How Asia-Pacific CIOs responded to COVID-19\n\nFollowing the hard-hitting sucker punch delivered by COVID-19, the world is slowly sobering up to the social and economic realities of such a devastating pandemic. Whether in Bangkok or Brisbane, Ahmedabad or Auckland, businesses are adjusting in real time as market dynamics continue to shift at pace, placing the CIO at the epicentre of such response efforts.\n\nEditors from the CIO editions in ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand and India have joined forces to share in-market challenges, key lessons and examples of best practice across the Asia-Pacific region during the COVID-19 pandemic:\n\nThese insights were delivered during a recorded virtual roundtable, offering on-the-ground commentary from IDG\u2019s editors in Singapore, Sydney, Auckland and Mumbai.\n\nAs IT teams supported the work from home imperative, they found a slew of challenges to manage, besides technology. The digital workplace required softer skills for one, so they started coaching and mentoring non-IT colleagues, including C-suite executives, on using tools to work remotely and also as a team, in an increasingly agile environment.\n\nCommon themes run across IT functions that ably navigated the challenges brought by COVID-19: First, critical, quality IT investments prepared them to respond to unprecedented change. Second, a head start in agile and flexible ways of working.\n\nSome standout examples include ANZ Bank in New Zealand, which moved more than 6,500 employees to remote working in time for lockdown. Long-term investments in the core network, as well as a flexible work environment already in place in all business units, ensured the sudden shift did not strain the bank\u2019s infrastructure.\n\nMeanwhile, the University of Auckland, the largest university in New Zealand, worked to ensure no one would be technically disadvantaged in the new \u2018work from home, learn from home\u2019 environment.\n\nThe IT team gathered laptops that were loaned to students; and desktop computers for staff, who would otherwise not have access to these devices. A week of non-teaching was scheduled for faculty so they could get ready for remote delivery of classes. Jason Mangan, chief technology officer, encouraged the IT staff to set aside time for lesson and development during the intermission from campus.\n\nFurthermore, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has staff across the globe who are fairly used to working remotely. As early as three years ago, employees can work anywhere, as NZTE is 100 per cent cloud-based, with no New Zealand-based system or application, the first Kiwi government agency to do so. Thus, when the work from home imperative was issued, NZTE was prepared.\n\nThe IT team helped staff \u2018work out loud\u2019, setting up online channels where they can chat about what they are working on. Staff talk through those channels first thing in the day. \u201cIt is almost like a \u2018water cooler effect\u2019 where people are walking in and out of the tearoom,\u201d says NZTE chief digital officer Richard Kay.\n\nTechnology leaders across New Zealand also responded to the call to \u2018be kind\u2019 during the crisis. They were among the first to rally support for sectors hardest hit by COVID-19. They continue to support various IT-enabled initiatives to help underserved communities benefit from the post-pandemic environment.