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Published 08. Oct. 2020
600Minutes Executive IT: How IT Leaders Develop Agility In Times Of Crisis
The world is facing a future where ‘normal’ has drastically changed, and remote leadership is the current reality. Read how C-level executives and top decision makers are preparing to lead in the virtual landscape.
The recent 600Minutes Executive IT held by Management Events revealed in-depth insights from over 300 top-level IT executives and solution providers from leading organizations in Sweden.
In group discussions during the virtual event, CIOs across the industries lent their thoughts and opinions on leading in the virtual landscape and through times of crisis.
As known the world over, the coronavirus outbreak has brought unprecedented circumstances to the business world, from urgent business continuity planning to lengthy operational disruptions.
As C-suites sought to keep their business operations running, remote working was widely established throughout organizations. But for many IT leaders, managing and leading a remote workforce is a novel experience, and they are faced with different levels of difficulties.
Obstacles and Challenges
There were multiple concerns expressed by the event attendees during the group discussions.
One IT executive mentioned that it’s a challenge to keep track of how employees are doing while another stated that it’s harder to pick up on what’s going on when they, as the leader, are working away from the team. Yet another participant expressed worry on the flow of information not reaching the teams.
But among the many hurdles, face-to-face communication and socialization seem to be the most worrying aspects of remote work. Participants were concerned on how to keep the teams together when they’re no longer physically meeting or interacting with each other.
This is especially the case for new hires, whereby organizations need to ensure proper onboarding of the employees and help in building relationships with the current teams. As an IT leader aptly explained, “Now, we are riding on the current company culture from the physical office, but for new hires, there’s a challenge to transfer the silent knowledge and culture that ‘sits in the walls’.”
Stagnancy is another worrying issue among leading IT directors and C-levels as teams don’t share as many ideas or brainstorm as much as before.
As one IT leader commented, “New ideas get lost as most meetings are within the same function. It’s important to keep in contact with decision makers in other functions in order to develop new ideas.”
Other worries and issues presented during the discussions were:
- Investing more 1-to-1 time for the same output;
- Difficulty in following up with their teams and getting concrete actions;
- Lack of boundaries between work and non-work, resulting in potential burnout;
- Struggles in starting new projects; and
Positive Outlook and Solutions
Even though there are concerns with coordinating a remote workforce, a number of participants are positive that working offsite, or telecommuting, can bring good results. As one attendee stated, “[Remote work] should not be seen as a cost, but an opportunity.”
For instance, a decision maker participating in the group discussions claimed that due to the outbreak and subsequent remote working situation, there’s now a stronger focus on innovation, which can help companies to discover business opportunities that were once neglected.
Others corroborated with his statement, saying that the coronavirus inadvertently led to the organization gaining momentum in digitalization, and they should use the ‘new normal’ as a chance to initiate strategic changes.
One example given is the use of iPads for the company’s operators for communication and training purposes, which in the past would have taken a very long time. Others mentioned how their organization now works more digitally and has increased efficiency in some areas, and how people are more innovative without so many contradictions.
As an IT director said, “Productivity increases during periods where we are forced to be more innovative.”
Additionally, it was a general agreement among the IT leaders that working remotely led to more efficient online meetings as staff seems more prepared, with specific agendas and smooth subsequent information flow and discussions.
Even though a number of attendees voiced out the challenges they’re facing in creating a successful digitalized workforce, they also suggested solutions to overcome the hurdles.
Some of the solutions for effective and progressive remote workforce management given by the participants include:
- Developing policies and reinforcing them;
- Raising morale through interactive and non-work-related activities, such as music quizzes;
- Connecting more often with peers, teams and others from the company to gain different perspectives;
- Having more dialogues with the workforce on handling the crisis and other work issues; and
- Scheduling fun meetings and engaging sessions, such as a virtual coffee break, to replace physical socializing.
However, given the pros and cons of working remotely, quite a few of the top executives are looking to develop a hybrid solution of working from home and office.
Towards A Hybrid Landscape
“Remotely, productivity remains the same, or is even better, But for some cooperation and creative process work, there’s a need for physical meetings.”
“Virtual hiring is possible. However, physical meetup is still needed to hand over computers and phones, and to provide basic training on how to perform the job.”
The above statements are just a few comments from IT leaders who believe in having the best of both offsite and onsite worlds, and were discussing how to maximize value and efficacy in a hybrid office landscape.
Aside from providing possible solutions to the difficulties of building team relations and maintaining the innovation and development arenas, the hybrid solution also addresses the issue of trust.
As a participant mentioned, “If you don’t see your teammates and staff every day, more trust is required,” while another explained that, “In the past, it wasn’t part of leadership to ensure that their groups do their jobs from home.”
An IT executive in the discussion suggested a day or two per week working from home with the rest of the days in the office. Such a solution not only provides the flexibility for employees needing time to take care of family and personal business, but also answers the needs for department heads to have their teams for certain face-to-face tasks.
“A flexible workforce can lead to higher productivity,” a participant asserted.
As a top IT executive observed, “People react differently to the changing environment and working conditions.” However, overall, it seems that employees, and even customers, have adapted to the ‘new normal’ relatively fast, and companies are witnessing faster digital transformation and innovation than before.
Perhaps it’s true what a decision maker from the IT function said during the discussion – “We need more crises to develop further.”