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The changing role of a CIO during a pandemic

The changing role of a CIO during a pandemic

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Navigating the IT landscape is currently proving challenging as the future seems uncertain. Ian Pitt, CIO at LogMeIn, discusses the role of a CIO and some of the obstacles they are facing, as well as how they should be adapting and transforming to avoid getting left behind.

The last few months have brought in drastic changes to the way we work and live. Workplaces around the globe had to adjust the way that their business is conducted with a mass shift to remote work which is now leading into the work from anywhere revolution. As a result, organisations had to juggle managing dispa­rate teams, as well as ensuring that employees have everything they need to work at home. But when does this end? And how do we adapt permanently to this kind of working world?

One thing that the pandemic has shed a light on is the importance that IT brings to all organisations and the pivotal role that CIOs have in managing how we work remotely, and therefore how successful the business is. 2020 was the year we all depended on our technology more than ever, so the spotlight was definitely on CIOs.

But instead of just making sure people can work remotely, CIOs should be using this spotlight to innovate and transform areas of the business that might not have always seemed like a priority. It has been a time of can-do attitude and CIOs should run with this – see how it can persuade the rest of the organisation to embrace technology and think differently.

Ultimately, CIOs should be able to reflect on the actions they took during this trying time and say, ‘remember that time we saved the company?’ That might mean different things in different organisations, but CIOs should use this moment to take a bigger seat at the table.  

Shifting the strategic outlook

The pandemic has demonstrated how fast an organisation’s strategic outlook can change. Business priorities and changing IT measures need to go hand in hand. When the pandemic hit, organisations around the globe dusted off their Business Continuity plans and found themselves in differing levels of suitability. Some had pushed them to the back burner until suddenly it was a priority. Regardless, this has been an important lesson in mobilising quickly. We’ve all had to make some decisions on the fly because we hadn’t played through all of the situations in our pandemic plan.

Never again will CIOs have the luxury of not paying attention to Business Continuity plans. They can no longer shy away from the impact they make on corporate strategy, now is the time to lean in. The focus on technology and its impact on how businesses can stay afloat has been essential, IT teams have been thrust into positions of leadership and their strategic insight has been valued more than ever before.

As we move into new phases of the pandemic’s impact on our day-to-day lives, it is clear that organisations are reviewing workplace policies, CIOs need to be part of this conversation. They need to provide input and insight around what they had to piece together this year and what needs attention if this is a long-term adjustment. They need to come with ideas and solutions, not that just solve the problem, but actually enhance the way the company works. Monitoring and management need to evolve to ensure problems can be handled remotely, quickly.

Technology is now the heartbeat of an organisation; it connects and empowers teams to work from anywhere. CIOs need to start thinking one step ahead of employee’s needs, be prepared for what comes next and challenge the organisation to embrace their outlook.

Maintaining security

Despite security always being at the forefront of a CIOs mind, there is no doubt that the pandemic has changed the game on this as well. Managing remote systems – remote people – securely poses a whole new set of threats and challenges. At a base level, it also puts employees in a mindset of being outside of the office so prioritising security less.

As more companies adopt a work-from-anywhere culture, leaders have had to anticipate the challenges that will arise from this expansion of the office perimeter and evolving cybersecurity landscape. The COVID-19 crisis has paved the way for cybercriminals to infiltrate often-outdated home networks and unmanaged personal devices in this new remote work environment. 

The threat to organisations is not going away, neither are employees – bringing the human element of cybersecurity with them. CIOs cannot ignore this and need to lead from the top. They are in the best position to understand the big picture – the intricacies of the IT infrastructure and the business implications of something going wrong. It is therefore vital that a CIO has their eye on key vulnerabilities, can maintain ongoing conversation with both employees and top-level management and ensure that employees are aware of how to remain secure no matter where they login. 

Moving forward

This pandemic has presented CIOs with a broad scope of opportunity. Make sure you’re brought into decision-making early and not as an afterthought. If there’s one thing we’ve learned through the early stages of this, it’s that involving IT early leads to a very different outcome for the company.

If you didn’t already have a seat at the table, claim one now. If you had a seat at the table, use these circumstances to increase the scope of your influence. Use this spotlight to elevate your organisation and your priorities navigate whatever uncharted territory we enter into next.

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