Tech Leadership: A key agenda for CIOs
Published 19 February 2021
With digital transformation being accepted as the ‘new normal’, leadership has taken over as one of the top priorities for CIOs.
Digital transformation as a business ideology and overall enterprise imperative, in the COVID-19 era – looks to be a big winner. Business leaders across the world have accepted that their customers, market requirements and working relationships have gone digital. Industries are waking up to the fact that being digitally savvy is crucial to performing well in their role. Effective digital transformation delivers agility, adaptability, and customer-centricity.
“This being the new motto, requires the CIO to provide guidance, innovation and inspiration – overall leadership to ensure a healthy bottomline and topline growth,” according to Khushru M. Mistry, Chief Information Officer & Senior Vice President, Information Technology of Eureka Forbes, which is into water purification, vacuum cleaning, air purification and home security solutions and is a part of Shapoorji Pallonji Group.
The leadership issue also needs to be seen through a new lens. The usual emphasis on greater efficiency/productivity has got a backlash from a digitally savvy workforce. “Digital talent now expects more from leadership than greater flexibility, better compensation, and/or productivity-supporting work environments. The expectation is to provide better reflection and respect for their concerns and values, not just ensure superior business capabilities and opportunities,” stated Mistry.
Others seem to share a similar point of view. “IT heads need to provide the direction for an organisation at this critical juncture,” said Chirag Boonlia, Chief Technology Officer, Information Technology, Embassy Property Developments Private Limited
The new normal for a successful digital transformation requires that leaders measurably transform themselves.
Leadership in what?
This is the topmost question in a CIO’s playlist. Considering Work From Anywhere becoming mainstream, the first song on the charts is how to manage a hybrid workforce, which at the same time has sufficient safeguards.
With the onset of COVID-19, CIOs had to jump on their bikes and set up systems that enabled remote working. N Ganapathy Subramanian, Chief Operating Officer of Asia’s largest IT company, TCS got almost 90 per cent of their 450,000 workforce to be up and running remotely. A vast majority of companies representing India’s $191 billion IT sector took similar initiatives in supporting their workforce and keep the business running for major Fortune clients.
“The remote work concept is expected to continue even after the pandemic. It is, therefore, essential to right-size the IT support for these home-workers and as part of the hybrid workforce models,” said Mistry.
Viral Bhavsar who is group CTO from Immacule Biosciences is of the view that a balance between in-house operations and remote access of IT Infrastructure securely needs to be thought through carefully.
Besides, cybersecurity needs to be prioritised to ensure that the remote devices are secured and do not become the inflection point of entry for cyber threat vectors, added Bhavsar.
Cyberattacks in the form of Deepfake technology, which poses business integrity risks, are on the rise and organisations are facing the brunt. “With remote working and its dependence on video conferencing, this issue becomes a priority for CIOs. Malicious cyber threat vectors use highly sophisticated ‘Deepfakes’ to weaponise video images to exploit employees and can manipulate public brand perception and impact stock prices for financial gain,” opines Mistry.
There are no easy mechanisms to alleviate this problem and CIOs need to work with the Government to bring in suitable legislation to protect the company and the customers. Updated cybersecurity measures with advanced detection algorithms will be par for the course, going forward.
Capitalising on AI
Technology heads across organisations are also looking to unlock value out of AI. The pandemic has changed the business landscape and customer nuances, and CIOs who can tap on the potential of AI – to enhance customer experience, accelerate innovation and empower employees – will be able to develop a competitive advantage for their business, stated Mistry.
Agreed Bhavsar. “Post COVID-19, the need for contact free experience has come into all business. This can be achieved with help of AI, automation and digital all should go hand-in-hand.”
So, have CIO priorities changed, due to the pandemic? To some extent, it seems so. Considering sectors such as consumer durables, face-to-face discussions and demos have changed to virtual so that a contactless environment can be maintained. The in-shop retail experience has illustrated the need to visually look at products but with a “no-touch” environment – inducing technologies like QR code scanning to see the demo of the product. Servicing of products at customer’s home relies on the authenticated health of the service agent – giving rise to technology enablement of performing daily health check of our service agents.
Every aspect of these changes relies on newer technology adoption whilst ensuring that the customer experience in provided with empathy. This is the fundamental shift, pointed out Mistry.
These shifts herald a new beginning for many companies as well as technologists.