The CEO of Australia’s national science agency knows that innovation is the key to a post-pandemic future. COVID-19 accelerated digital business and transformed working habits.
“Australia has been at least 10 years behind the U.S. in digital,” said Dr. Larry Marshall, Chief Executive of CSIRO, in a recent article, “but I would argue that because of COVID, Australia has accelerated at least five years in the last five months.”
Despite the challenging environment, many organizations are capitalizing on changes made during COVID-19 to reset long-held habits, chase new opportunities or redesign their businesses.
The 2020 Gartner CEO Survey showed that CEO priorities shifted this year due to the current climate, but growth remains at the top. Technology is now seen as one of the key levers that CEOs will use to recover and grow in 2021.
Scale up the digital mainstream, but don’t push experimental extremes
“The majority of CEOs are expecting revenue levels to recover in 2021 or 2022,” said Mark Raskino, Distinguished VP Analyst and Gartner Fellow, during his presentation at virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo® 2020.
“Even if demand for some products or services has risen as a result of the crisis, it’s often not the kind of growth that’s needed for stability, to reinvest or to give people raises. CEOs want to restore growth that delivers a good profit margin,” Raskino said.
CIOs can help their CEOs achieve their top priority in three ways.
No. 1: Accelerate smoothly
The Gartner CEO Survey found that the crisis has led 65% of CEOs to focus more on accelerating digital business transformation. However, they no longer aspire to be digital pioneers. Instead, they will focus on mainstream digital initiatives like e-commerce, e-service, digital payments and digital working.
“Scale up the digital mainstream, but don’t push experimental extremes,” said Raskino.
The CIO strategy must also exploit factors that can accelerate digital business, including greater customer acceptance of digital, the pool of available dislodged talent; and more amenable workforces that are flexible to change.
No. 2: Nurture people
Keeping, developing and retaining the workforce is a top priority for 58% of surveyed CEOs to enable a strong recovery. CIOs must introduce agile learning into their organizations and invest time and resources in allowing people to grow.
CIOs should also empathetically help executive team colleagues to deliver on CEO demands. That means supporting:
- The CFO by timing technology spend to aid cash flow
- The COO with technology to improve productivity
- The CHRO to develop a digitally savvy workforce
- The CMO to execute technology-driven marketing campaigns
No. 3: Rebuild better
Sixty-four percent of CEOs surveyed will use the pandemic as an opportunity to redesign the business. CIOs need to know which path their CEO is on — restore or redesign — and ensure the IT strategy supports the new vision.
“Reappraise which new technologies matter most as you plan a different future,” said Raskino.