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Straight Talk Technology

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As managers turn their attention to post COVID-19 planning, there are important issues that need to be considered about enterprise strategy and governance. An old African proverb provides some valuable insights into the current challenge for enterprise executives: “Alone, I go faster. Together, we go further.” As we commence work on post COVID-19 strategies, the challenge is not just about what we do, but also about the tactics we employ in doing it.

During the COVID-19 emergency, enterprise managers quickly discovered that if they were to survive, they needed to implement big changes. They needed to work together, take risks, embrace technology, and think more deeply about the needs of their clients. These changes could not just be guided by the words on some generic corporate mission statement, but instead managers were driven by a clear and pressing need for collective action during an emergency. The big question now is whether this clarity of focus can survive in a post-COVID-19 future?

The challenges of a global pandemic are not without historical precedent. Like other pandemics throughout history, COVID-19 wreaked tragedy on personal lives, and presented an existential threat to corporate entities. However, if historians are correct, many of the lessons of the COVID-19 response will be quickly forgotten post-pandemic. There will be a collective sigh of relief when the pandemic ends, and a hope that everything will “return to normal.” But of course, normal lives have changed, and it would be folly to ignore the disruptive forces that have been at play. The difficulties for enterprise managers will therefore be no less challenging post-COVID-19 than during COVID-19.

This creates a precarious dilemma for enterprise CIOs:

  • To been seen as a management laggard would be a recipe for sending the CIO into corporate obscurity.

  • To be seen as a manager driving technology for its own sake, would simply reignite old corporate biases about the relevance of technology managers.

  • To be seen as having no opinion whatsoever, would consign the IT function to a future of corporate subservience.

But this is not a challenge that IT managers need to face by themselves. Paraphrasing the African proverb: by themselves, IT managers may be able to get their job done faster, but in cooperation with other managers, they will get more done.

For example:

  • Working from home is a well-recognized phenomenon of the COVID-19 crisis, and there are many pressing challenges about how it will be managed post COVID-19. This is a problem that will need the collective insights from managers across the enterprise. It is important the IT function has a place at the table, and IT needs to be on-message with the rest of the enterprise.

  • At the height of the crisis, many managers needed to take a pragmatic approach to IT procurement. There were simply not enough laptops and devices to support new forms of working. As the emergency subsides, procurement needs to return to normal but must be done with sensitivity.

  • As the community moved to online services, IT managers needed to move quickly to roll out new services. Now, it is necessary to pragmatically consider the long-term future of these services.

The IT function has gathered a lot of credibility and respect during the COVID-19 crisis, and these need to be leveraged wisely in the post COVID-19 world. Once squandered, credibility and respect are difficult to recover.

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