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CIOs Need to Re-Assess IT Spend & Team Capabilities in the New Normal: Suhail Ghai, Max Life Insurance

Now that the immediate concerns unleashed by the COVID-19 crisis around keeping the lights on and maintaining business continuity have been dealt with, CIOs are gearing up for the new normal with their sight set on recovery and growth. However, CIOs can’t hope to successfully take charge of the new normal with old set of competencies and thought processes.

For Suhail Ghai, EVP & Head – IT, Max Life Insurance, the transformation in the CIO’s orientation towards IT in the wake of the current crisis is imminent and already happening.

He outlines four fundamental areas as part of the re-orientation and re-assessment that CIOs need to undertake.

Re-assess internal capabilities and IT spend:

Now is the time for CIOs to re-assess the capabilities within their teams for any imbalance, asserts Ghai. They will need much more digital skills and requires re-orienting their teams and getting new talent to get the balance right.

With digital requiring a different portfolio view of the IT investments, a similar re-assessment should then be extended by the CIO to the IT cost/spend as well. “CIOs will have to optimize and take out some of their investments in traditional channels and IT assets to help fund the digital investments,” explains Ghai.

Learn the art of storytelling:

According to Ghai, CIOs have to learn to do a much better job of the art of storytelling and the art of possible. “Today, when we are talking about re-imagining the workplace and operating models, CIOs need to get good at conceptualizing what that will be and sell that vision to the management committee and the board. And, to get the board imagine the future means having to do a lot of conceptual storytelling, followed by translating it into reality.”

This further translates into CIOs bringing in the art of the possible to the management and creating long term business cases. That requires giving up a myopic technology view in favour of a more holistic view around creating business cases for investments, advises Ghai.

Expand the span of control:

CIOs have to think very differently on their span of control. It is no longer about the company  premises, company devices, etc. Ghai advises CIOs to think from an ecosystem perspective that includes not just the organization but also the partners. “CIOs have to look at the holistic picture that spans beyond their traditional area of control and see how they can enable the whole chain,” he adds.

Internal partnerships to build digital equity:

CIOs will have to play a critical role in building the digital equity and culture within the organization. This will require working closely in partnership with HR and other functions to help fasten the pace of digital adoption, especially in companies that are not truly digital natives.

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