CIO Pandemic Survival Guide
The only way forward is through
Limited IT budgets have always been a reality for CIOs. The current COVID-19 pandemic means that even IT leaders with particularly generous budgets are starting to see these budgets dry up. There are new and unique pressures to innovate quickly, so existing technologies, and in some cases, entire IT teams are being put under the microscope to see where costs can be cut.
Now is the time for CIO’s to put the company needs at the forefront. Take whatever budget you have, and methodically plan your next moves when it comes to innovation and upgrades.
Planning is everything
At the heart of effective budget management is clear IT planning. That is formed with the specific goals of your organization in mind. As an IT leader, you need to have a clear runway to see enterprise needs and goals. Limited budgets mean limited projects, so executing only the most essential projects based on business needs is more important now than ever before. Proper planning reduces any possibility for error. And right now, there’s no room for error.
Keep a cool head in a hot game
You’re getting pulled in many directions right now. You’re being directed to cut costs and innovate simultaneously. Vendors are in your ear with the same sales message - ‘we can solve all of your problems.’
Evaluate the potential benefits and risks of every solution, and keep your BS meter switched on. Prioritizing technologies that drive business growth is always a smart play, especially in a struggling economy.
A CIO with allies can accomplish anything
Your executive colleagues are your best allies right now. Make sure you are keeping your colleagues informed of what you’re strategizing and planning for. If you have initiatives you believe in, create excitement before it gets to the boardroom. Make sure you’re actively participating in every enterprise strategy meeting. There’s nothing worse for your IT budget than not being involved in strategy sessions.
"I’m friends with the CFO"
Speaking of allies, the CFO is now your best friend, so find out what they like to drink. Now is the time to work with finance to create accurate financial models. Make sure you’re on top of your own data, and actively managing your budget. If you aren’t doing this, you're inviting problems into the fold. You don’t need more problems in a pandemic.
Be the cause for celebration
Digging through your current tech stack should be top of mind for any CIO right now. If you can ditch some superfluous systems, your IT department can suddenly become champions within your organization, rather than a financial drain. This is also a great time to introduce new technologies that can reduce expensive operational costs. Due-diligence saves jobs, so think long term and only invest in efficient solutions that will make your best friend, the CFO happy. Make it less about initial cost, and more about longstanding benefits to the organization.
It’s fun to build things, but we’re in a pandemic
You might have the most talented IT team around, and the better they are, the more they love to build things. Developing applications in-house is a rewarding, but very time consuming undertaking. Now is the time to put egos in check, and explore available ready-made solutions. It’s OK to outsource, especially when labour costs are top of mind, and great solutions are available to you.
The virtual workplace is here to stay
Our new reality of working from home might not be as temporary as we think. We don’t know how long social distancing will last for, and we don’t know what office structures will look like when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Employees, and customers alike might have different expectations.
Undoubtedly, there’s a cost associated with our growing demand for electronic interactions. However, it’s a lot cheaper to communicate virtually than it is to communicate face-to-face. Ensure that you've budgeted for the IT costs of a changing social landscape.
Accountability is the measure of a leader
Make sure you aren’t ill prepared for your whole team to be working remotely. Ensure that your productivity expectations are clearly communicated, and that you’ve provided your team with the necessary tools to succeed. Ensure that they also respect their own boundaries, as working from home can make ‘work hours’ redundant.
Check in on your team and make sure they are maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Update your remote work policies and processes regularly. Host regular team video calls, and make it your mission to prioritize team morale. We’re in a global pandemic, we need to check in on each other's mental health.
With a little help from my friends...
There is an old saying that free advice is often overpriced. However, we’re in uncharted territory these days. Leverage the peers that you respect most at this time to bounce ideas around. Perhaps they can help give you realistic appraisals of your expected IT budget.