by Divina Paredes

APAC pandemic lessons: Quick-thinking New Zealand CIOs a model to follow

May 13, 20204 mins
IT Leadership

Editorial leaders from CIO editions in ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand and India share in-market challenges, key lessons and examples of best practice during COVID-19.

How Asia-Pacific CIOs responded to COVID-19

Following 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.

Editors 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:

These insights were delivered during a recorded virtual roundtable, offering on-the-ground commentary from IDG’s editors in Singapore, Sydney, Auckland and Mumbai.

As 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.

Common 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.

Some 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’s infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the University of Auckland, the largest university in New Zealand, worked to ensure no one would be technically disadvantaged in the new ‘work from home, learn from home’ environment.

The 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.

Furthermore, 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.

The IT team helped staff ‘work out loud’, setting up online channels where they can chat about what they are working on. Staff talk through those channels first thing in the day. “It is almost like a ‘water cooler effect’ where people are walking in and out of the tearoom,” says NZTE chief digital officer Richard Kay.

Technology leaders across New Zealand also responded to the call to ‘be kind’ 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.