CIOs cultivate political capital in response to pandemic

IT leaders who have gained clout among C-suite peers during the pandemic must target high-impact initiatives to extend their political capital in 2021, but challenges remain.

Pandemic power: CIOs cultivate political capital in response to outbreak
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Tell any CIO they have 48 hours to enable thousands of employees to work from home and they’ll likely laugh you off. Yet that is exactly the situation FedEx CIO Rob Carter faced in March, when the coronavirus broadsided the business world, forcing the shipping company’s 105,000 employees to work remotely worldwide.

“This is a unique time for all of us and it has been a huge challenge for our business, for the technology and for the world,” said Carter in a keynote speech during the Interop Digital conference on Oct. 1. “[9-11] is the only thing that pops into my head that was so dramatic and so fast and really kind of had a big impact on how we were operating at the time — but this is clearly unique.”

Digital transformation work left FedEx well positioned for the pandemic. The IT team had spent the past decade revamping the company’s IT architecture with cloud software and microservices, which helped it handle the explosive demand for shipping as more consumers shopped online rather than brave retail stores, Carter says.

Demonstrating the ability to execute rapidly has helped IT leaders gain clout and political capital during the COVID-19 outbreak. Sixty-one percent of more than 4,200 IT leaders surveyed by the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey said that the pandemic has permanently increased the influence of the technology leader. CIOs can extend the goodwill they’ve engendered from their C-suite peers by helping the business deliver on other high-impact initiatives required during the recovery.

An analytics effort takes precedence

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