“We've been preparing for this our entire careers. This is our Super Bowl.”
That’s what a top CIO said this week during a Traction Technology virtual forum about COVID-19 response.
We've been hearing this kind of enthusiasm a lot lately. Early in the pandemic response, CIOs were telling us about the pressure to provide secure and effective remote-work options--and in many cases, provide the technology that fuels essential services like banks, utilities, and government services. Now we're hearing a lot of chest-pounding, and for good reason.
I’m sure you’ve seen the meme above. And yes, for many organizations, COVID-19 will be the driver for true digital transformation. But the technology leaders that made significant investments in digital transformation ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak are clearly fairing better than their peers who did not. They’re not seeing significant hits to IT operations, and they’ve quickly shifted their focus to boosting productivity via the tools and processes they implemented previously (more on that in an upcoming post).
Plenty of companies had their day of reckoning long ago. During our virtual forum, Wayne Shurts, a Hall of Fame CIO, two-time public board member, and advisor to Traction Technology, told the group about when that moment occurred for his former company, Sysco.
“We had done a lot around digital transformation. CIOs would ask me how we got these things done. I wish I could say it was the great, persuasive skills and strategy of the CIO at the time (that was me).
But it wasn't.
It was one event: When Amazon bought Whole Foods. Suddenly the whole company got scared and realized the day was upon us. It was that event that drove the change, and I think, in a broader fashion, this is what COVID-19 is doing to all of our organizations.
Still, it's easier said than done, especially in this environment. Many companies are making cuts and girding for more uncertainty and turmoil in their industry and the markets. But more CIOs I've spoken with have said the tables have turned. In the past, CIOs were usually directed to make percentage cuts in their organization as part of across-the-board reductions; now, business leaders are calling on their CIOs to make important decisions on where automation and process improvements are possible. And fewer digital transformation initiatives are under the microscope, due to the urgent value they've delivered during the pandemic response.
Emerging and evolving technologies will undoubtedly play a major role in finding the way forward—from getting workers safely back to the office to reshaping the way companies engage with their customers, and everything in between. Technology and digital leaders have a rare opportunity to truly accelerate their efforts now and deliver new forms of value in more impactful ways than before.