As CIOs are brought deeper into the executive fold, they're increasingly being called upon to think about something not traditionally in their wheel-house: culture.\nGreater investment in and reliance on technology in business means it\u2019s more important than ever that staff play their role in realising its full potential.\nAccording to Gartner research VP Elise Olding, there\u2019s a long history of IT deployments that have either failed or not gone as well as they might of because not enough was done to affect the subtle cultural and behavioural shifts in adapting to new systems and processes.\nCo-author of a recent report on CIOs and workplace culture, she calls for a rethink of how the IT and HR departments should be working together to shape and maintain corporate culture for the good of the firm and makes the bold prediction that by 2021, CIOs will be as responsible for leading workplace culture as their peers in HR.\nOlding notes as workers are given newer technologies designed to empower them, expectations \u2013 and perceptions \u2013 can change, officially or otherwise. Yet rarely are job descriptions or key performance indicators (KPIs) updated, meaning staff don\u2019t actually think or act any differently.\nA new sales system might be implemented with the goal of enabling broader market reach and\/or deeper audience engagement, but if that worker\u2019s KPIs don\u2019t change, they\u2019ll just keep doing what they\u2019re doing. This can throw efforts to measure results of IT deployments into disarray.\n\u201cThere\u2019s a cognitive dissonance between what the CEO is saying and how performance is measured,\u201d Olding says, adding a closer relationship between IT and HR would go a long way to solving the problem.\nRohan Penman, CIO with bespoke hot beverages company T2 Tea has experienced this first hand.\n\u201cWhen we have extended functionality, sometimes it takes time take into account how those KPIs are rejigged,\u201d he tells CIO Australia. \u201cOften product owners want to report in old fashioned ways even it\u2019s not applicable: It\u2019s a funny juggling act\u201d.\n T2\n\nRohan Penman\n\n\nOne of the biggest changes to T2 Tea\u2019s operations amid COVID-19 is an exponential ramping up of its so-called \u2018click-and-collect\u2019 sales model, whereby customers shop and pay online, but pop into the store to collect their order.\nThis requires changes in shop layout as well as inventory and storage. It also requires that staff work and think differently.\n\u201cHow does that impact physical store layout, storage of items and even how a person then goes about their to-do-list in a given day?,\u201d Penman asks. \u201cThere might be set times when they need to jump to \u2018click and collect\u2019. Do they ignore phone calls? Or people in the store?\u201d\nHe explains that while T2 has a click and collect window of around 3 hours, other retailers have turn-around windows as short as 30 minutes, demanding even sharper shifts from existing processes and work culture.\nOlding reckons 80 per cent of all change that occurs within organisations has its genesis in technology.\n\u201cIf you have a CEO who says \u2018we need to be more customer-centric\u2019, the CIO has a big role to play in achieving this.\u201d\nBy extension, CIOs need to bring HR into their decision processes more. \u201cOften they get brought in at the end but they need to be in on the front line.\u201d\nFor example, CIOs will instinctively allocate system access and privileges according to the job description\/role as provided by HR. \u201cIt\u2019s easy to say you have this job so you see this part of the data,\u201d Olding explains.\nHowever, CEOs are increasingly being urged to help break down silos and encourage broader collaboration. Workers, faced with this dilemma will usually find ways to access and share information beyond the firewall and company security policies, potentially creating major security problems.\n\u201cIf they\u2019re not given access to broader data sets they need .. they\u2019re going to find ways to share it that might go against security policies,\u201d she notes.\nAccording to Kevin Russo, lead partner, tech strategy and transformation with Deloitte Australia, CIOs have been undergoing a major cultural transition over the past several years in parallel with their ascendancy to the enterprise c-suite.\nHe notes while CIOs performed \u2013 or were seen to perform \u2013 the role of\u00a0 \u2018trusted operators\u2019, they are increasingly required to function as \u2018business cocreators\u2019 and \u2018change instigators\u2019 as technology plays a more central role in driving business success.\nAs COVID-19 has forced many CIOs to take immediate responsibility for everything from enabling remote working, to reengineering supply chains and other core functions, this transition may be accelerated, especially for organisations with more advanced digital strategies already in place.\n\u201cThe CIOs that have embarked on tech\/digital transformation pre-COVID, will have the role of business co-creator and change instigator accelerated, while the companies that have yet to modernise or transform, will be stuck in execution and delivery mode to try and catch-up,\u201d Russo said.\nWhether this results in a closer relationship between IT and HR remains to be seen.\nClaudine Ogilvie, former CIO with Jetstar tells CIO Australia: \u201cCulture is such an integral part of the business these days and if it\u2019s not, it should be. I can\u2019t think of a business that isn\u2019t driven in some way by technology and whose strategy and customers isn\u2019t impacted in some way by technology.\n\u201cCulture is top-down, the board, the CIO and the executive should be across the culture, driving the culture,\u201d \u201cIt\u2019s the role of every executive to drive culture alongside the CIO and the board. And it\u2019s never been more important for CIOs to drive culture because technology has become more important than ever.\u201d\nEmotional intelligence\nOrganisations need to examine more closely how they are using technology and helping people to change behaviour, which requires a collaboration between the CEO, CIO and HR, Olding believes.\n\u201cBut you have the CEO saying they want people collaborating and working on problems. This is where IT comes in.\u201d\nOrganisations that want to affect real change need to first take stock of their corporate values and culture, and how are they reflected in their existing technology footprint. And it needs to occur on a truly personal level.\nUnlike HR professionals, CIOs tend not to be as focussed on so-called \u2018soft skills\u2019. But Olding sees encouraging signs of change.\n\u201cI see a lot more savvy CIOs who have that human side; they\u2019ve got higher emotional intelligence\u201d.\nBrett Cowan, executive director with Brisbane-based consultancy AgileXperts asks: \u201cHave CIOs ever not been as responsible for culture as HR?\u201d\nAn experienced systems engineer working across industries including healthcare and manufacturing, he says companeis that fail to bring people along on the journey when implementing major new systems do so at their peril.\n\u201cEven if you have best ideas in the world, if you don\u2019t bring those people along with you, you\u2019re guaranteed it\u2019s going to fail.\u201d\nHe notes that the manufacturing sector appears to have developed the right philosophy where this is concerned, because there\u2019s such an obvious and immediate correlation between people being able operate new technologies and ROI.\n\u201cIf we want to improve a system process you ask the people who use it each and every day.\u201d\nPost-COVID, Olding predicts that employee engagement levels will fall by 10 per cent.\nInitially there will be euphoria as everyone gets back to work.\n\u201cBut then there\u2019s going to be a lot of discontent after the glow wears off,\u201d she says.\n\u201cWith everyone working from home, cultural patterns and attitudes are being shaped that will be hard to undo.\u201d\nIt\u2019s not just staff working from home per se: people are working more independently with less direct \u2018management\u2019. At the same time, they have been made to feel more needed and important because of the way in which management feels compelled to regularly \u2018check-in\u2019 and make itself more available, T2 Tea\u2019s Penman explains.\nOn the other hand, he says: \u201cMany people at T2 have been higher maintenance because there\u2019s no back and forth or general banter and quick conversations that can be had during normal times.\u201d\nUltimately the \u2018new normal\u2019 is going to look and feel quite different when it comes to office and workplace culture post COVID-19.\n\u201cI think micro managers are doomed,\u201d Penman predicts.