Measuring IT project success post-COVID—and 4 leadership lessons learned

Despite challenges, the pandemic has unearthed opportunities from both a technology and strategic standpoint and has introduced new ways to measure the business value of digitization projects.

The pandemic has had a dramatic and adverse impact on companies of all sizes and geographic locations over the course of the past several months, including lost revenue, reduction of staff and cuts in IT budgets and spending.  However, as we look back, there were some positive aspects as well, and more to come as plans are put in place for a post-COVID recovery.

Most companies, for example, were able to quickly pivot to a work-from-home structure to support employee safety, sustain and even increase productivity, and for the most part keep business activities on track. The transition has been so successful that many organizations plan to keep a portion of their workforce remote for the foreseeable future, in part to provide resiliency in the face of uncertainties. Weaknesses in IT infrastructure, process, and resources also became very apparent during the pandemic, pushing many companies to reduce or eliminate legacy debt, improve security, and increase investments in cloud services.

One additional upshot of the COVID crisis is a significant increase in the pace of digital transformation activities that are rapidly changing business models and user behavior. The pandemic has not only accelerated digitization but has exponentially increased the adoption of a digital process. What we anticipated to happen in the next five years is happening now, and what we thought wouldn’t have worked in the past is now possible because of the pandemic.

Digitization becomes a must-have

The life insurance business, for example, often relies on face-to-face sales interactions.  But the pandemic turned that business model on its head.  While we were already working on digitizing the sales process, there were pieces that needed to be accelerated or there soon wouldn’t be a business model.  For us, digitization activities moved from nice-to-have to must-have in a matter of weeks. If we can’t get data electronically, underwrite automatically, or deliver policies digitally we can’t do business in today’s world.

Since March, we have delivered in less than 30 days two key initiatives that would have taken months, if not a year, to deliver under normal circumstances. The first is an automated underwriting process that uses data to manage risk up to $3MM without requiring the invasive process of going to a client’s house to take and test blood samples. The second project allowed us to electronically deliver policies to our customers since we had a limited in-office staff who did not want to rely on ‘snail mail,’ and agents could not meet the client to deliver the policy themselves. We are now working on the third transformational initiative that was originally projected to span multiple years but will now be done in 18 months.

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CIOs reshape IT culture in wake of pandemic

IT leaders are leaning on lessons learned from the pandemic to redefine IT cultures and refine IT strategies as they move toward a new year of uncertainty.

From the first days of the pandemic, IT leaders have had to grapple with wildly unexpected circumstances — from transitioning thousands of employees to a work-from-home (WFH) environment, to near overnight platform rollouts in support of virtual teams. And for many, culture has proved to be the key unsung factor in their organizations’ ability to navigate unprecedented times.

Companies that had not established a resilient, transformation-focused culture prior to COVID-19 have struggled in the face of global shutdowns that have disrupted business as usual. Organizations that either pivoted to or had already embraced a transformation mindset, however, have been better equipped to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing environment, and to protect the health of their teams and their bottom lines.

And with companies having to adjust to new approaches to collaboration and productivity, the pandemic has provided IT leaders an opportunity to rethink and refine IT culture moving forward. Remaining agile, adjusting strategies, nurturing new approaches to work — here’s how several high-profile CIOs have helped guide their organizations through the chaos, leveraging pandemic-related changes to establish a transformation-minded IT culture for the future.

Mitigating culture shock

Maintaining the culture and morale of individual teams and the organization as whole has added a unique layer to the challenges companies now face, and for many IT leaders, the pandemic has magnified the importance of communication.

Lisa Davis, senior vice president and CIO of Blue Shield of California, has always believed in leading with honesty and transparency. “At Blue Shield, the health and safety of our employees is our number one priority,” she says. “Understanding where they are and what’s needed for them to thrive and be productive is top of mind.”

But the pandemic has elevated the need to be present and accessible as well, as Davis says she’s made herself available to weigh in on decisions and take quick action in support of her employees and the mission of the organization.

“As leaders we need to set the tone,” she says. “We had a great company culture prior to the pandemic, so I think that made the transition a little easier, but open and transparent communication at all levels of the organization is essential.”

Davis says she encourages leaders to seek ways of building a sense of community and camaraderie throughout teams, investing in technology and collaboration tools to maximize the user experience and ultimately help employees feel connected.

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10 future trends and how CIOs can keep ahead in 2021

After a year disrupted by a global pandemic, the next normal is starting to take shape. Here’s a look at what’s ahead for IT organizations.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, CIOs have faced epic challenges unlike any they’ve previously weathered. For many business leaders, recovery isn’t just a return to their former state but a top-to-bottom rethinking of what business they need to be in and how their business must be run. As the chief owners of the digital infrastructure that underpins all aspects of modern enterprises, CIOs must play pivotal roles in the road to recovery, seeking the “next normal” while still performing their traditional roles.

The following predictions, based on the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide CIO Agenda 2021 Predictions, present information about technologies, markets, and ecosystems to help CIOs better understand future trends and their impact on the enterprise, and offer guidance on complex, fast-moving environments, proposing prescriptive, actionable recommendations for the next five years.

1. By 2022, 65% of CIOs will digitally empower and enable frontline workers with data, AI, and security to extend their productivity, adaptability, and decision making in the face of rapid changes. Businesses need teams and workers to function more autonomously, making decisions in the face of great uncertainty. Frontline workers are in the best position to gain real-time knowledge of changes in customer behaviors and external environments. But they need access to data and intelligent tools embedded in their workflows in a seamless fashion. CIOs will need to bolster IT capabilities in data science, AI, and human-machine interface and advanced intelligent workflow design.

Recommendations:

  • Acquire talent through hiring, development, and partnering ahead of the curve to avoid critical gaps.
  • Create centers of excellence (COEs) for data/analytics, AI, machine learning (ML), and workflow and task automation.
  • Ensure strategies, policies, and tools are in place to secure sensitive data and ensure proper usage.
  • Plan for the evolution from directed digital workers to hybrid digital/human workers to self-governing digital workers.

2. By 2021, unable to find adaptive ways to counter escalating cyberattacks, unrest, trade wars, and sudden collapses, 30% of CIOs will fail in protecting trust—the foundation of customer confidence. According to a recent IDC survey, 63% of organizations are investing in cybersecurity to build digital trust for customers, employees, and partners. Despite these investments, almost one-third of CIOs will fail to fully surmount the fallout from adverse events as the intensity and diversity of threats escalate, resulting in degradation of trust in their businesses. CIOs will be expected to lead all technology aspects of risk management for the enterprise and its ecosystems at a time where funding is scarce and scrutinized.

Recommendations:

  • Rethink risk management strategies in the new context of high volatility, increased threats, and business uncertainty.
  • Embrace modern practices and leverage proven frameworks like NIST.
  • Create trust objectives and strategies to focus efforts on high-payoff initiatives.

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7 attributes every IT leader must have

Leadership has little to do with one’s title or seniority; it’s an attribute that’s earned over time through study, practice and commitment. Are you prepared to become a true leader?

Becoming a true IT leader — someone who inspires teams to consistently reach new heights — requires skills that can only be acquired over time through hard work and a commitment to succeed.

Transformational leaders are typically described as lively, passionate, engaging and energetic. Such individuals aren’t focused only on helping teams achieve their planned goals; they also work hard to help team members reach their full potential.

Becoming a respected and prized leader isn’t easy, but it’s a goal within reach of just about anyone who’s willing to commit to the task. Here are seven fundamental attributes every IT leader needs to possess — and how to acquire them.

  1. Agility
  2. Vision
  3. Empathy
  4. Steadiness
  5. Authenticity
  6. Accessibility
  7. Curiosity

Get more details HERE

How to build a resilient IT culture

The pandemic has underscored the importance of thriving through hardship and uncertainty. IT leaders discuss how they’re adjusting their leadership practices to help foster this key IT trait for the long haul.

The word ‘resilient’ is cropping up a lot lately as a cultural cornerstone for coping with the pressures the pandemic has foisted on IT. CIOs have played a significant role in enabling organization-wide remote work strategies at speed while accelerating digital initiatives central to the business in uncertain times.

For many, the ability to shift gears, double down and navigate hardship has been a testament to an IT culture capable of withstanding and recovering quickly from difficult challenges. For others, rising to the occasion has been a crash course in resilience, offering hard-earned lessons in what it will take to thrive in IT in the months and years to come.

“The last few months have been a huge social experiment for every company around the world,’’ says Jacqui Guichelaar, CIO of Cisco, who adds that many leaders discovered their staffs can be just as productive working remotely as in the office. The upshot? Leaders must model certain behaviors in this new way of working, she says. “Traditional tactics don’t work in the new reality.”

Here, IT leaders discuss what makes an IT organization resilient, and how they are adjusting their leadership practices to ensure IT can foster this key trait for the long haul.

Put people first
Keep connected
Find common purpose
Foster career growth
Establish mutual respect
Take care of yourself as well

More Details HERE

7 attributes every IT leader must have

Leadership has little to do with one’s title or seniority; it’s an attribute that’s earned over time through study, practice and commitment. Are you prepared to become a true leader?

Becoming a true IT leader — someone who inspires teams to consistently reach new heights — requires skills that can only be acquired over time through hard work and a commitment to succeed.

Transformational leaders are typically described as lively, passionate, engaging and energetic. Such individuals aren’t focused only on helping teams achieve their planned goals; they also work hard to help team members reach their full potential.

Becoming a respected and prized leader isn’t easy, but it’s a goal within reach of just about anyone who’s willing to commit to the task. Here are seven fundamental attributes every IT leader needs to possess — and how to acquire them.

  1. Agility
  2. Vision
  3. Empathy
  4. Steadiness
  5. Authenticity
  6. Accessibility
  7. Curiosity

Get the details HERE