As the COVID19 pandemic unfolds, organizations globally are grappling with adjusting to the new reality that the crisis has brought in its wake. Technology is on the frontline of this crisis as many of the changes reshaping how we work and live – from employees working remotely to customers’ shifting expectations – will all rely heavily on technology.
With dramatically shifting priorities, IT has become central to the contingency and crisis response plans and the onus is on the CIO to ensure business continuity while re-aligning to the constantly evolving scenario.The biggest fallout of the crisis will be organizations intensifying their focus on how to improve business productivity while optimising costs, and IT will be central to that. CIOs are the key to company’s emergency plans and all eyes are on them to make the business stay operational amidst the chaos. This includes trying to deal with exploding online loads, employees working remotely, new cyber threats and constantly evolving business risks.
dynamicCIO spoke to leading CIOs from across varied industries to understand how they are enabling their respective organizations adopt the new normal of working from home while driving business risk mitigation.
Cloud and Mobile First – The Way Forward
A key highlight was the swiftness with which India’s technology leaders are responding to this unprecedented situation. This is, in part, owing to the digital transformation that is already underway in most organizations. Having adopted digital technologies such as cloud and mobility, the organizations were prepared to an extent to respond to the first call for change and enabling the remote workforce.
According to Chaitanya Wagh, Group CTO, JM Financial, the functioning of the senior management is pretty smooth as the company has always been well equipped to work remotely, should there be a need. However, he added, that the scale of work from home has suddenly surged and is now close to 100% since the announcement of a total lockdown. “We are enabling the rest of the workforce digitally as well to ensure the services are not disrupted and we remain well connected with our entire workforce,” he explained.
For Puneet Kaur Kohli, CTO, Mannapuram Finance, the company’s ‘cloud-first’ and ‘mobile-first’ approach has been helping in continuously augmenting the infrastructure to support work from home for its employees. This includes provisioning cloud services and enabling virtual desktop interface to access applications in the cloud. Another instance of digital coming to the rescue is a cloud-based mobile application for monitoring the branches to ensure their security. Her experience of crisis planning during the Kerala floods too helped with preparedness in terms of swiftly ramping up the infrastructure.
In fact, cloud and mobility will form the mainstay tools for CIOs to enable the new remote work environment. Most CIOs expect the ‘cloud-first’ and ‘mobile-first’ approaches to become the new normal and a lot of existing business continuity practices will need to be redefined around that.
According to Keyur Desai, CIO, Essar Shipping & Ports, cloud native as a strategy will gain momentum as it provides an option for enterprises to function with ample agility and speed in situations like these. Meanwhile, he is already enabling the company’s workforce to work from home and conduct almost uninterrupted business through VPNs and secured endpoint devices.
Putting Innovation into Fast Gear
Adapting to the evolving challenges and restricted physical connect has pushed ingenuity to a new level with CIOs working on innovative tools to address these challenges. A case in point is the eVisit application by JK Cement that allows employees in sales and marketing functions to virtually reach out and communicate with the retailers/dealers to discuss all issues as they would in a physical meeting. For Jitendra Singh, CIO, JK Cement, it is super critical to ensure seamless connectivity with employees, partners (dealers, distributors, retailers) and customers with the help of digital tools such as virtual meetings and social media. And, eVisit in one such initiative he has undertaken.
Another example is DCB Bank’s initiative around making KYC easy for end users by introducing E-KYC. In the next 10-15 days, the bank aims to reduce footfall from customers at the branches to its minimum. “We want to automate the frontend completely so that people don’t have to really step out of their homes and they can get an experience that’s seamless and superior. All our efforts and acts are focused on how to take steps that would simplify things for the end users so that the load on branches is lesser,” explained Prasanna Lohar, Head Digital Innovation, DCB Bank.
Balancing Productivity With Security
Even as CIOs work around innovative solutions, a looming challenge that will require their urgent attention is the growing cybersecurity threat, especially in wake of the majority workforce going remote. One can already see a huge spurt in cases of malware and phishing attacks. While enabling secure productivity, the upcoming weeks will require CIOs aggressively working on stabilizing the core systems and operations. This includes critical infrastructure, systems and processes to ensure business continuity and resiliency.
Ashish Bajaj, CTO, DSP Mutual Fund recommended working on the regulatory front to be better prepared for an outbreak of a pandemic or any similar crisis. He explained that even though the financial sector is already working under a heavily regulated environment and well equipped with a robust, foolproof business continuity plan, one certainly could not imagine anything happening at this scale and the regulatory framework should be able to handle such eventualities.
With infrastructure at the core of enabling business continuity, the role of infrastructure service providers will be paramount in ensuring the lights stay on for India Inc. This is also the time for them to work around innovative service offerings to address the evolving challenges.
Testing Times Test CIO’s Leadership Mettle
Infrastructure aside, one of the biggest challenges for CIOs and IT leaders will be to keep aligning themselves in the evolving scenario and enable the shift in business processes. More importantly, CIOs have to start anticipating – What’s next? It means evaluating priorities, shifting resources and stepping up as leaders.
Today more than ever, it’s imperative for the CIOs to bring their leadership skills to the fore, with communication being the most crucial of all. They have to communicate very confidently, consistently and reliably because uncertainty is going to breed more fear.
“I cannot but emphasize on the power of communication at this point while we are dealing with the crisis. While from IT standpoint, cloud services will become a major driver for enabling work from home, one must not forget the power of communicating with your employees as each one works in isolation. We, at NIIT, are ensuring continuous line of communication with all our employees, whether it is sharing tips on effectively working from home, maintaining daily routines through virtual team meetings or ensuring the health and safety of our employees and their family through a robust support mechanism on our employee portal,” said Sunil Sirohi, CIO, NIIT Limited.
According to J P Dwivedi, CIO, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Center, concurred and added, “The key lies in being proactive and communicating with all the functions frequently. At this point, it’s equally important to look at the human side of the crisis and not just the technology part of it.”
At the end of the day, while technology will be an important enabler, ultimately CIOs will need to tide through this wave with empathy, keeping people at the centre of all their initiatives.
(Image Courtesy: www.jdmeier.com)