CIOs across Australia and New Zealand have the attention of their chief executives in a way they haven’t before and are being asked for higher value, more strategic help by their bosses from the IT group.
This is according to Gartner’s 2021 CIO agenda, which found that the CIO and CEO relationship had been strengthened for 60 per cent of respondents across A/NZ, compared to 66 per cent globally.
More than two-thirds of A/NZ respondents (68 per cent) reported an increase in business leaders asking IT for ‘higher value, more strategic things.’ This is compared to 71 per cent globally, the report said.
Report authors Andy Roswell-Jones, Brian Ferreira and Christopher Bell said that one of the foundations of this relationship success was the speed and effectiveness with which ‘working from home’ arrangements were implemented.
“One large federal agency achieved what would have seemed impossible even six months prior, the shift of close to 20,000 employees to remote working in a three-week period. In the client’s estimation, this would likely have been rolled out over three years normally,” the authors said.
According to the report, A/NZ CIOs had to contend with a slightly higher proportion of staff needing to be set up to work-from-home (WFH) arrangements (67 per cent) than their global peers (64 per cent). This year, 67 per cent of A/NZ CIOs also expect WFH numbers to increase.
‘Soft factors’ improve company-wide performance
CIOs have taken advantage of conditions created by the pandemic to change the ‘soft factors’ that contribute to improved performance such as working practices, and a shared sense of common purpose and culture, Gartner said.
Like their global counterparts, A/NZ tech chiefs shifted staff to work-from-home practices in weeks, managing laptops and VPNs for these remote workers and gaining the credibility they need to accelerate digitisation across their businesses.
Organisations have capitalised on the uncertainty of the pandemic to build enterprise–wide confidence in technology to execute meaningful value at scale.
“For example, a private health insurance CIO client successfully completed the rollout of virtual working of over 15,000 staff and used the strengthened relationship with the executive to support and facilitate the reset of the group strategy for post–pandemic planning,” they said.
“In the education sector, we saw multiple examples of CIOs providing critical support to staff and students in the transition to homeschooling, which dramatically accelerated existing plans to deliver online learning experiences,” the analysts said.
This bolstered their relationships with senior leaders and increased the focus on how digital technologies can enhance pedagogical outcomes, they said.
“A large federal government department successfully delivered projects during COVID-19 and has now shifted to an extended virtual team, citing higher project productivity and an access to a broader talent pool,” the authors said.
Digital business maturity increased
Meanwhile, a second foundation of A/NZ CIOs’ relationship with their peers was the pace of digital business adoption. The maturity of A/NZ digital business has increased steadily over the past three years with 17 per cent stating in 2017 that their digitisation programs were maturing, which rose to 47 per cent in 2020, Gartner found.
In 2017, 74 per cent said they were initiating digitisation activities (53 per cent in 2020). Only 1 per cent of A/NZ enterprises had no digital initiatives at all in 2020 compared to 14 per cent globally.
Key recommendations for 2021
Although creating WFH strategies had a favourable outcome for many CIOs, the job isn’t finished and a review of successes and weaknesses needs to be carried out soon, the analysts said.
“Ensuring that appropriate endpoint security and monitoring is in place across the entire fleet. Refresh digital workplace technical strategy to cater for a hybrid engagement model that ensures collaboration, engagement and productivity can be supported effectively and efficiently,” they said.
Further, they advised that CIOs rightsize technology investments in digital workplace software and platforms once a return-to-work model is in place.
“Business and technology leaders have broken down legacy mindsets, adopted digital ways of working, and new demands are being placed on businesses and the workforce. The extent of acceleration will likely depend on how successfully CIOs are able to take their lessons and experiments into the future as they recover and thrive in the new normal.”