The pandemic has been the great disruptor, forcing companies of all sizes across the public and private sector to respond quickly to keep their businesses\u2014and their people\u2014up and running. All of it has required a degree of reinvention, which I define as occurring when an organization shifts responsibilities from traditional cost and complexity management to those that enable every company to become a tech-driven company while simultaneously running and reinventing the business.\nAs part of a recent CIO roundtable, IT leaders discussed how they pivoted, what\u2019s important to their organizations now, and how their learnings have shaped their path forward.\nPutting people first\nFor almost all of the attendees, people and culture were just as or more important than the tools and solutions they implemented to help their organizations adapt.\nAn investment firm\u2019s CIO said employee buy-in is crucial to any reinvention. \u201cIt's people more than anything else. It's the culture. I think that's the huge hurdle to overcome. It's the team\u2026and the leaders who are able to sell that new strategy, the new concept, the new philosophy, and make sure that it has the right ingredients\u2026to be palatable to the wellbeing of the staff,\u201d he pointed out.\nA systems integrator for the federal government characterizes the pandemic as a great leveler, explaining, \u201cThe pandemic required everybody\u2014HR, finance, the president, the employee\u2014to be singularly focused on keeping the business running. You think about that and the power of the enterprise and what it can do, and the fact that they looked at their IT leader to guide and lead them through this. And then the IT leader [was able to] say, \u2018I got you. This is what we're going to do.\u2019\u201d\n\u201cThat's a really powerful thing. We can't lose that opportunity as we go forward to accelerate all of these things that we want to do\u2026as we reinvent IT. [Reinvention] truly takes place across your users\u2014the way you think, the resiliency that you build into your organization, and the type of talent that you're hiring. We want [our] team to upskill so that they can turn their attention from thinking about how cables and wires connect and if lights are green to, \u2018What business problems am I trying to solve,\u2019 which quickly became the pandemic, but there are other things that we need to solve, not for process and efficiency, but innovation.\u201d\n\u201cWe want [them] to have a curiosity [to] learn something new. That's really important to keep that refresh on technology. There's a reason to have diversity in your IT organization so that you have that diversity of thought. It does take a special set of talent that is willing to constantly be reinventing their own skillsets and moving on to something new. But once you find them\u2026you really want to keep them.\u201d\nThe CIO of a business solutions company adds that empowerment is also important. \u201cMost technology people pick up on new capabilities pretty quickly. The key is organizationally empowering people and letting them be curious [and] understanding failure is only failure if you don't learn from it,\u201d he explained.\nThe CIO and CSO at a cloud communications company shared that change should include people at every level. \u201cThe CIO, in my mind, is a chief inspiration officer role,\u201d he said. \u201cHow do I inspire our community and our employees [working remote] to stay connected and engaged above and beyond the work that we do through e-mails, Slack, and Zoom-like products?\u201d\nThe CIO of a West Coast university is shifting the focus of his team. \u201cThe big purpose for the central IT shop is to convert data into information and information into a meaningful action,\u201d he said. \u201cI take a team knowledge-centric perspective to organizational structure versus a formal hierarchy. We need to have an adaptable, flexible organization that can crystallize and improve knowledge. We set the direction, we set where we're going to go with skillsets. We provide the training opportunities for the staff to make the leap, and then we monitor.\u201d\nLeading from the top-down is also important. The CTO of a business solutions organization believes leaders need to establish the guardrails and finish line. \u201cWhat we do as leaders is provide the timeframe, the commitment, and push. If people wait for change to occur when it feels comfortable, normal, and natural, they'll never do it. So we put an end date and we work like mad across the enterprise to make the change happen to give it a sense of urgency,\u201d he explained.\nCapitalizing on investments and planning for the next disruption\nAs disruptive as the pandemic was, it wasn\u2019t the only disruptor. Some of the panelists shared that their evolutions before and during the pandemic prepared them for the next hurdle. And in some cases, the IT leaders were ahead of the curve, but they\u2019re not resting on those laurels.\n\u201c2020 had a global pandemic, we had five hurricanes come through the same exact path in the United States, then we had the ice age in Texas, we had Solorigate, and we had the Microsoft hack. They keep coming and you get up over one mountain and see that there's another mountain range. So we have to continue to have that resiliency and agility to be able to keep moving,\u201d said the systems integrator for the federal government.\nThe CTO of a business solutions organization that handles IT, finance, and HR capabilities was able to nimbly navigate the pandemic. \u201cIf you had decentralized your network and adopted cloud-native things, fully adopted DevOps, automation\u2026and moved to that consumption-based financial model of technology, the pandemic would have been pretty easy for you,\u201d he explained.\n\u201cWhere we did those things, we found that it was relatively easy. Where we didn't do those things well, it was a scramble. As long as we follow those macro trends and we move quickly, faster than we ever have before, [we\u2019re OK]. We've got to move at the speed of business.\u201d\nThe CIO of an integrated healthcare system said that technological preparedness is key. \u201cWhat is that next thing that we think might come so that we can start prepping for it before it hits, as opposed to waiting for it to happen and then trying to [react] to it,\u201d she said. \u201cOvernight\u2026patients weren't able to come into the clinics to be seen. Telemedicine all of a sudden became incredibly important. We had already started down that path before the pandemic, so we accelerated [from] piloting telemedicine in some places [and] deployed right away to the rest of organization.\u201d\nThe CIO of a West Coast university said its technology investments ahead of the pandemic meant it never hiccupped. \u201cWe're moving from on-prem to cloud ridiculously fast. We'll be on-prem within two years\u2026100 percent of our systems. I'm going to do infrastructure better than people who've got football fields of infrastructure. Our response to COVID was enabled by our cloud dependency,\u201d he pointed out. \u201cWe were able to scale out without missing a beat. We didn't have any of the entanglements you get with having to scale out quickly with your on-prem environments.\u201d\nLooking within the organization\nThe CIO for a California university system said the pandemic triggered a reexamination of priorities. \u201cThe pandemic caused us to deprioritize things that really weren't important to the organization, reprioritize things that were truly important, [and] deemphasize those things that weren't working,\u201d he shared.\n\u201cGoing forward, how do we constantly do this and reinvent ourselves without having the external force\u2026not needing a change in management or a change in leadership to move in this direction. How do we self-motivate to keep the energy and the decisions that we're making so that we can continue on this journey?\u201d\nThe CTO and CISO of a financial investment firm said it\u2019s about leading the charge on change. \u201cSometimes, when we make decisions, we fall in love with those decisions and keep that relationship going longer than it should. We need to learn how to say goodbye to some of the wonderful ideas that we had, or thought we had, quicker,\u201d he explained. \u201cThen\u2026we can move on to other projects.\u201d\nSometime reinvention means being open to completely new busines models. The digital CIO for a commercial property investment firm saw his industry brought to its knees when the pandemic emptied office buildings. \u201cNothing creates change in an organization [more] than when your company has an existential crisis. When [everyone] left the office, [they] stopped using my product overnight,\u201d he said.\n\u201cThere were a lot of conversation around what happens next. It\u2019s about letting go of the things that we hold sacred. Destroying the things we [held] sacred actually has been a good thing because it's causing us to look at things differently and talk to clients more closely. Because of the demand for flexibility, a better experience, and health and safety, we are completely rethinking the way we deliver technology, both inside and outside the company.\u201d\nConclusion\nOrganizations that have survived and thrived during the pandemic did so in large part because they met the challenges it created by quickly capitalizing on new opportunities and growing their business with new products, services, and channels. The pandemic forced a realization by public and private organizations alike that IT is the glue holding everything together. That realization is now driving the technology investments that will empower them to stay ahead of the competition through business agility, customer centricity, and actionable insights.