership amidst this pandemic. But first, an introduction. My name is Jeremy Bigler, and I am the director of product management at Otava.

Now as we look forward to our new “normal” and await a partial rollback on some of the current restrictions, I think this is very topical for organization, as you consider the impact the COVID-19 may have had on your business and your operating models. The information we’ll discuss here today comes from both Gartner and 451 research primarily. Let’s get started.

Let’s start with a summary of Gartner’s top recommendation for CIOs and CTOs. As mentioned earlier, organizations are looking for the new normal, rationalizing lessons learned from this pandemic and applying that learning to both your operational and business focus. Some of the stressors here are listed under impacts. The need to ensure continuity of operations whilst supporting secure access by a now distributed workforce. We’ve also seen global economic slowdowns and changing buying habits, combined with increasing unemployment rates and a shifting focus on our downstream routes to market. Finally, we’ve seen the spread of misinformation, or at least imperfect information, leading to our inability to make true data-driven decisions on how to shift or pivot, as well as obviously impacting employee comfort levels and their own personal focus.

Now these impacts offer CIOs and CTOs leading innovation, disruptive trends and best practices, an excellent catalyst for change. Some of these recommendations are:

  • First, most of us, if not all of us, have already sourced collaboration tools to address distributed workforce. However, with Gartner also projecting up to 41% of workforce continuing to work remotely for a period of time following a return to normal, it is critical organizations continue to explore how safe and secure access to critical tools and data from not only premise locations but also remote as well, may be allowed across a variety of company and bring your own device style devices.
  • Next, both our supply chains and routes to market will likely change or evolve as a result of the pandemic for the foreseeable future. This requires us to change the way we connect with and engage our partners and clients. It may also inform a shift in the products and services we offer, as well as underscoring the recommendations we made about around new models to ensure continuity of operations across both service supply and distribution chains.
  • Finally, organizations also have a unique opportunity to engage your employees and partners. Develop a culture of critical thinking and data-driven decision-making; resulting in improved data-driven decision-making for the company, but also in employee’s personal lives as well.

Now let’s drive down into Digital Workplace resources and access.

As we consider connecting employees to systems and tools, it’s important to note that again, I’m sure most of you have already implemented a number of these recommendations already to ensure your own personal continuity of operations. It is important, however, to evaluate a short-term stopgap solution against longer-term requirements as we expect the “new normal” coming out of this pandemic to include a fair amount of distributed workers.

Now as the virus continues to spread, with only a few domestic locations reaching plateau or even trending down, company leaders and government representatives — continue to ask or mandate people to avoid unnecessary travel or large gatherings. Businesses have seen unprecedented numbers of employees working from home, even when they’re healthy, to increase “social distance,” one of the few ways to truly limit continued spread. As this trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future, CIOs can take these steps to make sure people have the systems they need to stay productive:

First, inventory work use cases: Understand the typical workflow of people who are able to do their jobs remotely and identify the systems they need to access. These range from in-house communications platforms like email or messaging all the way through to CRM and ERP systems. Include interactions with customers and business partners as part of the use case analysis and document potential needs of external users.

Identify your security requirements: Review existing security infrastructure and assess what people will need to work safely. Consider the hardware remote employees will use, whether that be company-issued or personal devices, and the networks they’ll be on, whether public or private. Consider endpoint security for devices and robust identity and access management to allow secure sign-in to corporate systems.

Finally, update policies, access and training: As companies expand the number of people working remotely, you will need to update their policies regarding who can do what, how often and for how long. IT will in turn need to update system access — sometimes to expand access and sometimes to limit it. All workers should undergo regular training on rules around data protection and proper security awareness, including data storage, content collaboration and social engineering awareness content.

Lastly, provide new capabilities: Organizations may need to quickly acquire or scale your technology capabilities. Videoconferencing, messaging, collaboration tools and document sharing are just a few examples of solutions you probably have put into place already. Additional bandwidth and network capability may also be required, given the increasing number of users and volume and type of communications. CIOs will need a process to quickly assess the company’s needs and acquire access — ideally with flexible, short-term contracts. Even organizations that have existing vendor relationships may have to renegotiate the number of users or transaction volume to accommodate a short-term surge, and longer-term spikes or volumes.

Now whether a business experiences surges or lulls in demand during this outbreak, the CIO or CTO needs to ensure IT systems are prepared for variable demand. Work with relevant members of the C-suite to provide technology-enabled experiences such as:

First, expand capacity for self-service and digital sales: Companies will confront waves of customer questions, orders and even cancellations. Act now to prepare content and capacity for self-service web, email, IVR, chatbots, smartphone, other apps, etc. to handle the most common questions or purchases, freeing customer service reps to handle more complex or unusual use cases.

Enable remote experiences with a personal touch: Not every product or service is 100% suited to self-service delivery. Sometimes the human touch makes the difference to customers. Examples include B2B salespeople spending “face-to-face” time via Zoom or other conferencing with their customers, public schools providing online classes so kids don’t fall behind, or healthcare organizations expanding access to telemedicine or conference organizers holding remote events. IT will play a critical role in providing accessible, reliable and secure IT systems to deliver positive experiences in unfamiliar contexts.

Finally, embrace opportunities to adapt products or capacity for current demand. The Japanese electronics manufacturer Sharp, for example, has converted one of its factories to make face masks. Manufacturers Foxconn, BYD and GAC in China have likewise shifted some of their existing capacity away from their traditional products —obviously in low demand due to the outbreak — to high-demand products such as protective gear. It’s important for all of us to examine and expand agile processes to enable fast shifts of physical and digital resources to meet an evolving demand and customer landscape.

In summary, our wish for you is that each of you are able to successfully navigate these challenging times we find ourselves experiencing. Otava of course remains committed to assisting in any way we can, and we look forward to connecting with you soon. For more information, we would invite you to visit our website, and certainly take advantage of the other videos we’ve created in our YouTube channel shown here. Hope you’ve enjoyed your coffee with Java with Otava!

For more Java with Otava videos, check out our YouTube page!

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